Is Atheism a Civil Rights Issue?

My SciBling Matthew Nisbet says no. I think he really means it, since he put the title of his post in all caps.

Matthew writes:

One of the common claims that has been amplified by the Dawkins/Hitchens PR campaign is that “atheism is a civil rights issue.” (For an example, see the comments section of this recent post.)

This false spin serves as a very effective frame device for radicalizing a base of atheists into an ever more militant &dquo;us versus them” rhetoric, an interpretation that is used to justify sophomoric and polarizing attacks on religious Americans.

Indeed, “atheism is a civil rights issue” is a familiar catchphrase that comes up in the feeding frenzy of complaints and insults that typify the echo chamber of the Atheist Net Roots, including several of the sites here at Scienceblogs.com.

See the original for links.

Matthew goes on to link to this column from Free Inquiry, in which writers D.J. Grothe and Austin Dacey argue for a No answer to the question in the title of this post.

There is much to reply to here. Nisbett has a lot of nerve putting “atheism is a civil rights issue,” in quotes and then describing it as a catchphrase used by members of some ill-defined Atheist Net Roots. None of the links Nisbett provides show atheists saying any such thing.

Instead, in both Nisbett’s post and the Grothe/Dacey essay, the objection seems to be to atheists comparing the struggle for social acceptance of their views to the civil rights struggles of women, blacks and homosexuals. This is a far different issue. The only argument against this comparison seems to be that the level of oppression and discrimination faced by those groups was far greater than what atheists face today.

This is true, denied by nobody, and is totally irrelevant to the point of the comparison. The question isn’t whether there are groups in American society who have greater reason than atheists to feel aggrieved. The issue is simply whether atheists have anything to learn from the struggles for acceptance of those other groups. The answer, it seems to me, is an obvious yes. In each of those cases a despised minority was able, over a period of many years, to attain a position in society of far greater visibility and equality. Atheists also face a situation where open hostility towards them is considered acceptable, and in many parts of the country face outright bigotry when their views become known. Of course atheists have something to learn from the civil rights struggles in the past.

When you actually examine the tactics used by those movements, you find that they did not follow the path recommended to atheists by people like Matthew. He aims his ire at Dawkins and Hitchens for their sophomoric and polarizing criticisms of religion, and for fomenting a militant us vs. them mentality among theri supporters. In a comment to his post he writes:

On occasion, atheists are discriminated against because they have a public image problem, and the Dawkins/Hitchens’ PR campaign, by radicalizing a movement of attacks and complaints, only makes this public image problem worse, generating more discrimination.

Which also gets at a point I made in an earlier post this week: Instead of mobilizing a movement of sophomoric attacks and complaints that paints as black all religious Americans, atheists need to focus on offering a positive vision of what it means to live life without religion; both in the popular entertainment media but also as leaders who span divides in our communities, (instead of just generating further polarization.)

This is so foolish and poorly reasoned it’s hard to know where to begin. Let us begin with the observation that “us vs. them” is, regrettably, an accurate characterization of the facts. The “them” in this case is not all religious people. It is, instead, the distressingly large percentage of religious people who are openly contemptuous of atheism, who have no problem with chipping away at the separation of church and state, who endorse balancing evolution with ID or creationism in public schools, who would have their own blinkered view of morality imposed on scientific research or on people’s personal sexual habits, and who generally believe that their religious views have some relevance in setting public policy. You will not win these people over by talking about the beatuies of atheism or by being polite in your writing. And they are not some small minority you can work around by appealing to the reason and good will of people on the fence. They are people to whom you must raise your voice, to make it clear to them they will not have thigns their own way.

One of Matthew’s commenters pointed out to him that it is very easy to dismiss the troubles atheists face when you live in Washington D.C. I suspect most of the religious people Matthew encounters come from the reasonable wing of theistic belief. I spent most of my formative years on the East Coast, and during that time I tended to make the same arguments Matthew makes here. But I have also lived in places like Pocatello, Idaho and Manhattan, Kansas, and my views on this matter are no longer so conciliatory.

Moving on, we should note that Dawkins and Hitchens have merely written books presenting their views, and have spoken publicly about those books. There is nothing even slightly militant about any of this. There are no calls for violence, no calls for the government to step in and do anything, and no suggestion that any weapon other than reason be employed in the fight against religion and superstition.

But this is still too much for Matthew. In his world vigorous criticism of religion only contributes to the public image problem faced by atheists. The problem with this argument is that the writings of “the New Atheists” are, as the phrase suggests, new. The state of affairs in which atheists are a despised minority, in which it is effectively impossible for a known atheist to be elected to public office, and in which open bigotry towards them is societally acceptable is the one that existed before they arrived on the scene. In other words, it was during all those years when atheists were playing nicey nice that their marginaliztion reached epidemic proportions.

Atheists don’t face a public image problem because of the books of Dawkins and Hitchens. They face a public image problem because of the bigotry and ignorance of so many religious people. Not all religious people, certainly, as the strawman version of their arguments would have you believe. But a much higher percentage than people like Matthew care to admit. You do not break through such bigotry by polite discussion. You break through it by being loud and vigorous. That’s one of the lessons you learn from the civil rights struggles of the past. Social progress is not made when the downtrodden ask politely for their just due. That women, blacks and gays faced greater oppression than what atheists face today does not alter that fact.

Matthew’s comment that such discrimination as exists against atheists is caused in part by the writings of Dawkins and Hitchens is nothing more than plain, vanilla blaming the victim. (And it’s unsubstantiated to boot). It is an old cliche that gets trotted out every time a minority group starts getting a bit too vocal. The argument conjures up preposterous images of large numbers of non-bigots going over to the dark side when the victims of discrimination start rhetorically attcking the bigots. It is to laugh.

So if Dawkins, Hitchens and the others do not hurt the cause, do they actually help? I believe they do. It is a tiny percentage of the population that will ever make direct contact either with the writing or the public presentations of these people. Instead, their ideas enter the public consciousness when other media outlets start covering the success of their books. In the last few years virtually every major magazine, newspaper and television news show has done segments discussing the resurgence of atheism. You can’t tell me this publicity is a bad thing. You can’t mainstream an idea by never talking about it.

Imagine a child raised in a fundamentalist community walking into a bookstore and seeing books by Dawkins or Hitchens. Or hearing atheism discussed on television. Do you think his reaction will be a sober consideration of their arguments, a finding that they are too snide, and a resolution to hate atheists all the more? Or will his reaction be an awareness that there are more opinions on these subjects than he has been led to believe? It is precisely this sort of casual exposure to non-Christian ideas that fundamentalists fear, and they are right to be afraid of it.

There is, of course, much more to say, but we’ll save that for future posts. This one has gone on long enough.

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    June 28, 2007

    Nisbet is apparently trying to be the next incarnation of The Chris Machine. Maybe he’ll start talking about how we’re all a bunch of whiney “white, male, middle-class ex-protestants”.

  2. #2 Kevin
    June 28, 2007

    It is not only a CIVIL Rights issue. It is a HUMAN rights issue. When wil we be free to live without the oppression of religion.

    I ride the ferry to work. It is full of people who hate going to work, or who are tired and coming home from work, and don’t want to be bothered.

    We are the target of various self-styled preachers who walk amoung us and yell at us about god and sin and salvation. Some days they are represented by a crack addict who swiftly moves around the boat talking about “christ’s blood” in a low voice. He is not so bad.

    The others are very annoying. Generally I start talking about how I was suprised “they” let “him” out of jail after he did “that” to that “boy” and so on.

    Lately I think I should walk behind them preaching: “This man is a liar! There is no sin! You are not condemmed to suffer. You must make your own choices in life. This man is a LIAR!”

    what do you think I should do?

  3. #3 SMC
    June 29, 2007

    [...]I have also lived in places like Pocatello, Idaho[...]

    Oh, I’m sorry – are you okay?

  4. #4 John Lynch
    June 29, 2007

    It is a HUMAN rights issue. When wil we be free to live without the oppression of religion.

    For fark sake, Kevin, man up and start acting like an adult. If you consider what you describe as being oppression you (a) have lived a very sheltered life, and (b) have no sense of history regarding human rights issues.

  5. #5 wafer
    June 29, 2007

    Thank you! I was hoping one the scibloggers would put something up to counterpoint Nisbet’s, in my opinion, disgusting and offensive post. The idea that atheists are to blame for the bigotry against atheists is appaling. I think Nisbet’s feeling come through in his responses to comments “On occasion, atheists are discriminated against because they have a public image problem.” and “there is no such thing as “atheist bashing.” If there were cases of such harm, one would expect to hear about them in the media and the courts, or at least in the common knowledge of unbelievers.” Well, Paula Zahn had a recent CNN segment on this very issue (poorly done I admit but done nonetheless). Also, look up any prayer in school, teacher preaching to students, “under god” law suits, I think these all count as court cases. As far as PR goes, personally I find Hitchens offensive in the interview format, I do not think he is articulate or particularly impressive (although I havent read his book, which is likely much better). However, the fact that Dawkins questions religion shouldn’t be an issue. He is clearly not militant, and in his book he clearly points out in the introduction that the topics may be offensive to certain people. Personally, I thought Dawkins, while critical was not demeaning or particularly offensive. I guess Nisbet and his ilk believe we should meet in secret, talk quietly amongst ourselves, and deferentially avoid eye contact whenever someone walks by with a cross around their neck. I cant help but wonder if Nisbet is looking to get some regular air time on the No Spin Zone or Hannity and Colmes.

    Of course now we get “false frames” as a topic of conversation, which ties in nicely with Nisbet’s and Mooney’s vacuous framing science discussion. If you don’t like the frame brought up, call it a false frame and discount it. Similar to the Republican use of “junk science.”

  6. #6 wafer
    June 29, 2007

    Sorry I missed this earlier. Its the flip side of the original Grothe Dacey article, in the same journal albeit 2 issues later. Surprised Nisbet didnt note this in his original post.

  7. #7 Science Avenger
    June 29, 2007

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. Nice post Jason. I can’t wait to see PZ tomorrow, his head is going to explode.

    It was my comment Matt was responding to in your quote of him above. I still stare dumbfounded at it. It is so histrionic it leaps off the page. It had everything but “fundametalist atheist”. “Movement of complaints”?!?! It’s kinda sorta the things worth complaining about that, you know, get movements started! And never mind what it is that has them complaining in the first place. They are just those uppity nig…um…atheists.

  8. #8 MartinC
    June 29, 2007

    I have to strongly disagree with Jason here. Matthew Nisbet has made an important point that seem to be lost amongst all the hysterical atheistic protestations that are unfortunately so common to scienceblogs.
    What is the meaning of ‘civil rights’ ?
    Civil rights are rights for civilians.
    If one lives in “one nation, under God” and yet deny Him, can one really be classed a civilian at all?
    Quite clearly not. Remember, if the founding fathers hadn’t believed this then they wouldn’t have included it in the pledge of allegiance.
    Indeed the very act of denying God can reasonably be seen as sedition against the Nation as it may have the effect of encouraging others to do the same.
    Lets face it, atheism means leading ones life without the firm moral basis that believing in a higher power can bring and yet, almost unbelievably, many on this site seem to think that it is somehow acceptable to allow such people work as teachers of young impressionable children or other such posts of responsibility. Quite frankly this sort of attitude has led to the sorry state of the country today with the soaring levels of teenage pregnancy, divorce rates and murders.
    Do the atheists want this country to end up like Godless Sweden? Sadly I almost suspect they do.
    Just remember that someone gave his life for us two thousand years ago, I’m just glad that Matt Nisbet is standing up for him now.
    ;)
    (OK, that was a joke but its not too far from the truth as believed by many)

  9. #9 David Heddle
    June 29, 2007

    Kevin,

    It is not only a CIVIL Rights issue. It is a HUMAN rights issue. When wil we be free to live without the oppression of religion.

    Give me a break. Apart from anecdotally, a resort to which any group (including Christians) can turn, atheists are not oppressed. Not even close. They are not systematically discriminated against in statutes, housing, jobs, medical benefits, etc. The fact that you have to put up with proselytizing cannot even be compared in the same breath with anyone who is truly oppressed. I get proselytized by the Mormons and the JWs–I find their admonitions just as wrong as you find an evangelical Christian’s message–but it’s simply (and obviously to anyone without a victimhood complex) a modest price for living in a free society.

    Lately I think I should walk behind them preaching: “This man is a liar! There is no sin! You are not condemmed to suffer. You must make your own choices in life. This man is a LIAR!”
    what do you think I should do?

    Nobody is stopping you from doing that. That’s the point.

    I can understand how atheists see the need to fight a PR battle. I’ve heard about the polls show that the majority of Americans distrust atheists. If true, that’s unfortunate, but you don’t have a constitutional right to be trusted. Calling what atheists face in this country a human rights issue is an absurdity.

    Jason,

    Atheists also face a situation where open hostility towards them is considered acceptable,

    Oh brother. Do you realize that you can replace “atheists” in your quote with any of {Christians, Jews, Arabs, Wiccans, homosexuals, white men, black men, …} and find the resulting construct in the arguments of members of those groups? Open hostility toward atheists is not acceptable. Perhaps it was at one time, but it certainly isn’t today.

    Geeze Louise, Jason. You are a professor at a public university in a bible belt state. You routinely and publicly make great pronouncements of your atheism and often great fun of religion. Has it affected your job? Has it or will it affect your tenure decision? How much open hostility do you actually face? Is it substantive? Because I can certainly trade anecdotal instances of hostility tit-for-tat.

    There is no “chipping away” of the separation of church and state. Any reasonable person would say that, at least since the 1960s, the clear trend has been a strengthening of the separation.

  10. #10 Austin Cline
    June 29, 2007

    I wrote a comment to point out that Matt failed to link to Eddie Tabash’s response:

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/tabash_24_4.htm

    I actually agree more with Grothe and Dacey (yes, there were two authors), but when I wrote about the issue I made sure I linked to and quoted both sides:

    http://atheism.about.com/b/a/073451.htm

    For some strange reason, my comment was never approved to appear there. I wonder why?

  11. #11 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    To judge by what John Lynch and David Heddle have said here one could be forgiven for thinking that do not regard religious freedom as a right. The idea that it is ok to discriminate against someone for their religious belief, or lack thereof is not acceptable in any society that wishes to be considered civilised and enlightened. Now I do not for one minute think either David or John think such discrimination is acceptable which leaves me puzzled as to why they are saying things that suggest it is.

  12. #12 Eric Thomson
    June 29, 2007

    It is obvious that the separation of church and state has been widening since the 1960s. Reagan’s year of the Bible, Bush’s faith-based initiatives, the introduction of Creationism to public schools, all point to the widening of this constitutional chasm.

    Talk about delusions of persecution. Look at all the atheist politicians that the electorate is perfectly willing to treat with an open mind. The vast majority of people are perfectly willing to elect officials based on the appeal of their relevant stances on the issues, uninfluenced by their religious affiliations, or lack thereof. If people are willing to elect people who are openly atheists as leaders, that strongly suggests Dawkins et al are wolf-cryers.

    Despite the above, for purposes of argument, let’s say that less than half of Americans were willing to elect well-qualified atheists, that is, say there were clear evidence of discrimination. Would that really justify making an analogy with civil rights, no matter how loose that analogy? Come on, I just don’t see the connection between discrimination and civil rights.

  13. #13 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    Eric Thomson:

    The vast majority of people are perfectly willing to elect officials based on the appeal of their relevant stances on the issues, uninfluenced by their religious affiliations, or lack thereof.

    The link you provide points to a Gallup poll which says that 53% of those polled would not vote for an atheist. It’s the worst of all the liabilities on the list.

    It is obvious that the separation of church and state has been widening since the 1960s. Reagan’s year of the Bible, Bush’s faith-based initiatives, the introduction of Creationism to public schools, all point to the widening of this constitutional chasm.

    ???

