Young on Dewey on Being High-Brow

Over at Pure Pedantry, Jake Young weighs in with a lengthy essay on the subject of promoting atheism. The essay makes some interesting points, and is centered around a 1922 article by John Dewey in The New Republic. Sadly, Jake takes the Matt Nisbet line on this issue.

I have already left a lengthy comment over at Jake’s blog indicating some points of disagreement with his essay. But there was one item I felt deserved a post of its own. Jake writes:

Further, embracing a big-tent approach will not prevent scientific or even atheistic values from taking over. While the majority of the American public is religious, the number of atheists is growing. New atheists will be created in the same way that new atheists have always been created: by a kid waking up in class one day and saying, “You know that invisible man business doesn’t make sense.” Science will be furthered for the same reason it has always been furthered: because it provides the only adequate explanation of reality. People can believe what they want, but in the end reality is the only yardstick. (Emphasis Added)

I’m afraid that bold-face remark is pretty wide of the mark.

Let us consider as an analogy the progress that homosexuals have made in terms of their social acceptance in the last twenty years or so. How did this come about? Was it because gays waited for enough people to wake up and see the injustice of their situation?

Certainly not. It was because gay activist groups started lobbying actively for their rights. It was because numerous celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, and many others started speaking openly about their homosexuality. It was because gay pride parades started being held in most major American cities. It was because politicans were constantly forced to be aware of gay issues. It was because people went to court to force the issues of gay marriage and gay adoption into public view. It was because favorable portrayals of gay characters became ubiquitous in television and movies.

In short, it became impossible to ignore homosexuality, and it became so mainstream that publicly expressing bigotry towards homosexuals, routine twenty years ago, is now completely taboo. The fight for gay marriage is all but won, and it is the religious right that finds itself on the defensive on this issue.

And where has progress been conspicuously absent? In the military. And what is the policy in the military? Don’t ask, don’t tell. A craven, compromise position designed to appease the anti-gay bigots by tip-toeing around their unreasonable prejudices, trying to make the issue go away by telling everyone to shut up about it. Sorry, but that approach never works.

There has been quite a lot of blowback against homosexuals. I’ve seen countless pundits (generally reasonable ones, not just crazy right-wingers) decry gay pride parades for being too obnoxious and too in your face. It happens often in the annals of repectable opinion that gays are admonished to be patient while the rest of the public comes around. The religious right has been energized by their activities, leading to their increased participation in certain recent elections.

Does that mean that gays would have done better to be silent for all these years? That they should have heeded the warnings to avoid offending religious people while waiting for them to wake up to their plight? Of course not. No one would dare suggest anything so foolish.

Do I need to spell out the rest of the analogy? Atheism will become socially acceptable when it becomes so mainstream that people can no longer avoid it. There are promising steps in that direction. The sales of the books by Dawkins et al have exceeded all expectations