  14. #14 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    Nisbet:

    Instead of mobilizing a movement of sophomoric attacks and complaints that paints as black all religious Americans, atheists need to focus on offering a positive vision of what it means to live life without religion; both in the popular entertainment media but also as leaders who span divides in our communities, (instead of just generating further polarization.)

    As Jason pointed out, the “paint[ing] as black all religious Americans” part is a straw man. However, one should go farther and note that atheists have been “offering a positive vision of what it means to live life without religion.” The last chapter in Victor Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis was all about it. Comparable texts have flowed from the pens of all modern nontheistic writers.

    What we atheists are saying is that we need to turn away from those powerless rationalizations, no matter how poetic they might be, and recognize that their power and their appeal flows from their humanity, not their religiosity. Forget god, that empty hulk, that great vacuum that humanity has stocked with its fears and dreams, and look at what we have created and felt instead. When someone weeps over a dead child or creates a great poem, it should matter not at all what some priest imagines his pantheon is doing. Take your eyes off your hallucination of heaven — what’s real are that woman’s tears, that child’s triumph, that grain of sand, that bird on wing. The meaning is derived from the reality of what we see and feel, not some convoluted vapor and self-serving puffery about an abstract concept like “god”.

    PZ Myers

  15. #15 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    I am not sure what some of those who are saying that being discriminated against for your religious view, or lack of them, are actually trying to say.

    Are they saying there is no such discrimination ? Are they saying there is but it is not important ? Or that it there should not be legal protection against being denied employment, housing etc. on the basis of someone’s views on religion ?

    If they are saying no discrimination takes place based on a person’s religious views then they would seem to be ignoring the evidence that shows people are denied employment etc because they happen to hold certain religious views.

    If they are saying such discrimination takes place but is not important, or the victims of such discrimination do not deserve protection then as far as I am concerned they are as bad as the bigots doing the discriminating.

  16. #16 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    wafer:

    Of course now we get “false frames” as a topic of conversation, which ties in nicely with Nisbet’s and Mooney’s vacuous framing science discussion. If you don’t like the frame brought up, call it a false frame and discount it. Similar to the Republican use of “junk science.”

    Took the words right out of my keyboard.

    Does everybody remember early in the framing kerfluffle when Coturnix divided the issue into short-term and long-term strategies? “Framing,” he said, could be useful in the short term, while bulking up the critical thinking standards and scientific literacy of the citizen body was necessary in the long term. OK?

    Now, the thing is, issues of civil liberty are inherently long-term problems. We’re talking about securing rights not just for ourselves but for our posterity. Everyone who hopes for a secular America with a well-mended wall between Church and State talks in timescales of generations. So, I can’t help but conclude that concerns of “framing” have at most secondary importance.

  17. #17 ERV
    June 29, 2007

    David–Oh brother. Do you realize that you can replace “atheists” in your quote with any of {Christians, Jews, Arabs, Wiccans, homosexuals, white men, black men, …} and find the resulting construct in the arguments of members of those groups? Open hostility toward atheists is not acceptable. Perhaps it was at one time, but it certainly isn’t today.

    Geeze Louise, Jason. You are a professor at a public university in a bible belt state. You routinely and publicly make great pronouncements of your atheism and often great fun of religion. Has it affected your job? Has it or will it affect your tenure decision? How much open hostility do you actually face? Is it substantive? Because I can certainly trade anecdotal instances of hostility tit-for-tat.

    Discrimination against atheists is encouraged and supported in certain mainstream social circles. And yes, these same circles were *hostile* towards me for being Jewish.
    You really have never been to Oklahoma, have you?

    As far as whether atheism has effected Jasons job, are you kidding? Hes in academia at a sane university. They arent going to discriminate against him for being an atheist. Im in HIV research, no one discriminates against me because the kinds of theists who would do that dont do HIV research.

    We have luxuries not provided to other professions.

    Science Avenger– I can’t wait to see PZ tomorrow, his head is going to explode.

    I certainly hope PZ doesnt respond. To the casual observer it appears Nisbet has been whoring a bit lately.

  18. #18 qetzal
    June 29, 2007

    Blake, re your response to Eric Thomson – check your sarcasmometer. The needle may be stuck. ;-)

  19. #19 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    Neither my sarcasm gauge nor my irony meter work before I get caffeine. :-(

  20. #20 Science Avenger
    June 29, 2007

    MartinC said: …if the founding fathers hadn’t believed this [in "one nation, under God"] then they wouldn’t have included it in the pledge of allegiance.

    They didn’t. Learn your history. The “under God” phrase was added in the 50’s during the Mcarthy era.

    …atheism means leading ones life without the firm moral basis that believing in a higher power can bring

    And yet by any metric you care to use, atheists live more moral lives than believers. When was the last time a bunch of atheists hijacked planes and killed 3,000 people?

    almost unbelievably, many on this site seem to think that it is somehow acceptable to allow such people work as teachers of young impressionable children or other such posts of responsibility.

    Thank Martin, for proving the point that anti-atheist bigotry is alive and well.

    Quite frankly this sort of attitude has led to the sorry state of the country today with the soaring levels of teenage pregnancy, divorce rates and murders.

    Perhaps you missed this study showing how the evil blue states outperform the good Christian red states on all of those factors you are concerned about. The same pattern can be seen across the world: more religion makes for more sin, not less.

  21. #21 Kevin
    June 29, 2007

    I FEEL oppressed therefor I AM oppressed!

    The christers and god-believers constantly attack rational people and get away with it. If I did stand up and shout “you’re a liar!” which I have, by the way, it is I who get stared at, and it is I who is treated as insane, NOT the frothing-mouthed lunatics who spout bible quotes and tell people they are going to burn in hell.

    Do not my human rights include freedom from annoyance by blathering retards?

  22. #22 MartinC
    June 29, 2007

    Science Avenger, I will pray for your soul.
    Please, Lord, won’t you give the gift of recognizing a joke to your poor creation Science Avenger (and to think I thought I’d given a decent clue by including the words “that was a joke” in the actual post).
    ;) <<<<===

  23. #23 Reginald Selkirk
    June 29, 2007

    Some examples of blatant discrimination that Nisbet is unaware of:
    Routine discrimination against atheists in child custody cases as researched by Eugene Volokh.
    The Smalkowskis, a case of “atheist bashing” in Oklahoma
    Atheist family run out of Mississippi town, CNN botches panel discussion

    It is very strange that Nisbet offers his own cluelessness as evidence that such discrimination is not real, or writes it off as a “public image problem.” At least he posted his title in all caps, to give us some idea of how seriously he ought to be taken.

  24. #24 Reginald Selkirk
    June 29, 2007

    One reason there are not a huge number of law cases backing up the claims of anti-atheist discrimination is that the ACLU deliberately chooses to represent theists in separation of church and state cases – specifically to circumvent anti-atheist discrimination.

  25. #25 mgr
    June 29, 2007

    Matt Penfold said:
    “Now I do not for one minute think either David or John think such discrimination is acceptable which leaves me puzzled as to why they are saying things that suggest it is.”

    Both were challengeing Kevin’s example given above which is not about civil rights but of enduring the exercise of others’ free speech.

    This raises a question I have, which atheists amoung us has experienced discrimination?

    I know that my son and I have experienced some level of ostracism in our community due to my objection to having a little league team pray before games, because the minister’s wife thought it cute, and because it was important to stand up for one’s beliefs (my son was a self selected agnotistic/atheist at the time).

    Mike

  26. #26 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    MGR,

    I did not see John Lynch arguing anything of the sort. His comment was about this being a rights issue and dismissing it as such.

    David put forward a more cogent argument, but one that based on a false premise, namely that in the US atheist do not face discrimination. Posters here and elsewhere have provided evidence that they do so David’s argument must fail before he gets started.

  27. #27 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    MGR,

    With regards being ostracised, I am not sure the law is suitable to deal with that but I am sure you would agree that some such situations might well lead to people being denied employment or housing. When such discrimination takes place then I see a need for laws to stop it. Denying someone employment is a civil and human rights issue.

  28. #28 Mecha
    June 29, 2007

    This is getting really frustrating. You’re the only one of the SBers that has criticized Nisbett that even comes close to actually thinking about what was said, and the people ranting about how their discrimination makes his thesis wrong miss the point. He is _grasping at_ the difference between the discriminations, as well as the fact that people are specifically making Atheism _THE_ Religious Discrimination.

    “There is much to reply to here. Nisbett has a lot of nerve putting “atheism is a civil rights issue,” in quotes and then describing it as a catchphrase used by members of some ill-defined Atheist Net Roots. None of the links Nisbett provides show atheists saying any such thing.”

    Except that now multiple people, such as Science Avenger, and PZ, have _said_ it is explicitly. One way or the other, the belief clearly exists, so your complaint about it not existing sorta falls apart. You may have a more reasoned general ‘Religious freedom is a civil rights framework’ idea floating around, but you are not the entirety of the movement. To a number of people, Atheism _is_ a Civil Rights movement. Which is strange, because I thought it was a belief. Much like being a woman isn’t a civil rights issue, but societal and govermental discrimination against women can be.

    One thing that happens _quite_ commonly with atheists, in these threads, in fact, is that they, as they do in comments to PZ’s post (and PZ’s post itself), and in comments to Nisbett’s post, and in comments to yours, is that they make the clear point that ‘Religious people = Delusional/Crazy/Wrong/Evil.’ If you believe in god, you are bad/wrong/crazy. (The God Delusion, in fact, does so.) This is in contrast to, say, feminism, which specifically says, ‘It is not being male that is wrong, it is the _partiarchy_ that is wrong,’ _and backs that up in the majority of their actions_. That is the difference between a valid civil rights movement, even a vocal one, which fights oppression, and a culture of divisiveness and attack, which I believe Nisbett is grasping at. Although he’s not doing it very well, which is a shame, because _thinking about such things is important, even though nobody fucking does it_. Argh.

    -Mecha

  29. #29 DuWayne
    June 29, 2007

    Not sure if someone else mentioned it, haven’t read the comments, but…

    It isn’t all that far in the past, when atheists were just as badly treated as women, non-whites and gays. Paine is a grand example, even though he wasn’t even an atheist. He went to prison and would have rotted there, were it not for Madison, for his non-theist writings. It isn’t that long ago that people could drive an atheist fromt their town, in this country and get away with it. Violence, no problem, the godless obviously deserved it.

    While atheists are a lot safer now and protected from most discrimination, they still have as much of a claim to a civil rights issue, as women, non-whites and gays.

  30. #30 Kevin
    June 29, 2007

    “Both were challengeing Kevin’s example given above which is not about civil rights but of enduring the exercise of others’ free speech. ”

    err… looking at it again I guess it does look like an example, but I really was just asking for advice.

    After the comments I begain to think that maybe it WAS a right, and so my response. After consideration I withdrawn the claim and state that I did not mean the story of the preachers to be an example of denial of human rights to aetheists.

    My human rights are actually violated by the very existence of churches, clergy and religious symbols. There presence is insulting to me. Why why why must I be subject to forced interactions with these myth-pushers?!

  31. #31 pough
    June 29, 2007

    @Mecha

    So, what Nisbet was trying to say was, “atheism isn’t a civil rights issue, the discrimination of atheism is a civil rights issue”? Why didn’t he just say that? Every time he writes something I understand framing less, unless framing means “saying things in the stupidest way possible” or he’s just plain bad at it.

    It seems to me like there is discrimination against atheists in America. It’s widespread and sadly tolerated/encouraged. While it might not be as bad as the discrimination against others, why should that matter? That seems to be a rather feeble argument. And just because some of the discrimination is not a violation of civil rights doesn’t mean that there are no civil rights violations.

    The way I see it is: there is a small amount of illegal discrimination against atheists. The fact that it’s relatively small doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad thing. And what makes it worse is the vast and legal discrimination against atheists. It’s entirely legal to hate them and say nasty things about them. It’s entirely legal to not vote for them because of their lack of beliefs. But with this legal discrimination in place, it is very difficult to overthrow the illegal discrimination and it’s possible for the illegal stuff to get worse rather than better; and people are trying to make that happen!

    So one issue is that there is a PR battle that needs to be fought. (PZ specifically admitted that it’s the larger battle.) Another issue is civil rights, but it’s a smaller issue (except for the unfortunate people who have to fight them) and most will readily admit that. But the existence of the first one doesn’t make the second one go away.

    I think another big issue (touched on by Jason) is the issue of big-city atheists telling other atheists to quit whining because there’s no problem. That’s just mind-bogglingly stupid.

  32. #32 mgr
    June 29, 2007

    Matt Penfold:
    “With regards being ostracised, I am not sure the law is suitable to deal with that but I am sure you would agree that some such situations might well lead to people being denied employment or housing. When such discrimination takes place then I see a need for laws to stop it. Denying someone employment is a civil and human rights issue.”

    So denial of access of any other sort is not? Ostracism, in regards to secular activities, should be understood as denial of access (e.g. along lines of separate but equal)

    I’m at work, and my time is limited. Let’s just say that the outcome affected my son’s opportunities in sports, and in academics.

    Mike

  33. #33 David Heddle
    June 29, 2007

    Kevin,

    The christers and god-believers constantly attack rational people and get away with it. If I did stand up and shout “you’re a liar!” which I have, by the way, it is I who get stared at, and it is I who is treated as insane, NOT the frothing-mouthed lunatics who spout bible quotes and tell people they are going to burn in hell.

    Oh gee, people stare at you and think you are crazy! On a scale of one to being lynched, that must be at least a 9.95!
    And, by the way, you’re not telling the truth. Nobody “constantly” attacks rational people and gets away with it. Doesn’t happen.

    Do not my human rights include freedom from annoyance by blathering retards?

    No, they don’t.

    Reginald,

    One reason there are not a huge number of law cases backing up the claims of anti-atheist discrimination is that the ACLU deliberately chooses to represent theists in separation of church and state cases – specifically to circumvent anti-atheist discrimination.

    Do you actually believe the black-helicopter crap you just wrote? The ACLU backs Christians when (almost every case in which they’ve done so) a school system goes overboard. Some teacher or principal has been misinformed and tries to restrain freedom of religious speech under the rubric of separation of church and state. The ACLU comes down against theists plenty of times when it believes they are behaving coercively. To claim the ACLU has a bias for theists is simply asinine.

    I know that my son and I have experienced some level of ostracism in our community due to my objection to having a little league team pray before games, because the minister’s wife thought it cute, and because it was important to stand up for one’s beliefs (my son was a self selected agnotistic/atheist at the time).

    No doubt true, but not discrimination. I can respond to this anecdote in kind–you must know that Christian kids at public schools also face this kind of nonsense–if they pray at lunch they are often made fun of. It’s part of growing up. It’s not discrimination.

    Matt,

    David put forward a more cogent argument, but one that based on a false premise, namely that in the US atheist do not face discrimination. Posters here and elsewhere have provided evidence that they do so David’s argument must fail before he gets started.

    What evidence? Where is the evidence that there is systematic denial of employment, promotion, housing, healthcare, etc? Where is the evidence of pervasive physical harassment? Having people not like you and call you names is not discrimination.

  34. #34 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    MGR,

    In that case you son was a victim of discrimination and that should not be tolerated.

  35. #35 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    David,

    I suggest you read some of the other blogs (and the comments) on ScienceBlogs. You will find examples of how atheists have been discriminated against.

  36. #36 Mecha
    June 29, 2007

    Pough: Well, the first thing you have to do is, unlike PZ, realize that ‘framing’ is a _communication theory_. It’s not about ‘giving up’ or ‘not talking’ or any number of things. And yes, sometimes I do wonder why things he says get across so badly. But then again, so is everybody else, so I can’t really hold him to a higher standard.

    For one example of the frames, over in the comments of http://scienceblogs.com/bushwells/2007/06/nisbet_suggests_atheists_can_i.php I talk about part of the problem that hovers around here: The ‘Atheism = Science’ confusion, as well as the ‘Atheism = Good, Science = Good, Religion = Insane’ concept which is UNIVERSAL around here. That is different, different, DIFFERENT from saying that ‘equality is good, unequality is bad’, which is what _every other equality movement that has been successful does_. People may say ‘But that’s not what Dawkins is saying!’ But it is what some people here ARE saying. And it is not just a few isolated people.

    As to the discrimination being ‘real’, I don’t disagree with that there is anti-atheist sentiment, and that it is somewhat common, especially in more rural/less urban areas. There’s a lot of semantic fighting going about over there, and I can’t really go into that in extreme depth.

    But using loaded phrases/concepts (which people ARE saying are true, now, so don’t fall back on Jason’s failed argument), like ‘Atheism is a Civil Rights issue’, and ‘Science and Atheism = Good and Sane, Religion and ‘Soft Sciences’ = Bad/Insane/Etc.’ (see the comment I link to) are exactly the _self formed_ PR problem that he is talking about.

    I do think that the article Nisbet’s linking to is ESPECIALLY dismissive of discrimination, and in bad ways, and I pointed out to him that it’s not really convincing. It does very much mirror (although imperfectly) the idea that feminists need to shut up because there aren’t any more ‘legal’ discriminations (which is completely wrong) and so I disagree with it. PZ brings out the concept that Dawkins’ book isn’t a political statement, and maybe that’s true too, in the body.

    But you know? It still sets up a frame. ‘The God Delusion.’ Religion = insane. There is a difference between anti-atheist sentiment (and other anti-religious-tolerance sentiments of all sorts) and saying that Atheism is a civil rights issue. And though people say they understand the difference? Nobody _acts_ like they do. And actions are a thousand times louder than words.

    There’s also a difference between what Nisbet is saying, and ‘SHUT UP ATHEISTS’, which he also doesn’t make clear, because anyone who knows the basis for minority movements and other such things knows this. Most feminists, even loud ones, have found a functional way of being loud, AND not calling every man insane and stupid. “It’s not the people. It’s the _power structure_. Patriarchy and behavior is the problem, not specific men.” “Essentialism is false: Women and Men are not inherently drastically different.” Compare that to, “Atheists are rational. Religious are delusional.” Compare that to saying that the ‘average’ preacher is delivering a screed about atheism being evil every Sunday. That is language which sets up a _false conflict_. That is a frame. A frame in which only rational scientist atheists are good, and they have to be loud and mock everyone who holds religious belief as stupid and irrational, _or else they’ll destroy your right to exist/control you_.

    For more on framing, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(social_sciences) has a start. Atheism = Good. Rational = Good. Religion = Insane. Emotion = Bad (unless it’s anger towards religious/IDers/denialists.) These are the kind of associations and frames that _dominate_ on scienceblogs. And all you have to do to see that is go back and read that post where Rob Knop said that he was lightly religious, and the posts around it. Rob being allowed to be sane/rational was _DISALLOWED_ in the atheist frame. Religion and Science/Sanity could not exist. And it’s not just isolated. I can only say this and reinforce it with information so many times.

    -Mecha

  37. #37 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    Mecha,

    Believing in things for which there is no evidence is NOT rational. Now that does mean that believing in god makes a person totally irrational. It some cases it will (Kent Hovind) , in other it won’t (Ken Miller). But it does mean that in at least one aspect of that person’s life they accept something for which they have no evidence. I know of theists who admit that their faith is not rational and that they cannot defend it using reason or evidence. I do not understand why they continue to believe as they do, but I do acknowledge their honesty.

  38. #38 David D.G.
    June 29, 2007

    Mecha,

    I hope this isn’t going off on too much of a tangent, but I’m unclear on one point. You seem to be saying that Religion =/= Insanity (at least intrinsically), but how, exactly, can you claim that it is even remotely rational? If it is based on faith in matters profoundly in opposition to proved reality, that is de facto irrational. Why should anyone try to pretend otherwise?

    I am NOT saying that all religions, or all religious people, are evil. That could not be farther from the truth. However, it is my opinion that they ARE all deluded, and the facts line up a lot better with my opinion than with theirs. So why should atheists cut their beliefs any slack? That just feeds the delusion, as well as the ingrained societal attitude that religious faith is above and beyond criticism (which is the position you seem to be operating under, if not promoting outright). What is it about ANY irrational belief that DESERVES respect?

    This is no different from the racism/sexism/homophobia discrimination issues (except in degree) because it was (and still is) downright wrong for people to claim that women and nonwhites are inferior beings (and worse), or that homosexuals are inherently evil or sick. I do not advocate calling religion “evil,” but it is nothing less than simple truth to call it factually WRONG.

    Following an ideology that is factually wrong, when it has been pointed out as factually wrong innumerable times, seems as good a definition of irrationality as one needs, just as it is pounced on as such when the irrationality is held against gays, women, or nonwhites. So why, again, should atheists not call them on this?

    ~David D.G.

  39. #39 Brendan S
    June 29, 2007

    David H:

    Apart from the, admittedly rare, instances in the news where Atheists are Beat up by Christians and coerced into LEAVING THE STATE. http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/smalko1.htm

    Let’s take two scenarios:

    One, A white family in southern Arkansas tries to talk their Daughter out of marrying a Black man.

    Two, A Christian family tries to talk their daughter out of marrying an Atheist.

    Either these are both discrimination, or neither one is. You can’t have it both ways. And yes, one of these things happened to me, and the other didn’t. And my wife and I both have the same color skin.

  40. #40 Skemono
    June 29, 2007

    The problem with this argument is that the writings of “the New Atheists” are, as the phrase suggests, new.

    Well, not necessarily.

  41. #41 Explicit Atheist
    June 29, 2007

    People who think government supported anti-atheist discrimination and bias can be remedied without publicly and aggressively advocating atheist belief fundamentally misunderstand how deeply government non-establishment and non-discrimination violations are rooted in popular anti-atheist stereotypes. Judges won’t defend civil rights for minorities when they know that elected officials will react to responding to very vocal popular opinion against such “anti-democratic” judicial rulings by passing laws or constitutional amendments to re-enact the popular civil rights violations. The New Atheists aggressive advocacy of atheism is essential to making civil rights progress. This is an omlette that requires cracking eggs and people like Nisbett who get quesy at the site of broken eggs would do better to focus on something else.

  42. #42 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    June 29, 2007

    Defenders of the status quo must either believe that they will lose privileges or they merely fear change. It couldn’t be a ‘dog in the manger’ attitude.

    What motivates all this sniping at atheists? Are these just concern trolls, or what?

  43. #43 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    JohnnieCanuck,

    Well as best as I can make out the argument seems to go something like this.

    1. Atheists do not face discrimination.
    2. Even if they did they should put up with it, it is not as bad as the discrimination faced by others.
    3. Even when it is bad they should up otherwise they might upset the people discriminating against them.

    Now I may have missed something in Nisbet’s at al argument but I don’t think I have.

  44. #44 Mecha
    June 29, 2007

    Oy. In short: You can claim that religion is irrational all you want. But then Nisbet is absolutely correct. You are creating your own PR problem by choosing to treat any person who is religious as irrational, wrong, and, if you maintain atheism = civil rights, ultimately saying that theists are out to get you and keep you down. Not the power structure. Not the government. People. People that may or may not support equality, they’re all against you.

    I don’t care, at the moment, if you want to argue that religion is irrational or not. Such an argument is essentially semantics, and relies upon the fact that around here, only someone who is 100% rational (IE: Nobody) is good. But that belief makes Nisbet right, that atheists create a PR problem of their own devising. Not based on prejudice, but on their own insistence that if you’re not with them, you’re bad.

    -Mecha

  45. #45 Mecha
    June 29, 2007

    David:

    You know what they do to crazy deluded people in this country, right? Lock ‘em up for the good of society. IF that’s the conversational frame you wish to use, then you are implying that the religious need to be locked up. I do not hold that that is what you believe. But those are the words that you are using.

    Try using other ones? And you’re using a different frame. And if you’re interested in equality, as opposed to advancing atheism, you’d likely be well served by it.

    -Mecha

  46. #46 David Canzi
    June 29, 2007

    I ride the ferry to work. It is full of people who hate going to work, or who are tired and coming home from work, and don’t want to be bothered.

    We are the target of various self-styled preachers…

    what do you think I should do?

    Board the ferry wearing hard-soled shoes and a cheap crucifix concealed under your shirt. When a ferry preacher starts preaching at you, pull the crucifix out from under your shirt. The preacher should hesitate, giving you time to take the crucifix off, drop it on the floor and heel-stomp it.

    Make sure you have good medical insurance.

  47. #47 David Heddle
    June 29, 2007

    Brendan,

    Apart from the, admittedly rare, instances in the news where Atheists are Beat up by Christians and coerced into LEAVING THE STATE.

    You are right, it is rare, and I hope that anyone committing such an act is punished. But even that is not discrimination–it is garden variety bigotry.

    One, A white family in southern Arkansas tries to talk their Daughter out of marrying a Black man.
    Two, A Christian family tries to talk their daughter out of marrying an Atheist.
    Either these are both discrimination, or neither one is. You can’t have it both ways. And yes, one of these things happened to me, and the other didn’t. And my wife and I both have the same color skin.

    That’s easy–neither is discrimination. Parents are allowed to try to talk their kids out of marrying–for whatever reason they want. I would absolutely try to talk my kids out of marrying an atheist–because of biblical admonitions against it. This isn’t hard: a law preventing an atheist from marrying is discrimination. A parent saying: “I don’t want you to marry him” is not. At most it can be bigotry–and bigotry is not discrimination.
    BTW, since you brought it up, my wife and I don’t have the same color skin. For what that’s worth.

  48. #48 David D.G.
    June 29, 2007

    Mecha,

    Since the irrationality isn’t necessarily organic, but is technically treatable by means of communication and education, I prefer the route of curing religious irrationality rather than merely locking people up for it.

    And of those who steadfastly cling to their beliefs, but at least are not “a danger to themselves or others” in their practice of it, I can reasonably put up with them still being allowed on the street as well.

    But for those diehards whose religious delusions DO make them dangerous to themselves and/or others, frankly, I would advocate their incarceration for treatment if I thought that there could possibly be room in the asylums and hospitals for them, which there undoubtedly is not.

    Even if there were room for them, however, society at present still largely treats such madness as the norm; therefore, until such time as human society matures further, we must accept that this particular type of madness will continue to be considered socially acceptable, no matter how dangerous it is.

    Would I accept equality for atheists (and proper adherence to the separation of church and state) as a compromise? Absolutely. But we need to make a point of showing how weak the theistic position is, repeatedly and often, to break down some of this societal inertia that gives religion a free pass, yet leans hard on atheism. The civil rights movements for blacks and women bear this out, and the progress in achieving civil rights for gays bears it out yet again. I see no reason to think that we should be less confrontational in obtaining social parity for atheists.

    ~David D.G.

  49. #49 Matt Penfold
    June 29, 2007

    David Heddle,

    I am not sure what you consider to be discrimination but the two examples you so casually dismiss strike me as both being examples of discrimination. You seem to be avoiding the issue by redefining terms to mean what you want then to mean, and not what most people would consider then to mean.

    From you comments it clear why do you no want to use the regular meaning of discrimination. You comment “I would absolutely try to talk my kids out of marrying an atheist–because of biblical admonitions against it” shows where you are coming from, and shows the type of person you are. That comment alone should make sure no one pays much heed to what you have say.

  50. #50 David D.G.
    June 29, 2007

    David Heddle,

    I would absolutely try to talk my kids out of marrying an atheist–because of biblical admonitions against it. This isn’t hard: a law preventing an atheist from marrying is discrimination. A parent saying: “I don’t want you to marry him” is not. At most it can be bigotry–and bigotry is not discrimination.

    So you don’t mind admitting that you’re a bigot, but you deny being discriminatory? That’s absurd; bigotry and discrimiation are BOTH defined as active expressions of prejudice. Your claim that you can be a nondiscriminating bigot is like admitting to being a resident of California but denying that you live in the western United States.

    Bigotry IS discrimination. You don’t change one into the other magically by having a particular discriminatory view backed by law; that’s just institutionalized discrimination or bigotry, but it’s still the same offensive phenomenon as is practiced privately. By you, among others.

    ~David D.G.

  51. #51 David Heddle
    June 29, 2007

    Matt, David

    If your 18 year old daughter wanted to marry a sixty year old man, I won’t believe you if you say you wouldn’t try to talk her out of it. Is that “age discrimination?” Are you “bigoted against the elderly?” Of course not.

  52. #52 Rieux
    June 29, 2007

    Heddle:

    I won’t believe you if you say you wouldn’t try to talk her out of it. Is that “age discrimination?”

    Ha! No, it’s just your refusal to believe Matt and David. Or, more likely, it’s your failure to write clearly.

    Yes, trying to talk one’s child out of marrying a given person on the grounds that that person is sixty years old is “age discrimination.” Self-evidently so. What else could it be?

  53. #53 Brendan S
    June 29, 2007

    12But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

    13And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

    14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

    Doesn’t actually mean anything?

    It seems pretty clear that the Bible says that if you happen to become married to an unbeliever, then you should stay married. And I’m sure you will quote me back 2Cor 6:14

    14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

    But in this I will ask you, do you tightly pursue all business dealings to make sure no unbelievers are involved? Where’s your mortgage? Is everyone there a Christian? How about your place of work?

  54. #54 Brendan S
    June 29, 2007

    Hrm.. Got cut off. That’s 1Cor 7:12-14

  55. #55 Vasu Murti
    June 29, 2007

    Having grown up in this country as a member of a religious minority, I believe in a secular society, but I’m not an atheist. I’m a practicing Hindu.

    I’m a pro-life Democrat. I am pro-life but also believe in a complete separation of church and state. I gave $1,008 to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, while asking Rev. Barry Lynn (Executive Director) to keep the organization neutral on this divisive issue, rather than take a pro-choice stance.

    I have no problem with atheism. Thomas Jefferson, the architect of American democracy, said, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others, but it does no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pockets nor breaks my legs.”

    Under Jeffersonian democracy, monotheism, polytheism, agnosticism, atheism and even victimless crimes are all tolerated. This conception of democracy appears to me to be closer to the Vedic conception of government, because under Vedic civilization there was tolerance of different philosophical schools of thought, differernt yoga systems, demigod worship, ancestor worship (“pitas”, or forefathers, in Sanskrit), pantheism (advaita vedanta), and even atheists like Charvaka. The American Left is open to the idea of a tolerant multicultural, multireligious, multiracial and possibly even a multilingual society, whereas the right is not.

    Jefferson stated that “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others.” Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein in “The Notebook of Lazarus Long”, also wrote that sin lies only in harming others–all other “sins” are concocted. In Vedic civilization, victimless crimes such as intoxication (rice wine was offered to goddess Kali) and even prostitution (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.11.19) were legal and regulated.

    While I recognize the need for a free market economy, I also recognize the advantages of welfare-state capitalism over laissez-faire capitalism, and especially the need for government regulation of industry in areas such as occupational safety and environmental protection.

    I agree that religion has no place in the secular arena and therefore oppose government instituted prayer in the public schools, but must simultaneously oppose the teaching of modern myths such as the theory of evolution in the public schools as well.

    According to Vedic civilization, people fall into four different classes: educators, military, mercantile, and laborers. Only a certain class of people will have military inclinations, and a military draft forces people from the working classes to take up arms against their will. The American Left generally recognizes the immorality of a military draft.

    Writer and activist Jean Blackwood, in the July 1993 issue of “Harmony: Voices for a Just Future”, a “consistent-ethic” publication on the religious Left, notes:

    “Many of the young people who make up the animal rights and environmental movement grew up with pro-abortion rhetoric in their ears. They can make the mental shift from banning CFCs, outlawing whaling, and abolishing clearcuts to ‘a woman’s right to choose’ with such alacrity that one might suspect no self-contradiction was involved.”

    For many young people today, abortion is just another choice; just another form of birth control. Will they be more inclined to listen to a secular moral philosophy that doesn’t dictate their sexual behavior or intrude upon their private life, or a set of unprovable religious beliefs that does?

    There are non-traditional pro-life groups that make up “The Left Side of the March” on the March on Washington, every January 22nd, in D.C.: Vegans for Life, Democrats for Life, Feminists for Life, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL), etc. I’m not sure if Atheists for Life is included, but Rachel MacNair, a Quaker pacifist, vegan, psychology professor, and past president of Feminists For Life, once pointed out that there are pro-life atheists who argue that since there is no afterlife, life is especially precious.

    This argument is also used by Reverend Andrew Linzey in his 1987 book, “Christianity and the Rights of Animals” against Christians who claim animals don’t have souls: if there is no afterlife for animals and they are not to be recompensated for their sufferings in this lifetime in an afterlife, then there is no justification for the sufferings we inflict upon them.

    Had Dennis Kucinich remained pro-life, I would have voted for him. Atheists and agnostics have nothing to fear: we really live in a secular society; one in which people merely pay lip service to religious ideals.

  56. #56 SmellyTerror
    June 29, 2007

    Uh, some commenters seem to have missed the point. It doesn’t matter IN THE SLIGHTEST (in the context of this debate) whether or not atheism is a civil rights issue. THAT’S THE STRAW MAN HERE.

    The point is that other groups have succeeded in improving their status through active publicity of their point of view. The point is that being shy and retiring has never seemed to help. Some of the best examples of this principle include *gasp* various civil rights struggles. But learning from other situations is not the same as equating them with your own.

    Whether atheism is a human rights issue or not is staggeringly irrelevant, at least in the context of this debate. Whether or nor atheists are persecuted, burned at the stake, or paraded through their towns like homecoming queens – also utterly irrelevant. The argument by Nisbet et al is that vigorous activism is somehow harmful for a minority’s desire for recognition. The answer is that the evidence is resoundingly to the contrary.

    Discussing the merits of the straw man seems… pointless.

  57. #57 Kevin
    June 29, 2007

    “When a ferry preacher starts preaching at you, pull the crucifix out from under your shirt. … take the crucifix off, drop it on the floor and heel-stomp it. Posted by: David Canzi | June 29, 2007 05:17 PM ”

    I think I need something more vocal, less physical. Aside from a few intent believers, almost everyone is ignoring the person hoping that they would leave.

    Maybe I should yell: “You worship a false, useless god! I spit on him!” and then wave the xerfix around and then mime spitting on it.

    “IF THERE IS A GOD MAY HE STRIKE ME DEAD!” I should yell.

  58. #58 J. J. Ramsey
    June 29, 2007

    A strawman from Matt Penfold:

    “1. Atheists do not face discrimination.
    2. Even if they did they should put up with it, it is not as bad as the discrimination faced by others.
    3. Even when it is bad they should up otherwise they might upset the people discriminating against them.

    “Now I may have missed something in Nisbet’s at al argument but I don’t think I have.”

    The real argument:

    1. Atheists do not face problems of the same magnitude as blacks, gays, and women have.
    2. Rather, they are primarily misrepresented and misunderstood–they have an image problem.
    3. Therefore, they should focus on improving their image.

    Now the reason atheists aren’t so overtly oppressed is largely because we can hide our opinions and (in the U.S. at least) the law is on our side, especially the Constitution. That’s an ugly fact. Nonetheless, that ugly fact has made comparisons to larger civil rights movements problematic.

    Also, considering that the current “front man” for atheism, Richard Dawkins, has accused Eugenie Scott of being a moral coward for working with the likes of Ken Miller (Neville Chamberlain atheists, anyone?), and that one of the more popular ScienceBloggers continued on that theme (even as he claimed to disavow the words “Neville Chamberlain”) and caricatured theists as “pious twits” and “little old ladies who faint at the sight of monkeys,” I’d say that we do have an image problem. That’s not just “being up-front and bold,” as PZ would like to pretend. We need more Hemant Mehtas and Julia Sweeneys and Massimo Pigliuccis and Jason Rosenhouses, and fewer people practiced at being eloquent slanderers.

    “Nisbett has a lot of nerve putting ‘atheism is a civil rights issue,’ in quotes and then describing it as a catchphrase used by members of some ill-defined Atheist Net Roots. None of the links Nisbett provides show atheists saying any such thing.”

    Errm, the link to Trinifar’s “saving Pharyngula” post is all about PZ invoking a civil rights movement–namely the suffrage movement–and using it as justification for what amounts to more eloquent slander.

  59. #59 GBruno
    June 29, 2007

    Kevin:
    I ride the Staten Island ferry in NYC often, & get lectured from time to time by more or less deranged preachers who ramble against atheists & gays. One crazy woman who claimed the WTC deaths were god’s punishment, I managed to silence for a moment with a very nasty stare. Another preacher, I managed to draw into paroxysms of ire, by telling him there is no god as I passed him by. However, I am not as courageous as a young man I met at the ferry, who was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word Atheist in a fine script. He told me he mostly got good responses, but being older, & with more experiences, I would be very much afraid to be an atheist publicly in NYC.

  60. #60 Kevin
    June 29, 2007

    well mr. G Bruno you know very well what I am talking about.

    I am glad that that guy in the wheelchair is finally dead.

    Unfortunately, some more wackos came to take his place.

  61. #61 SmellyTerror
    June 29, 2007

    JJ: “Errm, the link to Trinifar’s “saving Pharyngula” post is all about PZ invoking a civil rights movement–namely the suffrage movement–and using it as justification for what amounts to more eloquent slander.”

    …and, again, you’ve missed the point. It’s not that atheism = civil rights, it’s that there was another group who used in-your-face tactics and it WORKED. That similar tactics might work for the atheists. The objection that such methods merely alienate the community is demonstrated false by the experiences others.

    This is not about the definition of civil rights, or claims regarding the treatment of atheists. It is about the viability of certain courses of action. A different group used a similar course of action being debated by our group. Hence, their experience is of interest.

    It’s like pointing to the effective use of combined arms tactics by Nazi Germany, attempting to draw lessons from that for you own military, and then getting derailed when people object to having your military compared to Nazis. This isn’t about equating groups, it’s about comparing strategy.

  62. #62 David D.G.
    June 29, 2007

    Vasu Murti,

    I agree that religion has no place in the secular arena and therefore oppose government instituted prayer in the public schools, but must simultaneously oppose the teaching of modern myths such as the theory of evolution in the public schools as well.

    Your other stated opinions and values seem reasonable enough, and I even agree with several of them (not with all of them, but I can still respect the viewpoints). The latter half of this comment, however, was so stridently out of character with the rest of such reasonable writing that I nearly choked.

    On what grounds, please, do you characterize one of the best-supported theories in science as a “modern myth”?

    Superman is a modern myth. Star Wars is a modern myth. Evolution is hard science, backed up by both observation and experimentation. I’ve heard the Christian claims for trying to deny it, which mostly center around the stubborn insistence of interpreting the biblical book of Genesis as a literal, factually true documentary. But you say that you are a practicing Hindu, not a Christian; so correct me if I’m wrong, but I would expect that you do not consider the Bible an authority in this (or any) matter.

    So on what grounds, then, do YOU deny the validity of a science that literally millions, perhaps tens of millions, of various science professionals worldwide apply in a practical fashion every day and, after a 150 years of working with it, consider one of the best-supported theories in science?

    ~David D.G.

  63. #63 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2007

    J.J. Ramsey is one to complain about “elegant slander”; he preferred the cruder kind of insulting my daughter on my blog and thereby earning a banning. That phrase “little old ladies who faint at the sight of monkeys” sure resonates with him, since he parrots it all over the place; I don’t know what he objects to, unless he thinks we need to pander to fainting little old ladies, or perhaps he considers fainting an appropriate response to the sight of monkeys.

    And as usual, he and Trinifar misrepresent my point. It was not that atheism is just like feminism. It’s that the meek, modest approach in which we sit quietly and wait for our betters to hand us our dignity doesn’t work. But I’ll tell you what: the two of them can go sit quietly in some corner and hold hands until they get some respect for their politeness. I’ve got no problem with that.

  64. #64 raiko
    June 30, 2007

    I have to agree with Jason and PZ on this one. Nisbet and Groethe are clearly bashing a strawman here. As SmellyTerror said in his posts, most of the comparisons (I hesitate to even call them analogies) of atheism to the different civil rights movements are concerned with the methods used and how effective they are.

    I haven’t seem an example yet, on ScienceBlogs at least, of people trying to hitch the wagon of atheism to the emotional and moral power earned by the likes of, say, feminism (as Mecha seems to be strongly implying).

    To David Heddle:

    If I had a daughter, I would certainly advise her against marrying a 60 year old man. But the reason for my opposition would be something along the lines of “You may have trouble having children” or “If you do have children, he may not be around much longer to support them”. In all honesty, I have to admit to some ickiness factor to having my daughter marry someone older than me. But if at the end of the day, she decides that it’s what she wants, then I’ll support her. Is this age discrimination? Sure. But I’ve laid down some rational arguments for my views.

    Now, what is your rational argument for opposing your daughter’s plan to marry an atheist?

  65. #65 CMF
    June 30, 2007

    Well, of course, this approach won’t work; no bells , no whistles: “There are no calls for violence, no calls for the government to step in and do anything, and no suggestion that any weapon other than reason be employed in the fight against religion and superstition.”
    Maybe if all atheists united in a kind of “crap our pants athon” where we pray to the lord to clean it all up in the name of Yeshua…..invite “the faithful”…and then, justy sit there on national tv…

  66. #66 Alx
    June 30, 2007

    If it is not or even if it is, then …is theism a civil rights issue, as well?
    I think theism and atheism both are and we may discuss them on a civil rights basis. Why not?
    I’ve seen an opinion here on atheists “…they should focus on improving their image.” They may have to, of course, as anyone may have to, but let us focus on the theist historical image… No way to improve history… Too many corpses… Image improvement? Yes, of course, it is possible… Repaint it!

  67. #67 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    PZ Myers: “J.J. Ramsey is one to complain about “elegant slander”; he preferred the cruder kind of insulting my daughter on my blog and thereby earning a banning.”

    Excuse me, but this is the blog post that got me in trouble:

    PZ Myers: “Now, define ‘strident’. Near as I can tell, it’s simply being an atheist and publicly arguing against god-belief.”

    No, this is the attitude I’d call strident:

    “Next idea for a blog post is ‘Why I don�t believe in god.’ I suddenly realised how necessary it is for me to condense my beliefs and reasoning in retard-friendly format. This format is important for the audience I am targeting with it” [emphasis mine]

    Luckily, these are just the words of an adolescent. A full-grown adult would never write something so immature.

    Crude? Well, it’s at least rude, and it shouldn’t have been said. But slander? Even if you accept that Skatje was only clarifying and not backtracking when she wrote that it was aimed at “the especially stupid high school people who can’t seem to understand anything I say and completely miss the point in almost every reply to me,” referring to a group of people as “retards” is immature and, yes, strident. Slander has to be false. Whatever demerits my words there had, falseness was not one of them.

    PZ Myers: “That phrase “little old ladies who faint at the sight of monkeys” sure resonates with him, since he parrots it all over the place; I don’t know what he objects to”

    What I object to is that it is a gross caricature that has little to do with reality. It is a broad-brush depiction of the religious as cretins.

    PZ Myers: “It was not that atheism is just like feminism. It’s that the meek, modest approach in which we sit quietly and wait for our betters to hand us our dignity doesn’t work”

    But this is a strawman, and an excluded middle fallacy on top of that. You keep writing as if our only options are to be nasty or to be silent. If we want to make comparisons to the civil rights movement, we have only to look at MLK, who explicitly eschewed both those extremes in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

  68. #68 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    CMF: “There are no calls for violence, no calls for the government to step in and do anything, and no suggestion that any weapon other than reason be employed in the fight against religion and superstition.”

    Exaggeration and distortion are being used against religion and superstition, which is bass-ackwards, IMHO. See my examples above.

  69. #69 AJS
    June 30, 2007

    I think the real phallacy here is the idea that some rights are more important than others.

    Turning somebody away from a nightclub because they are wearing jeans is often perceived as a lesser violation of rights than ferusing someone service in a food store because they have black skin. This is because a nightclub is a place of entertainment, which is a luxury rather than a necessity, and one can change one’s trousers more easily than one can change the colour of one’s skin.

    Fast-forward a few years into the future and we might find a simple procedure that allows a person temporarily to change the colour of their skin as easily and cheaply as changing their clothes. Would that then make it acceptable to turn someone away from a place of entertainment because of the colour of their skin, which can easily be changed?

    Meanwhile, as long as there is a perceivedly-greater abuse of human rights happening somewhere in the world, that can be used to justify a perceivedly-lesser violation. (“There are people in Pakistan who would stone a woman to death for bearing a girl, and you have the gall to complain about being asked to leave because you were wearing jeans?”) This only reinforces the popular notion that some forms of discrimination are acceptable. I’m sure the sort of person who goes to the sort of nightclub that welcomes customers wearing jeans is actually more incensed by the level of sexism in the third world than the sort of person that goes to nightclubs where they routinely discriminate based on attire.

    If you can get your head around the idea that the right to wear jeans in a nightclub is every bit as important as the right to have black skin in a food store, then atheism is a civil rights issue.

  70. #70 Randy
    June 30, 2007

    Atheists are merely individuals whose desire it is to limit themselves, their responsibility, and their awareness. ie: if we assume there is no creator, then we set ourselves in the greatest position. In todays environment of religious freedom, it does not surprise me that we have many who desire freedom from any type of recognition of a creator. The atheistic attitude to me, seem quite ignorant, inexcusable, and self serving, and yet I note that in general, atheist feel they are rather scientific and modern in viewpoint.

    In discussion with many atheistic individuals throughout the years, my observance is that they adamantly choose not to believe in anything they can not measure, however they generally believe that “love” exists. This dichotomy of censure is not without precedent and it seems to serve various atheistic communities well. The well informed atheist generally keeps his opinion to himself while the many outspoken individuals really appear to be testing their own opinions more than confirming them. Please note the word “opinion”, as really, that is all they have.

  71. #71 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    SmellyTerror: “It’s not that atheism = civil rights, it’s that there was another group who used in-your-face tactics and it WORKED.”

    But there’s that excluded middle again. You can be in-your-face by being blunt but factual and respectful (again, MLK is the classic example of this) or by painting the other side as the evil “Them.” Myers blurs these together, and to some extent tries to justify the latter by appeal to the virtuousness of the former, although he seems to romanticize the latter a bit as well. There’s no hint that he saw anything wrong with some feminists breaking windows and committing arson. There is also no real consideration of which in-your-face tactics worked.

  72. #72 AJS
    June 30, 2007

    Randy wrote:

    Atheists are merely individuals whose desire it is to limit themselves, their responsibility, and their awareness. ie: if we assume there is no creator, then we set ourselves in the greatest position.

    I’m afraid I missed your leap of logic there. Atheism is entirely compatible with the idea that we are mere cogs in a machine that happened to have created itself (because there was nobody to create it) in a manner entirely consistent with natural laws. How does that in any way set humanity in a position of greatness?

    In todays environment of religious freedom, it does not surprise me that we have many who desire freedom from any type of recognition of a creator. The atheistic attitude to me, seem quite ignorant, inexcusable, and self serving

    And now we see a glimpse of your real agenda: you want to impose artificial restrictions on individuals, and the only way you know how to do that is by shaming us all into believing something which automatically demeans us.

    [A]nd yet I note that in general, atheist feel they are rather scientific and modern in viewpoint.

    What you really mean is that you don’t understand how atheists can have a sense of humility. I suggest you try visiting the Big Blue Room a bit more!

  73. #73 Scott Beach
    June 30, 2007

    For me, atheism is a brain-wiring issue. I am a natural-born “scientist” — an INTJ according to my Keirsey Temperament Test results. I have never been able to embrace supernaturalistic explanations. I wonder how many atheists there are who are unaware that they too are natural-born scientists and therefore disinclined to accept supernatural doctrines.

  74. #74 PZ Myers
    June 30, 2007

    Knock it off with the inane “excluded middle” claim — it’s another lie, Ramsey. No one on my side of the fence is saying we need to silence the “appeasers” because they’re harming the cause. What I have said repeatedly is that we need a multitude of approaches to get the job done. A shotgun blast is far more effective than firing a single BB.

    Right now, atheism is being kicked out of its long doldrums by a cadre of assertive, in-your-face atheists who’ve won the cause renewed attention from the public and the media. Strangely, though, instead of actively exploiting this opportunity, the middle-of-the-road and religion-sympathetic unbelievers have chosen to attack their own most successful colleagues. That’s the objection here. If you want to help, what you should do is be taking this opportunity to promote your own agnosticism or secular humanism or whatever…but no, we’ve got people like Nisbet deciding that certain factions are getting too powerful, and must be demolished.

  75. #75 LadyKelien
    June 30, 2007

    Maybe spiritual beliefs and religions are not persecuited in the same way Blacks and even women in this nation were persecuited. This article is about athists but what about those religions that christans have deemed as cults not remebering that in their beginnings they were considered a cult too. In fact most cult leaders like Jim Jones and the Whaco in Waco based their cults on christanity.

    Im Pagan. I homeschool my children because the majority here want to hand out bibles to the 4th grade class. My children were forced to listen to the rantings of teachers and students about how they needed to go to church and I was going to send their souls to hell. I have to hide who and what I am or I am forced to listen to christains tell me why Im going to end up in a place I don’t even believe in. So no, maybe Im not being denied a place to live, of course Im not I rent from my own father. But, if my husbands boss knew what our beliefs were he would fire him and make up some other reason for doing it. On a daily bases I have to listen to someone trying to save my soul because I read the tarot for a living. Its not the same as atheism but it faces the same problems. Athists actually have a little more freedom than pagans when it comes to the military they don’t have to fight to get a plain tombstone the way we have to fight to get a Goddess symbol instead of a cross on our tombstones or just a plain tomb and most people can’t figure out what the big deal is. If Atheists have to go through half of the crap I go through on a daily bases once people find out my path and my faith, then yes their civil rights are being compromised. After all Freedom of religion doesn’t just mean that Im free to be pagan it also means that Im free not to have to listen to people preach to me and Im sure every athist who reads this would agree with me completely. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Christains need to learn that before someone decides it is a violation of their civil rights for real and starts a lawsuit.

  76. #76 Leni
    June 30, 2007

    Randy wrote:

    Atheists are merely individuals whose desire it is to limit themselves, their responsibility, and their awareness. ie: if we assume there is no creator, then we set ourselves in the greatest position.

    Oh brother. What a nasty little screed this one is. Randy, atheists are people who don’t believe in gods. That’s it, period.

    We don’t view ourselves in the “greatest position” (whatever that means), as most of us are well aware that things bigger and more powerful than ourselves exist and shape our lives. The solar system, the galaxy. Bears. Ebola.

    In todays environment of religious freedom, it does not surprise me that we have many who desire freedom from any type of recognition of a creator.

    LOL- you mean like how you selfishly desire freedom from any type of recognition of leprechaun?

    The atheistic attitude to me, seem quite ignorant, inexcusable, and self serving, and yet I note that in general, atheist feel they are rather scientific and modern in viewpoint.

    Wow. Just wow, lol. It’s a real live ad hominem. I don’t actually see those that often. Usually there is some kind of argument attached. Not this one though, it’s pure fallacy.

    Please note Randy, that opinion is still more than you have, which is pretty much just a completely unjustified belief coupled with some nasty remarks.

  77. #77 Leni
    June 30, 2007

    Actually (before I got ditracted by Randy’s horrid little post), I meant to thank Jason for calling out Matthew Nesbit. I thought his remarks were apallingly stupid, petty and rude. And while I left comments there, I probably didn’t need to because your post pretty much says it all.

    And you can extend that to a general comment on the quality of your posts. (That is to say: You rock!)

  78. #78 Bigpicture
    June 30, 2007

    It’s a civil rights issue. Do not think of Being an atheist as being anti-religion but as it’s own set of values. Atheism is a religion. As an Atheist I have studied and found wisdom in many of religions but not in the way of “A Santa Claus for adults” Sadly this wisdom is not taught in organized religion. It is imposed as fact instead of a spiritual/psychological guide. The original interpretations of what organized religion came from are incredibly lost. That’s why things like astrology are followed in Western society. Organized Religion has neglected to answer to an individual but instead YOU MUST BE LIKE ME. A religion from an anthropological perspective must be looked at 3 ways. 1.Spiritual/psychological(this not only regarding a coping of an explanation of death, but actual psychology, why we feel a certain way), 2.Socially(eg.propagation of society, low social costs), 3.Government. Organized religion breeds control locally, but wars globally. Organized religion creates exclusion. As an Atheist I know the value of religion. “You must leave God to find God” Until you throw out everything you have been taught or ingrained to believe about religion you will not find the true spirituality. And the real interpretation of what is God/Nirvana/Heaven/reincarnation/resurrection etc. Imposing someone else’s strict interpretation. Where is the freedom in that. To impose values and be persecuted for not being a “me to” is racism. An Atheist can’t proclaim publicly in this country that he/she is an Atheist without repercussions. To hide our religion for fear of persecution. This sounds like racism to me. Believe me if I put on my resume that I belonged to some Atheist club. I bet it will hurt my chance of getting hired. Especially in a country where 43% of the people attend Mass at least once month. (Europe 6%). Hiring discrimination ? If only black people could hide that they are black on their job interviews.

  79. #79 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    PZ Myers: “Knock it off with the inane “excluded middle” claim — it’s another lie, Ramsey.”

    Right, which explains why you called Chris Ho-Stuart a “do-nothing” atheist because of his more concilliatory stance.

    “No one on my side of the fence is saying we need to silence the ‘appeasers’ because they’re harming the cause.”

    I never said you were. That’s a strawman of your own devising. Rather, I pointed out that you confused forcefulness with nastiness and that those who complained about the nastiness were written off as “appeasers,” “Chamberlains,” “do-nothings,” etc.

    “Right now, atheism is being kicked out of its long doldrums by a cadre of assertive, in-your-face atheists who’ve won the cause renewed attention from the public and the media. Strangely, though, instead of actively exploiting this opportunity, the middle-of-the-road and religion-sympathetic unbelievers have chosen to attack their own most successful colleagues.”

    Nothing strange about “middle-of-the-road” atheists distancing themselves from someone who likens theistic evolutionists to Hitler, as Dawkins did. Nothing strange about thinking it’s batshit to call Ron Numbers a tool of the religious establishment, as you did. Nothing strange about wincing at childish insults like “faith-head.”

  80. #80 Explicit Atheist
    June 30, 2007

    AJS | June 30, 2007 08:11 AM wrote:

    “If you can get your head around the idea that the right to wear jeans in a nightclub is every bit as important as the right to have black skin in a food store, then atheism is a civil rights issue.”

    This reminds me of the assertion that atheism is an immoral/unethical choice in the Boy Scouts of America’s official legal FAQ as justification for the exclusion of atheists from that government subsidized organization. We cannot change our beliefs as easily as changing our clothes and we cannot change our skin color as easily as changing our beliefs. Beliefs warrant a level of legal protection closer to that given to skin color than to clothing because freedom of conscience and expression are more directly implicated with personal beliefs than with clothing and therefore changing one’s beliefs is much more difficult than changing one’s clothing. Certainly there is no good justification for atheists and atheism having lesser non-discrimination and non-establishment legal protections than theists and thiesm.

  81. #81 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    “Nothing strange about “middle-of-the-road” atheists distancing themselves from someone who likens theistic evolutionists to Hitler, as Dawkins did.”

    Just to clear things up, Ramsey, Dawkins didn’t compare theistic evolutionists to Hitler. That’s your pet interpretation of his analogy.

    You can say it’s a boneheaded analogy if you wish, but to say that such was Dawkins intent with the device A.) completely ignores the context in which he used it (i.e., in response to Michael Ruse invoking Churchill and Roosevelt’s alliance with Stalin to illustrate the need for politically expedient thinking.) and B.) assumes that something analogous has to be completely isomorphic. Considering the latter, isn’t it just much more likely that Dawkins was illustrating a point of his own, using Ruse’s comments as a launching pad?

    Or is it also your interpretation that the more conciliatory Michael Ruse was comparing theistic evolutionists to Stalin?

  82. #82 Explicit Atheist
    June 30, 2007

    J. J. Ramsey | June 30, 2007 01:33 PM wrote

    ‘Nothing strange about “middle-of-the-road” atheists distancing themselves from someone who likens theistic evolutionists to Hitler, as Dawkins did. Nothing strange about thinking it’s batshit to call Ron Numbers a tool of the religious establishment, as you did. Nothing strange about wincing at childish insults like “faith-head.”‘

    Ron Numbers dug his own hole, making ludicrous comments like “If evolution is in fact inherently atheistic, we probably shouldn’t be teaching it in the schools. ” Comments like that are both wrong and counterproductive. Government neutrality requires that the scientific consensus be taught as such regardless of what religious assertions that science is, rightly or wrongly, commonly deemed to support or contradict. That “Big Bang” cosmology is commonly deemed to support a Creator God has no relevance to the government’s obligation to include it in the curriculum. Government neutrality does not require that only science that somehow doesn’t contradict any religiously based fact claims be taught. That is not only completely impractical but it is also conceptually a false definition of government neutrality.

  83. #83 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    Another thought:

    “Nothing strange about wincing at childish insults like “faith-head.”

    I’m curious, J.J., do you raise this objection when homophobic Christian-rightists are variously referred to as “godbags”, “fundies”, or “Christo-fascists”? How about when conservatives are referred to as “wingnuts” (i.e., changing “Worldnet Daily” to “Wingnut Daily”). How about when liberals are referred to as “moonbats”? Or how about just the garden variety “nut” insults like “nutball”, “nutcase”, “nutbag” or “nutbar”? It would seem to me that “childish insults” are more or less extremely commonplace on these here internets (which would also be true of Dawkins critics who refer to him as a “fundie atheist” or “evangelical atheist”, ditto for those who do the same to PZ). Why single out Dawkins?

  84. #84 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “Just to clear things up, Ramsey, Dawkins didn’t compare theistic evolutionists to Hitler.”

    Please. Who are the “Neville Chamberlain atheists” appeasing? The theistic evolutionists. Who was Chamberlain appeasing? Hitler. The analogy is pretty obvious. Orac pointed that out pretty clearly.

    “Or is it also your interpretation that the more conciliatory Michael Ruse was comparing theistic evolutionists to Stalin?”

    Yes, Ruse got chomped by the Stalin Zombie. :)

    “You can say it’s a boneheaded analogy if you wish, but to say that … assumes that something analogous has to be completely isomorphic.”

    I don’t have to assume that it is completely isomorphic. However, the Chamberlain analogy has long been used as a expressing acquiescence to a great evil. For example, the Republicans used the analogy against war critics, casting Saddam Hussein in the Hitler role, with the obvious implication that the critics were moral cowards. I doubt that Dawkins was ignorant of this use of the analogy, and the fact that Ruse’s analogy was Dawkins’ launching pad doesn’t put that use out of play.

  85. #85 Jimbo
    June 30, 2007

    I am sorry to post this-please excuse if you think I am slow on the uptake-I would like to believe I am not-but I am missing something here.
    Query:How are atheists discriminated against?
    Do these acts of discrimination rise to the level of requiring some type of civil rights campaign?
    Is the call for civil rights for atheists a call for popular acceptance for that belief?

    I work in the court system & see no such discrimination against atheists-they nor anyone else is asked if they follow a particular religious belief or do not, if they do not want to swear to God to tell the truth under oath, they can affirm(as an Orthodox Jewish person would do)-yes, there is a series of letters behind the judge that says “In God we trust” but that is the language used in this country since it was created & those words do not intend to strike at or ridicule atheists-they reflect the majority’s belief in God. If this campaign is intended to have those words removed from all aspects of public life, then this is not a campaign for civil rights but an attempt to impose atheist beliefs on the country as a whole-the absence of those words, the creation of a vacuum, does not establish equality for all but the imposition of atheist beliefs. If this campaign is to remove all references to God, then it is not for civil rights and I will oppose it-show me how this alleged discrimination exists, and I will support you 100%.

    P.S. Along the lines of “What were the last words of Socrates? I DRANK WHAT???” I hope for the sake of all atheists that God has a very good sense of humor

  86. #86 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    “I’m curious, J.J., do you raise this objection when homophobic Christian-rightists are variously referred to as ‘godbags’, ‘fundies’, or ‘Christo-fascists’? How about when conservatives are referred to as ‘wingnuts’ …. How about when liberals are referred to as ‘moonbats’?”

    Depends. Referring to a particular Republican that has acted like lunatic as a wingnut is fine. Party hack organizations are also fair game (e.g. the WorldNutDaily). Referring generally to all conservatives as wingnuts is an overgeneralization. The same goes for liberals.

    Dawkins himself is ambiguous as to whether the term “faith-head” is used to describe religious nuts or just the religious (which does not reflect well on him), and the broader use of the term reflects that ambiguity. It resembles that of Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word “feminazi,” a term that might nominally be used to denote the nuts of a movement, but with the connotation that all in the movement are really nuts.

  87. #87 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    “I’m curious, J.J., do you raise this objection when …”

    BTW, in practice don’t get a chance to actually raise the objection to indiscriminate use of terms like “fundie,” “wingnut,” or “moonbat” because I don’t hang around places where those terms are indiscriminately used. Misuse of the terms does tend to inspire an eyeroll, though.

  88. #88 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    “Please. Who are the “Neville Chamberlain atheists” appeasing? The theistic evolutionists. Who was Chamberlain appeasing? Hitler. The analogy is pretty obvious. Orac pointed that out pretty clearly.”

    Wrong. You once again ignore context and simply restate your original claim. First of all “the Neville Chamberlains” were not appeasing “theistic evolutionists”, they were appeasing “superstition”. Dawkins whole point was that it was the evo-creo battle was part of a larger battle between rationalism and superstition and that it was misguided to view the conflict so narrowly, a la Ruse. And yes, he also made the point that many scientists fail to attack religion out of fear of reprisal (i.e., appeasement). Boneheaded analogy? Maybe. But to say that Dawkins intended to compare “theistic evolutionists” to Hitler is to deliberately over-read it.

    “Yes, Ruse got chomped by the Stalin Zombie. :)”

    Perhaps he did, but such is simply a flippant response that ignores the issue. Michael Ruse obviously does not consider theistic evolutionists to be the equivalent of Stalin, he was only justifying his own cooperation with them by illustrating that compromise and alliances of convenience are often necessary. Dawkins illustrated the opposite point. The “OMG HITLER/STALIN COMPARISON” response is hysterically overdrawn either way.

    “I don’t have to assume that it is completely isomorphic. However, the Chamberlain analogy has long been used as a expressing acquiescence to a great evil…I doubt that Dawkins was ignorant of this use of the analogy, and the fact that Ruse’s analogy was Dawkins’ launching pad doesn’t put that use out of play.”

    The use was to illustrate a political point, no less than Michael Ruse’s analogy or any other historical analogy in the context of a socio-political conflict. To try to argue that theistic evolutionists have to be Hitler, in Dawkins mind, completely misses the point.

    “Depends. Referring to a particular Republican that has acted like lunatic as a wingnut is fine. Party hack organizations are also fair game (e.g. the WorldNutDaily). Referring generally to all conservatives as wingnuts is an overgeneralization. The same goes for liberals.”

    Actually, the name calling is typically in response to the repeated confrontation of what the observer thinks of as stupid arguments. When secular liberals hear “We’re a Christian nation” or read it in some op-ed, they most often casually dismiss the person as a “wingnut” a “godbag” or a “fundie” without knowing much else about the person. Likewise, Dawkins use of the term is in response to what he sees as bone-headed arguments from religious apologists against his position. Or at least that’s what I gather.

  89. #89 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    Tyler diPietro: “Wrong. You once again ignore context and simply restate your original claim. First of all ‘the Neville Chamberlains’ were not appeasing ‘theistic evolutionists’, they were appeasing ‘superstition’.”

    The “Neville Chamberlains” are people like Eugenie Scott from the NCSE. And who do they work with? The theistic evolutionists. It’s pretty clear that the “appeasees” are, as Dawkins put it, the “sensible” religious people (his quotes, not mine). Orac got that gist as well. Dawkins does quote Jerry Coyne as saying that the real war is between rationalism and superstition, but he never describes the “Chamberlains” as appeasing the abstract thing “superstition,” and emphasizes that the “Chamberlains” are siding with moderate religion.

  90. #90 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    “The “Neville Chamberlains” are people like Eugenie Scott from the NCSE. And who do they work with? The theistic evolutionists.”

    And theistic evolutionists are, in Dawkins mind, agents in the overall problem of “superstition”. It doesn’t change the meat of the analogy, and certainly doesn’t warrant an overdrawn “ZOMGODWIN” reaction. Dawkins pretty clearly doesn’t consider theistic evolutionists to be the equivalent of mass-murdering tyrants (neither does Michael Ruse), nor do I gather that it was intention to convey such an equivalence rather than simply illustrate a political point with a dramatic analogy.

    “Dawkins does quote Jerry Coyne as saying that the real war is between rationalism and superstition, but he never describes the “Chamberlains” as appeasing the abstract thing “superstition,” and emphasizes that the “Chamberlains” are siding with moderate religion.”

    And the “Chamberlains” siding with “moderate religion” is tantamount to them ignoring the real conflict between rationalism and superstition (Conye’s comments, as I recall, were also in response to Ruse).

  91. #91 Bob Evans
    June 30, 2007

    Kevin said: “My human rights are actually violated by the very existance of churches, clergy and religious symbols. There presence is insulting to me. Why why why must I be subject to forced interactions with these myth- pushers?!

    Also: “Maybe I should yell: “You worship a false, useless god! I spit on him! and then wave the xerfix around and then mime spitting on it.”

    I don’t believe PZ would include Kevin among the “…cadre of assertive, in-your-face athiests who’ve won the cause renewed attention from the public and media.” This is an obviously troubled, irrational and over the top dude who, actually, appears to be in need of some serious counselling. He’s downright delusional with his comments in this thread, in keeping with the thrust of Jimbo’s post. I’ve been following scienceblogs long enough now to know that PZ is a respected proponent of the athiest cause. I’d be utterly amazed if he thought that this guys venomous vitriol does anything to advance the athiest quest for full dignity in society.

    As far as your reference to Socrates, Jimbo, how about this from Plato where it pertains to Kevin: “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” If the shoe fits, wear it.

  92. #92 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “And theistic evolutionists are, in Dawkins mind, agents in the overall problem of ‘superstition’.”

    The problem is that Dawkins does not describe superstition as the thing being appeased. Dawkins had ample opportunity to indicate that the Hitler role was being played by a “what,” not a “who,” and he didn’t take it.

    Tyler DiPietro: “Dawkins pretty clearly doesn’t consider theistic evolutionists to be the equivalent of mass-murdering tyrants”

    However, he likens working with them as an act of cowardice and betrayal.

  93. #93 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    A bit more to add here on Dawkins’ godwining …

    I wrote: “However, he likens working with them as an act of cowardice and betrayal.”

    My point here is that theistic evolutionists are painted as the “bad guys” here, and to hammer home the point, Dawkins uses an analogy that likens them to someone who has become a symbol of the ultimate “bad guy,” Hitler. Of course, if Dawkins were pressed, I’m sure that he’d acknowledge that this is hyperbole. The problem is that he has still painted his adversaries as a caricatured evil, which is what bad Hitler analogies tend to do.

  94. #94 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    “The problem is that Dawkins does not describe superstition as the thing being appeased.”

    You must have a different edition of The God Delusion than I did. In that passage (on pages 66-69) he’s clearly targeting NOMA and the contrived conciliatory thinking of Ruse and others, as well as the soft-pedaling that leads to attacks on him for his “strident” atheism and supposed damaging the cause. Hell, Ruse’s own comments on the matter, quoted in the book, feature a pot-shot at Dawkins for making what were actually some pretty obvious points about Pope John-Paul II’s milquetoast endorsement of evolution and the enthusiastic embrace of it by the pro-science lobby in this country. All of it was, in his mind, a mentality of appeasement. And since Ruse had already invoked the allied cooperation with Stalin during WWII to justify it, Dawkins went for his own dramatic analogy. It’s pretty clear to me that what he was illustrating was that the problem was superstition, a la Conye, and that the appeasement of it by the evolution lobby was misguided. I don’t think that qualifies as saying “theistic evolutionists are like Hitler”.

    “However, he likens working with them as an act of cowardice and betrayal.

    My point here is that theistic evolutionists are painted as the “bad guys” here, and to hammer home the point, Dawkins uses an analogy that likens them to someone who has become a symbol of the ultimate “bad guy,” Hitler.”

    The “bad guys” he invokes are more or less the religious forces that most evolution defenders think ought to be appealed to rather than challenged on the beliefs they predicate their rejection of science on. Dawkins point was that this was a misguided legitimization of an anti-science mentality and amounted to appeasement. It’s not “theistic evolutionists are like Hitler”, which totally misses the point of analogy and only goes with the most unfavorable interpretation possible. And given the comparative outrage directed toward Dawkins analogy rather than Ruse’s invokation of Stalin, I suspect the point is more or less to score a cheap debate point over which Dawkins can be castigated.

  95. #95 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    “The ‘bad guys’ he invokes are more or less the religious forces that most evolution defenders think ought to be appealed to rather than challenged on the beliefs they predicate their rejection of science on.”

    The problem with this defense is that not all of these bad guys are being “appeased.” The fundies aren’t being appeased, not on creationism or other matters. They are being attacked. The ones being “appeased” are the moderates, and only if they do some “appeasing” of their own, namely accomodating their beliefs to the known science. The Neville Chamberlain analogy presupposes that someone is being appeased, and religious moderates are a marginally better candidate than all of the religious. And again, Dawkins does not speak of the Chamberlainers trying to appease some abstract thing called “superstition,” but he repeatedly refers to the Chamberlainers making allies with the moderates.

    “I don’t think that qualifies as saying ‘theistic evolutionists are like Hitler’.”

    The Neville Chamberlain analogy is an argumentum ad Naziium. You can’t avoid a comparison to Hitler.

    “And given the comparative outrage directed toward Dawkins analogy rather than Ruse’s invokation of Stalin, I suspect the point is more or less to score a cheap debate point over which Dawkins can be castigated.”

    Dawkins has had a much higher profile as of late, and he is a part of the discussion because Nisbet mentioned him. Furthermore, Ruse is not attracting apologists trying to justify his missteps.

    At this point, we’re repeating ourselves, so I’ll let you have the last word here.

  96. #96 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    I’ll just make one point:

    “The Neville Chamberlain analogy presupposes that someone is being appeased, and religious moderates are a marginally better candidate than all of the religious.”

    Yes, but the religious moderates who support evolution….well, support evolution. They’re already on the side of reason, at least nominally. What Dawkins attacked in the passage was the idea that everyone should soft-pedal around people’s religious sensibilities and try to get them to accept a position similar to theistic evolution. “All of the religious” are, in fact, a much better fit in Dawkins argument than extant theistic evolutionists.

  97. #97 J. J. Ramsey
    June 30, 2007

    Ok, I said that I was going to let you have the last word since we were repeating ourselves, but since you bring up a new point …

    “What Dawkins attacked in the passage was the idea that everyone should soft-pedal around people’s religious sensibilities and try to get them to accept a position similar to theistic evolution. ‘All of the religious’ are, in fact, a much better fit in Dawkins argument than extant theistic evolutionists.”

    There are two problems with this:

    1) It conflates those who merely claim that one can both believe in God and accept evolution with those who really soft-pedal with things like NOMA. In short, it misrepresents people like Chris Ho-Stuart.

    2) It skates over the insistence on the part of the “Chamberlains” that the religious cede creationist views.

    The second part makes all the religious a bad fit for the role of “appeasee.” Chamberlain wasn’t trying to force Hitler to give up ground–something that the “Neville Chamberlain atheists” are trying to do to the religious in general.

    You do realize that at this point we are arguing over whether Dawkins is casting all of the religious or just theistic evolutionists in the role of Hitler. Dawkins is damned either way (and he was really damned from the moment that he invoked Neville Chamberlain).

  98. #98 Caledonian
    June 30, 2007

    It conflates those who merely claim that one can both believe in God and accept evolution with those who really soft-pedal with things like NOMA. In short, it misrepresents people like Chris Ho-Stuart.

    The first set of people have a valid, but incomplete point: one can believe in God and accept any finding of science not directly contradicting that belief, but science itself is not compatible with belief in God.

    The second set, the NOMA people, are just being silly. The religious method is incompatible with science no matter what doctrinal content is asserted. More to the point, any religion that doesn’t doctrinally conflict with science is contentless.

  99. #99 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    J.J.,

    I don’t lump Chris Ho-Stuart into the NOMA people. I regard his position as simply being that there are religious beliefs that can be made nominally compatible with science. I respect his position, in addition to having tremendous respect for him as a thinker. Nonetheless, there are true NOMAites, and those were who Dawkins critiqued.

    “It skates over the insistence on the part of the “Chamberlains” that the religious cede creationist views.”

    The Munich agreement was more or less ceding the Sudetenland under the condition that Hitler would go no further. There are all kinds of loose-ends and follies to the analogy, but this is not one of them. The NOMAites essentially propose that creationists can be religious as long as they go no further than the “moral and ethical sphere” or some such. That, among other things, is an empty hope given the political climate in America, not to mention something that Dawkins and the neo-atheists aren’t prepared to do, by a long shot.

    As for comparison to Hitler. Well, you may notice that I left some rather flippant comments in one of Orac’s threads in the topic about “Michael Ledeen atheists” or “Donald Rumsfeld atheists”. Such analogies can always be misinterpreted, often egregiously, which is why I tend to avoid them as rhetorical devices. However, I think it’s disingenous to insist that Dawkins intention was compare religionists, or theistic evolutionists, to a mass-murdering totalitarian.

  100. #100 Tyler DiPietro
    June 30, 2007

    “The second set, the NOMA people, are just being silly. The religious method is incompatible with science no matter what doctrinal content is asserted. More to the point, any religion that doesn’t doctrinally conflict with science is contentless.”

    I’d like to take this chance to note that while I just stated my “respect” for Chris Ho-Stuart’s position, my complete thoughts on the matter are closer to Caledonians. More here.

  101. #101 CMF
    July 1, 2007

    JJ Ramsey: I was quoting the article. I agree that there is a back assward trend amongst atheists towards self absorbed and very vocal militance. I suspect it is largely white people who feel that they are “different” and special, but lack the trendy credentials of being black or other picked on minority.
    Too many of them actually look up to that bogus white womens feminism ( the kind that got white women declared a minority species) and think that the road to ‘more rights than others’ is actually comparable to “equal rights”.

    If that is the direction the atheists go, count me out. I like my non vocal practice not preach aproach–it is the only one that works.

  102. #102 Tyler DiPietro
    July 1, 2007

    “If that is the direction the atheists go, count me out.”

    Reading through your sanctimonious babble above, you can rest that I consider it no big loss. I suspect many of my atheist compadres will agree.

  103. #103 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “The Munich agreement was more or less ceding the Sudetenland under the condition that Hitler would go no further.”

    Two things:

    1) The Munich agreement isn’t asking Hitler to give up anything. “Neville Chamberlain Atheists” are insisting that the religious give up some of their more pernicious false beliefs and not teach them to others.

    2) The folly of the Munich agreement agreement was not recognizing Hitler’s expanding appetite. The religious don’t all have such an expanding appetite, and those that do are being actively fought–by the “Neville Chamberlain atheists.” See Dover as an example of this. The “Chamberlains” of the NCSE were very much involved.

    The more I think about it, the more that the “Neville Chamberlain atheist” policy looks closer to containment than appeasement.

    “I think it’s disingenous to insist that Dawkins intention was compare religionists, or theistic evolutionists, to a mass-murdering totalitarian.”

    And I think it is either disingenuous or overly charitable to view the Chamberlain analogy, especially considering how it has been used in the past, and think that a comparison to Hitler isn’t involved.

  104. #104 Leni
    July 1, 2007

    If Dawkins wanted to compare theistic evolutionists to Hitler, then why wouldn’t he just say “Theistic evolutionists are like Hitler”? My reason for thinking that the comparison was to Neville Chamberlain is, well, that’s what he actually said.

    He didn’t say Hitler, and I assume that’s because the analogy was not intended to go that far, for obvious reasons. Several of which were pointed out to already, JJ. You’ve been doing nothing but dodging the obvious, so maybe just give it a rest.

  105. #105 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    Leni: “If Dawkins wanted to compare theistic evolutionists to Hitler, then why wouldn’t he just say ‘Theistic evolutionists are like Hitler’?”

    Because it’s not politic and too obviously coarse.

  106. #106 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    BTW, Leni, if Dawkins wasn’t trying to make an argumentum ad Naziium, why make a comparison to someone whose reputation is so intimately tied to the Nazis?

  107. #107 Tyler DiPietro
    July 1, 2007

    “BTW, Leni, if Dawkins wasn’t trying to make an argumentum ad Naziium, why make a comparison to someone whose reputation is so intimately tied to the Nazis?”

    This should be obvious, J.J. While there are tons of mass-murdering totalitarians one can pick from in history, Chamberlain is the archtypical example of an “appeaser”. Plus, Dawkins was, as I said before, turning around an already used historical analogy.

  108. #108 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    “This should be obvious, J.J. While there are tons of mass-murdering totalitarians one can pick from in history, Chamberlain is the archtypical example of an ‘appeaser’.”

    And who is Chamberlain appeasing?

    “Plus, Dawkins was, as I said before, turning around an already used historical analogy.”

    Which doesn’t make Dawkins’ own analogy any less of an argumentum ad Naziium. Face it, you don’t have a Chamberlain analogy without a Hitler. A comparison with a certain mass-murdering totalitarian is unavoidable.

    BTW, something I should have touched on earlier:

    Tyler DiPietro: “I don’t lump Chris Ho-Stuart into the NOMA people. I regard his position as simply being that there are religious beliefs that can be made nominally compatible with science. I respect his position, in addition to having tremendous respect for him as a thinker. Nonetheless, there are true NOMAites, and those were who Dawkins critiqued.”

    Dawkins wasn’t just aiming his critique at the NOMAites, but rather in general at atheists who ally with theistic evolutionists to combat creationism.

  109. #109 Tyler DiPietro
    July 1, 2007

    One other pointy:

    “The more I think about it, the more that the “Neville Chamberlain atheist” policy looks closer to containment than appeasement.”

    The case of Dover is certainly more Kennan/Acheson than it is “Chamberlain”. But there are certainly other examples that don’t reflect so positively. For the latter, you can’t get a better incident than the pro-science lobby’s enthusiastic reception of Pope John Paul II’s milquetoast concession of evolution. What he basically said was “Yeah, it’s probably true.” He then proceeded to deny science it’s rightful place in studying, among other things, the neurobiological roots of consciousness and thinking. Materialism, he said, was “incompatible with the truth about man”.

    That’s what I see as a good indication of what a monomaniacal and narrow-minded view it is to consider the fight as being only between evolution and indigenous American creationism.

  110. #110 Tyler DiPietro
    July 1, 2007

    “And who is Chamberlain appeasing?”

    That doesn’t matter. At least as far as the analogy requires, he sought appeasement when he shouldn’t have. Hitler doesn’t need to enter into it unless your goal is impugn Dawkins.

    “Dawkins wasn’t just aiming his critique at the NOMAites, but rather in general at atheists who ally with theistic evolutionists to combat creationism.”

    Well, he was targeting those who soft-pedal around people’s religious sensibilities and fall to their knees over even the most underwhelming and timid endorsement of evolution by a religious figure. Whether they are in particular NOMAites, they share a certain quality with the latter that Dawkins finds apalling.

  111. #111 Trinifar
    July 1, 2007

    I was going to just lurk but then my name got brought up.

    PZ Myers writes:

    And as usual, [J.J. Ramsey] and Trinifar misrepresent my point. It was not that atheism is just like feminism. It’s that the meek, modest approach in which we sit quietly and wait for our betters to hand us our dignity doesn’t work. But I’ll tell you what: the two of them can go sit quietly in some corner and hold hands until they get some respect for their politeness. I’ve got no problem with that.

    Speaking of misrepresentation, PZ, I’ve never advocated a meek and modest approach. All I want to see is an effective one. Which style is more effective, Ann Coulter’s or MLK‘s? Would anyone call MLK or Gandhi meek?

    To provide some context: PZ is likely refering to my post Saving Pharyngula which Matt Nisbet link to in his post.

    If you want to help, what you should do is be taking this opportunity to promote your own agnosticism or secular humanism or whatever…but no, we’ve got people like Nisbet deciding that certain factions are getting too powerful, and must be demolished.

    “Demolished”? The hyperbole really gets in the way of any sort of useful communication.

  112. #112 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “The case of Dover is certainly more Kennan/Acheson than it is “Chamberlain”. But there are certainly other examples that don’t reflect so positively. For the latter, you can’t get a better incident than the pro-science lobby’s enthusiastic reception of Pope John Paul II’s milquetoast concession of evolution. What he basically said was ‘Yeah, it’s probably true.’ He then proceeded to deny science it’s rightful place in studying, among other things, the neurobiological roots of consciousness and thinking. Materialism, he said, was ‘incompatible with the truth about man’.”

    Considering the difficulty in getting the Catholic Church to concede anything, the reception was called for. On the one hand, the Pope’s statements against “spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon” haven’t stopped researchers from doing the neurological research, and his use of the words “spirit” and “soul” rather than “mind,” as well as the somewhat tricky wording of paragraph (6), give him a face-saving out that makes his words unfalsifiable. On the other hand, his words on evolution dealt a blow to those who are persistently trying to lie to children about origins. There is nothing here to justify the imagery of a moral coward giving in to a great evil.

  113. #113 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    Me: “And who is Chamberlain appeasing?”

    Tyler DiPietro: “That doesn’t matter.”

    The hell it doesn’t. The reason that Chamberlain has become such a symbol is that he is known for appeasing a monster. Trying to have Chamberlain without Hitler is trying to have your cake and eat it too.

    Tyler DiPietro: “Well, he was targeting those who soft-pedal around people’s religious sensibilities and fall to their knees over even the most underwhelming and timid endorsement of evolution by a religious figure.”

    He was targeting those who ally with theistic evolutionists, period.

    And the “fall to their knees” bit? As Trinifar said, the hyperbole really gets in the way of any sort of useful communication.

  114. #114 Tyler DiPietro
    July 1, 2007

    “The reason that Chamberlain has become such a symbol is that he is known for appeasing a monster.”

    Yeah, but his name is associated with “appeasement” primarily. If Dawkins primary intention was to compare religionists to monsters, he could have picked from other household names like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin. He chose “Chamberlain” because of the association with “appeasement”. And while he may not consider religion or superstition as being on the same level as an genocidal dictator with expansionist tendencies, he certainly doesn’t regard religion as something that should be “appeased”. That’s why he used to analogy, and you’re only going with the most unfavorable interpretation possible.

    “On the other hand, his words on evolution dealt a blow to those who are persistently trying to lie to children about origins. There is nothing here to justify the imagery of a moral coward giving in to a great evil.”

    Why not? The image I see is of a religious figure preserving his theological justification for telling scientists what to do, and more importantly, telling people what to believe. The Pope may not have power in America, but lending his authority behind anti-science mentalities can have peripheral similar to the creationism struggle in the future. The advance creationism hasn’t directly hampered research for those aready in academia either, it has only endangered science education which could, in the future, damage research in the area. Similar conflicts could very well arise around materialistic understandings of the mind, particularly with regards to medicine and (as with evolution) secondary education.

  115. #115 Tyler DiPietro
    July 1, 2007

    This time I’m gonna let you have the last word, J.J., even if you do make a new point. I’ve been in this thread too long.

  116. #116 J. J. Ramsey
    July 1, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “Yeah, but his name is associated with ‘appeasement’ primarily.”

    His name is associated with appeasement to great evil, with an implication of moral cowardice to boot. Again, you are trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

    Me: “On the other hand, his [the Pope's] words on evolution dealt a blow to those who are persistently trying to lie to children about origins. There is nothing here to justify the imagery of a moral coward giving in to a great evil.”

    Tyler DiPietro: “Why not?”

    Because the Pope is the one conceding to the pressure from scientists. He is saving face as best he can, but he is still losing ground.

    “Similar conflicts could very well arise around materialistic understandings of the mind, particularly with regards to medicine and (as with evolution) secondary education.”

    Except that the Pope doesn’t have the leverage to make that happen. His words regarding evolution have spread widely because they were a “man bites dog” story, and the take-home message–Pope supports evolution–spread even to those who hadn’t heard them. His words on materialist understandings of mind have gotten much less play–and they are already phrased as to avoid being falsified.

  117. #117 Kevin
    July 1, 2007

    “This is an obviously troubled, irrational and over the top dude who, actually, appears to be in need of some serious counselling. He’s downright delusional with his comments in this thread…”

    Well, Bob, I was looking for some advice. What do you suggest? quietly covering my ears and trying not to hear? Trying to reason with this person? Or debate some book?

    I was thinking that maybe my proposed actions would cause the guy to have an aneurysm or something. like his head explodes. THat would be a satisfactory outcome.

    So Bob, what do you suggest? and no, I am not delusional.

  118. #118 Leni
    July 2, 2007

    JJ wrote:

    Because it’s not politic and too obviously coarse.

    Really? And should we also assume that Bush orchestrated Sept. 11 because it would otherwise have been impolitic or coarse to invade Iraq?

    Jesus christ, JJ. Are you going to be throwing chicken bones next?

    The context of the analogy is clear, and your selective quoting of Tyler above isn’t helping your case, it’s making you look like an ass.

  119. #119 J. J. Ramsey
    July 2, 2007

    Leni: “If Dawkins wanted to compare theistic evolutionists to Hitler, then why wouldn’t he just say ‘Theistic evolutionists are like Hitler’?”

    Me: “Because it’s not politic and too obviously coarse.”

    Leni: “Really? And should we also assume that Bush orchestrated Sept. 11 because it would otherwise have been impolitic or coarse to invade Iraq?”

    Wow. Argument by really bad analogy. There is a huge difference between veiling an inflammatory statement with indirection because it would be impolitic to state it directly, and attempting a vast conspiracy that would be impractical to carry out.

    Leni: “The context of the analogy is clear”

    But it doesn’t keep the analogy from being any less over the top.

    Leni: “your selective quoting of Tyler …”

    Evidence of this?

  120. #120 Fastlane
    July 2, 2007

    Jimbo the tolerant theist wrote:

    I am sorry to post this-please excuse if you think I am slow on the uptake-I would like to believe I am not-but I am missing something here.

    The answers to this portion are : Yes and yes.

    Query:How are atheists discriminated against?
    Do these acts of discrimination rise to the level of requiring some type of civil rights campaign?
    Is the call for civil rights for atheists a call for popular acceptance for that belief?

    You obviously missd the link above about the atheist family that was run out of town when thier daughter was discriminated against for not going along with prayers in school. There was also a case of the exact same thing happening in Oklahoma. And the worst part is tha the government and local authorities did absolutely nothing to help.

    I work in the court system & see no such discrimination against atheists-they nor anyone else is asked if they follow a particular religious belief or do not, if they do not want to swear to God to tell the truth under oath, they can affirm(as an Orthodox Jewish person would do)-yes, there is a series of letters behind the judge that says “In God we trust” but that is the language used in this country since it was created & those words do not intend to strike at or ridicule atheists-they reflect the majority’s belief in God.

    1 – “In God We Trust” was not used since the country was created. It was adopted as the national motto during the 1950’s. Displaying your ignorance like that doesn’t bode well for the rest of your argument. In addition, the adoption of said motto was pushed in the government and most highly supported by the Knights of Columbus, a xian organization whos goal is the blatant promotion of xianity.

    It is true that in most court rooms, the judges are aware that people don’t have to swear on the bible. It’s also true that many judges ignore and try to get people to do so anyway. (Try living int he midwest.)

    2 – Just because the majority believes something, or the majority wants something, doesn’t make it right. If th majority had its way, mixed race marriage would probably be illegal still. That is the whole point of the Bill of Rights. To protect the minority for the tyranny of the majority. I recommend you read some history. The ederalist papers might be a good start.

    If this campaign is intended to have those words removed from all aspects of public life, then this is not a campaign for civil rights but an attempt to impose atheist beliefs on the country as a whole-the absence of those words, the creation of a vacuum, does not establish equality for all but the imposition of atheist beliefs. If this campaign is to remove all references to God, then it is not for civil rights and I will oppose it-show me how this alleged discrimination exists, and I will support you 100%.

    Right, so having nothing is promotion of atheism? That argument has been tried before, and been found vacuous by the courts (I’ll have to see if I can find that case). Those words do NOT belong in a courtroom, and it IS discriminatory against non-theists and polytheists, like our hindu friend who posted earlier.

    Cheers.

  121. #121 David Heddle
    July 2, 2007

    Raiko,

    If I had a daughter, I would certainly advise her against marrying a 60 year old man. But the reason for my opposition would be something along the lines of “You may have trouble having children” or “If you do have children, he may not be around much longer to support them”. In all honesty, I have to admit to some ickiness factor to having my daughter marry someone older than me. But if at the end of the day, she decides that it’s what she wants, then I’ll support her. Is this age discrimination? Sure. But I’ve laid down some rational arguments for my views.

    Now, what is your rational argument for opposing your daughter’s plan to marry an atheist?

    Actually, your reasons (which I agree with) nevertheless sound no different, qualitatively, from those of white parents not wanting their daughter to marry a black man for “practical reasons only.”

    As for me, you may argue that being a Christian is irrational, but given that I am a Christian it would certainly be irrational to ignore what the bible says on the matter–to wit: do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

  122. #122 Trinifar
    July 2, 2007

    Some related thoughts: http://trinifar.wordpress.com/2007/07/02/neither-religion-nor-atheism/ (’cause you guys don’t do trackbacks/pingbacks)

  123. #123 Leni
    July 2, 2007

    JJ Wrote:

    Leni: “If Dawkins wanted to compare theistic evolutionists to Hitler, then why wouldn’t he just say ‘Theistic evolutionists are like Hitler’?”

    Me: “Because it’s not politic and too obviously coarse.”

    Leni: “Really? And should we also assume that Bush orchestrated Sept. 11 because it would otherwise have been impolitic or coarse to invade Iraq?”

    Wow. Argument by really bad analogy. There is a huge difference between veiling an inflammatory statement with indirection because it would be impolitic to state it directly, and attempting a vast conspiracy that would be impractical to carry out.

    Wow, argument by totally missing the point (de ja vu anyone?)

    There is not much difference between accusing someone of veiling an inflammatory statement with indirection because it would be impolitic to state it directly, and accusing someone of committing an atrocity in order to do something (attack Iraq) that he could have just done anyway.

    Especially when the person accused of mincing words is not now, nor has he ever been, a mincer of words.

    Leni: “The context of the analogy is clear”

    But it doesn’t keep the analogy from being any less over the top.

    Who cares if it’s over the top? Your interpretation of it is incorrect, hysterical, and not in keeping with the context of the remarks. Fretting about it being over the top doesn’t make you any less wrong.

    Next you’re going to tell us that my sarcastic Bush analogy was meant to paint you as a terrorist.

    Leni: “your selective quoting of Tyler …”

    Evidence of this?

    No problem.

    I’ll bold the parts you left out, and then pretended didn’t exist in your subsequesnt replies.

    JJ quoting Tyler, sort of:

    Yeah, but his name is associated with “appeasement” primarily. If Dawkins primary intention was to compare religionists to monsters, he could have picked from other household names like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin. He chose “Chamberlain” because of the association with “appeasement”. And while he may not consider religion or superstition as being on the same level as an genocidal dictator with expansionist tendencies, he certainly doesn’t regard religion as something that should be “appeased”. That’s why he used to analogy, and you’re only going with the most unfavorable interpretation possible.

    To which you responded:

    His name is associated with appeasement to great evil, with an implication of moral cowardice to boot. Again, you are trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

    Notice in Tyler’s comment where he addresses your counterpoint, before you made it? Notice how you didn’t bother quoting any of it, forged blindly ahead as if he hadn’t said a thing, and finished it off by implying that he has some vested interest in opaque insults to theistic evolutionists?

    Wow. That was really smooth, JJ. And all in a thread where you’re complaining about the unpleasant things “Dawkins” says.

  124. #124 J. J. Ramsey
    July 2, 2007

    Leni: “There is not much difference between accusing someone of veiling an inflammatory statement with indirection because it would be impolitic to state it directly, and accusing someone of committing an atrocity in order to do something (attack Iraq) that he could have just done anyway.”

    Actually, there is a lot of difference, especially in the plausibility of the accusations.

    Leni: “Especially when the person accused of mincing words is not now, nor has he ever been, a mincer of words.”

    Dawkins may not tend to mince words, but he also tends not to be blatently crude, either. Also, the Chamberlain analogy has a certain elegant compactness to it, which is attractive to a good writer, which he no doubt is. He gets to tar the atheists with whom he disagrees as unwitting betrayers and the moderate religious as monsters, all in one fell swoop.

    Leni: “Notice in Tyler’s comment where he addresses your counterpoint, before you made it?”

    No, he didn’t. He was trying to soft-pedal the association that Chamberlain has with Hitler and I called him on it.

  125. #125 Tyler DiPietro
    July 2, 2007

    “No, he didn’t. He was trying to soft-pedal the association that Chamberlain has with Hitler and I called him on it.”

    You know, I said I was done. But I can’t stand by as inaccurate accusations are tossed against me in my absense.

    Nowhere was I “soft-pedaling” the association of Chamberlain with anything, I was emphasizing Chamberlain’s association with “appeasement”. If it’s your position that every single aspect of someone’s historical background has to fall in line with an analogy, then why don’t we try this logic elsewhere? If I call someone a “Benedict Arnold”, that means I must consider that person on exactly the same level as an American traitor to the British? Or is it more likely that I’m simply implying that I percieve either that person or their actions as being incendiary or disloyal? Really, J.J. It’s a non-starter as an argument. You’re transparently attempting to score a cheap debate point over Dawkins.

  126. #126 SmellyTerror
    July 3, 2007

    quis·ling /?kw?zl??/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[kwiz-ling] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun a person who betrays his or her own country by aiding an invading enemy, often serving later in a puppet government; fifth columnist.


    Note that it doesn’t mention Nazis, yet that is the context it comes from. Expressions do not require or imply exact parallels.

    I once got into an argument before the invasion of Iraq. At the time, folk against the pending invasion had the “Chamberlain” tag applied – since they were seen as appeasing Iraq / Saddam. The discussion moved to whether it was more appropriate to apply the tag to the supporters of the US, since they were the powerful group that people didn’t want to offend, rather than piss-weak little Iraq who couldn’t really be much of a threat.

    The argument went back and forth, and focussed on which was the bigger (realistic) threat to the people who opposed them. Those who could be seen to be appeasing their own threat would be labelled “Neville Chamberlains”.

    No one got hysterical about Nazis. About their point of view, yes, and it got pretty vicious, but absolutely no attempt was made to accuse the other side of invoking the Nazis (whether comparing Iraq or America to them).

    This whole Nazi debate baffles the crap out of me. JJ, you have a generally well thought out position, but I just can’t undertand this Nazi thing.

  127. #127 J. J. Ramsey
    July 3, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “If it’s your position that every single aspect of someone’s historical background has to fall in line with an analogy”

    It isn’t. However, as I said, the Chamberlain analogy is used to signify appeasing a great evil. That’s how it was when it was used on Iraq (and I’ll get to SmellyTerror’s objection shortly), and how it was used when Reagan negotiated with the Soviets. Orac explained it very well, and you keep putting your fingers in your ears about it. You keep ignoring the “great evil” part.

    Tyler DiPietro: “If I call someone a “Benedict Arnold”, that means I must consider that person on exactly the same level as an American traitor to the British?”

    The British are not reputed to be the stereotypical bogeyman that the Nazis have become.

    SmellyTerror: “I once got into an argument before the invasion of Iraq. At the time, folk against the pending invasion had the ‘Chamberlain’ tag applied – since they were seen as appeasing Iraq / Saddam. The discussion moved to whether it was more appropriate to apply the tag to the supporters of the US, since they were the powerful group that people didn’t want to offend, rather than piss-weak little Iraq who couldn’t really be much of a threat.”

    But you actually demonstrate my point. There are two parts to the Chamberlain analogy: the appeasement and the bogeyman evil that is supposedly this looming threat. You were arguing over who better fit the second part of that analogy. DiPietro was denying that this second part was in play at all.

    SmellyTerror: “No one got hysterical about Nazis. About their point of view, yes, and it got pretty vicious, but absolutely no attempt was made to accuse the other side of invoking the Nazis (whether comparing Iraq or America to them).”

    Of course no attempt was made to accuse the other side of invoking the Nazis. You were both doing veiled argumenta ad Naziium (ad Naziia?), so neither side could call Godwin on the other without pointing out its own Godwining. And as you said, both sides did get hysterical about their points of view. Of course you all got hysterical: each side was accusing the other of making nice with demonic bogeymen. That hysterical undertone wouldn’t be there if the argumentum ad Naziium weren’t under the surface.

  128. #128 Leni
    July 3, 2007

    JJ Wrote:

    Leni: “There is not much difference between accusing someone of veiling an inflammatory statement with indirection because it would be impolitic to state it directly, and accusing someone of committing an atrocity in order to do something (attack Iraq) that he could have just done anyway.”

    Actually, there is a lot of difference, especially in the plausibility of the accusations.

    *sigh*

    JJ, you are making a baseless and needlessly complicated accusation about Dawkins’ motivations. One that just so happens to be a better fit with your bias than it is with reality.

    Leni: “Especially when the person accused of mincing words is not now, nor has he ever been, a mincer of words.”

    Dawkins may not tend to mince words, but he also tends not to be blatently crude, either. Also, the Chamberlain analogy has a certain elegant compactness to it, which is attractive to a good writer, which he no doubt is. He gets to tar the atheists with whom he disagrees as unwitting betrayers and the moderate religious as monsters, all in one fell swoop.

    Dawkins has never argued that moderate religious people are monsters. That’s patently absurd and you know it. Not only are you carrying the analogy further than it was meant to go, but you are doing so in a way that is at odds with Dawkins’ actual arguments.

    Which were:

    The Chamberlain tactic of snuggling up to ‘sensible’ religion, in order to present a united front against (‘intelligent design’) creationists, is fine if your central concern is the battle for evolution. That is a valid central concern, and I salute those who press it, such as Eugenie Scott in Evolution versus Creationism. But if you are concerned with the stupendous scientific question of whether the universe was created by a supernatural intelligence or not, the lines are drawn completely differently. On this larger issue, fundamentalists are united with ‘moderate’ religion on one side, and I find myself on the other.

    Do you think he’d be saluting Eugenie if she were appeasing “monsters” like Nazis? Give me a break, JJ.

    Just admit you took it too far and drop it. I find you an annoying poster, but I would have a lot more respect got for your position with respect for Dawkins if it at least conformed to reality.

  129. #129 J. J. Ramsey
    July 3, 2007

    Leni: “Dawkins has never argued that moderate religious people are monsters.”

    You’re right. He’s never argued it. He’s just implied it with his choice of metaphors.

    Leni: “Do you think he’d be saluting Eugenie if she were appeasing ‘monsters’ like Nazis?”

    Sure. Brutus is an honorable man. Leni, I may not be the best at picking up social cues, but even I am well aware that sarcasm and irony are often delivered straight, and Dawkins has the dry wit to do just that. If you look at how Myers and Moran ran with Dawkins’ appeaser rhetoric, it’s clear that they treated that “salute” with a grain of salt.

  130. #130 JImbo
    July 3, 2007

    Dear Fastlane:
    Apparently my tongue-in-cheek attempt to ratchet-down the rhetoric in this discussion gave you a basis to fulfill the present rule on discourse in this country which is when someone disagrees with you, then attack and ridicule. Your condescending remarks are duly noted but this reply will not rise to your bait.

    In response to your posting, I state the following:

    1) I do believe in God and the Bill of Rights and the use of those amendments to protect minorities. This does not mean that that document is to be used as a sword to impose your views on the majority in the guise of “protecting my civil rights”.

    2)As to the undocumented examples of discrimination against atheists you set forth, if a crime took place, then a complaint may be sworn out-if no action is taken by the local authorities, there is the state or federal system and if still no action is forthcoming, the local and/or national media always stand ready. If there was a violation of civil rights, then retain an attorney and sue, again, assuming there is a basis for the same(and before you argue that a lawyer will seek a pre-paid retainer fee, there will be at least one attorney who would take this case on a contingency basis).

    3)As to the phrase “In God We Trust”, I never said it was our national motto since this country was founded-I stated that it was language used in this country since it was created(again, when someone disagrees, attempt to belittle). In that regard, ie., the use of religious imagery and belief in this country, I would refer you to the reasons for the Puritan immigration, the founding of the Maryland colony by Catholics and the language used in the beginning(God and Creator) and conclusion(divine Providence) of the Declaration of Independence(an extremely apropos citation given the date of this posting). The probable origin of the exact phrase may be the Star Spangled Banner(written in 1814) and the phrase was added to our coinage by an Act of Congress during the Civil War(American, that is).

    4)As to what the exact nature of the phrase is, you may find comfort in the ruling of a federal appeals court in Aronow v. U.S. 432 F.2d. 242 which stated that the phrase “In God We Trust” was not the imposition of a religious belief but was deemed to be of a patriotic or ceremonial character.

    In closing, I might suggest that if you see the offending phrase(and don’t look now but it may be in your pocket or wallet if your have any coin of this realm in your possession), you could render it harmless by substituting another fictional character in place of “God” such as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus(oops, they won’t work either)-I know, try the Cheshire Cat and good luck to you.
    Jimbo

  131. #131 Tyler DiPietro
    July 4, 2007

    “The British are not reputed to be the stereotypical bogeyman that the Nazis have become.”

    That’s not what I argued, and you know it. What I argued was that calling someone a Benedict Arnold was not necessarily invoking the British, it was simply accusing someone of backstabbing in some form or another.

    And once again, I’m not ignoring anything about Chamberlain’s historical background, much less that he’s associated with appeasement of a “great evil”. What I’m saying is that one doesn’t have to implicitly invoke that great evil when making a comparison. The act of treason to a foreign power and making war against one’s own country is generally regarded as a serious offense, albeit not on the order of genocide. Calling someone a “Benedict Arnold” doesn’t necessarily invoke it.

    Bottom line: you’re trying to make Dawkins say something he hasn’t said, and the only one with his “fingers to his ears” here is you. Find a new wheel to grind your anti-Dawkins axe against. You’re complaints against the use of “faith-head” were certainly more grounded than your current argument, if only because it’s a stupid sounding insult.

  132. #132 Tyler DiPietro
    July 4, 2007

    One more thing:

    “It isn’t. However, as I said, the Chamberlain analogy is used to signify appeasing a great evil. That’s how it was when it was used on Iraq (and I’ll get to SmellyTerror’s objection shortly), and how it was used when Reagan negotiated with the Soviets.”

    Well, there are several differences to be noted here. Number one, these were in the context of actual foreign policy discussions, not socio-political conflicts as in the case of Dawkins analogy. The validity of arguments against detante and containment as unnecessary policies of accomodation with the Soviet Union aside, comparing these analogies to those Dawkins used in The God Delusion is comparing apples to oranges. Secondly, those who used the analogy were explicitly accusing their opponents of appeasing a great evil, not insidiously saying “you’re like Hitler” as you’re accusing Dawkins of over and over again.

    And when you get right down to it, this is more or less a variation of the classic post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. You’re argument boils down to saying that because the analogy has been used in a certain way in the past, that must be the way Dawkins intended to use it. It’s an unjustified jump of logic, to put it mildly.

  133. #133 Tyler DiPietro
    July 4, 2007

    In the midst of the rest of his sanctimonious blather, Jimbo wrote.

    “In that regard, ie., the use of religious imagery and belief in this country, I would refer you to the reasons for the Puritan immigration, the founding of the Maryland colony by Catholics and the language used in the beginning(God and Creator) and conclusion(divine Providence) of the Declaration of Independence(an extremely apropos citation given the date of this posting).”

    You might want to actually look into the background of the citations your making. The Puritans were oppressive theocrats whose regime was explicitly rejected by our founders, ditto for Maryland and just about every pre-Independence colony. The Declaration of Independence is a rhetorical tracts and not part of the official standing law of the U.S., and furthermore, the references were of a generic and deistic (i.e., not Biblical) nature. For a document with actual legal standing, I refer you to the U.S. Constitution, which is completely secular and whose only two references to religion are exclusionary in nature.

    As for you ignorant statement about “undocumented cases of discrimination”, well, you might actually do well to click the links a bit before opening your goddamned mouth. Several cases have been very well documented, and look into any church-state case to see such actions taken against the plaintiffs.

  134. #134 J. J. Ramsey
    July 4, 2007

    Tyler DiPietro: “That’s not what I argued, and you know it. What I argued was that calling someone a Benedict Arnold was not necessarily invoking the British, it was simply accusing someone of backstabbing in some form or another.”

    And the reason that calling someone a Benedict Arnold doesn’t necessarily invoke the British as a bogeyman is because the British aren’t considered much of a bogeyman anymore. The Benedict Arnold analogy gets its rhetorical power because Arnold is associated with betraying those who have become American icons. The focus is on the “betrayees,” so to speak. The Chamberlain analogy, on the other hand, gets its power from who the objects of appeasement were.

    Tyler DiPietro: “And when you get right down to it, this is more or less a variation of the classic post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. You’re argument boils down to saying that because the analogy has been used in a certain way in the past, that must be the way Dawkins intended to use it.”

    You are misapplying the post hoc fallacy. That fallacy is arguing “after this, therefore because of this.” Actually, that’s literally what it means. Using how language has been used in the recent past as a guide to its use in the present is straight-up inductive reasoning, especially since how one of the ways people learn language is to look at how it has been used before.

    BTW, Leni, on Dawkins “saluting” Eugenie Scott. Notice that he salutes her for pressing evolution as a central concern–but not how she does it. Furthermore, when Dawkins has spent several paragraphs describing the “Chamberlain tactic” in unflattering terms and only then saying “The Chamberlain tactic of snuggling up to ‘sensible’ religion … is fine if,” it comes across as damning with faint praise, especially with “sensible” in scare quotes.

  135. #135 J. J. Ramsey
    July 4, 2007

    Jimbo: “2)As to the undocumented examples of discrimination against atheists you set forth, if a crime took place, then a complaint may be sworn out-if no action is taken by the local authorities, there is the state or federal system and if still no action is forthcoming, the local and/or national media always stand ready. If there was a violation of civil rights, then retain an attorney and sue, again, assuming there is a basis for the same(and before you argue that a lawyer will seek a pre-paid retainer fee, there will be at least one attorney who would take this case on a contingency basis).”

    I didn’t bother with you before because you had come off rather rambley, but since I can make head and tails of your gist here, I’d say that what you are recommending is easier said than done. The problem is that those steps shouldn’t be necessary. We shouldn’t be in a situation where the local authorities don’t take the offenses seriously, or worse, side with the offenders.

  136. #136 J. J. Ramsey
    July 4, 2007

    Sorry for the triple post …

    Do I really think that Dawkins thinks Ken Miller is the equivalent of a mass-murdering sociopath? No. Most people who use argumenta ad Naziia aren’t thinking that far. Indeed, they often aren’t thinking–which is part of the problem. What Dawkins is doing is painting his religious opponents as bogeymen and painting his nonreligious opponents as short-sighted fools for working with the bogeymen. Yes, Ken Miller looks “sensible” (note the scare quotes that Dawkins repeatedly uses around that word), but he’s really just one of those people in the end. And by using Hitler as the implicit bogeyman, Dawkins is showing that he is letting himself be sloppy.

    Notice too that Dawkins is essentially arguing by metaphor. There is no weighing of whether the “Chamberlain” approach is a good one in the long run, e.g whether by establishing victories in science education, one puts further attacks on other forms of nonsense on a secure footing. Instead, Dawkins uses an analogy to make his opponents appear obviously wrong, without really arguing that they are wrong.

  137. #137 JImbo
    July 4, 2007

    Mr. Ramsey
    I agree wholeheartedly as to your statement that additional steps beyond local authorities should not be necessary where such occurrences take place-we live in an imperfect world but at least there should be due process for all-even if I disagree with the belief of atheism that does not create a basis for selective enforcement of the law. I do agree that my initial posting was rambling but I had done so in a deliberate manner. Thank you for opposing my viewpoint in a civilized manner.

    As to DiPietro:
    Thank you for providing unrefutable empirical evidence of my statement as to the national discourse in America by your reference to my “blather and ignorance”-I would expect, however, that your attempts to describe my mouth would not make reference to the Deity whose existence you deny.

    As to my citation to Puritans and Maryland, I merely listed them as sources for the religious origins for our national motto, not shining or otherwise examples of anything else.

    As to the Declaration of Independence being a “rhetorical tract”, I would suggest that Mr.Jefferson and the other signers of that document would strongly disagree particularly since they all realized that if the revolution was lost, they would lose their heads. Such a characterization would also be lost on the many persons who gave their lives so that the principles of the Declaration are still in force for all Americans. In regards to the language being “generic and deistic but not Biblical”, as the Caveman says in the Geico commerical “What???”-the writers and signers of the Declaration were, to a man, 100% Christian-the Bible was a primary source of education and reading at that time so this argument just does not fly.

    Lastly, as to the undocumented instances of discrimination, my statement was specifically directed at Fastlane’s posting-I did not deny the existence of the same but asked for for him to list examples of a concrete nature-but since I blather, I will assume my reply will fall on deaf ears.

  138. #138 J. J. Ramsey
    July 4, 2007

    Jimbo: “as the Caveman says in the Geico commerical “What???”-the writers and signers of the Declaration were, to a man, 100% Christian-the Bible was a primary source of education and reading at that time”

    This is a half-truth. Thomas Jefferson and most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence would self-identify as Christian, but what they believed was often thoroughly heterodox. Several of them, including Jefferson, were Unitarian, denying the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. Jefferson himself believed that God was a material being rather than immaterial. This is not what most people who claim that the Founders were Christian have in mind.

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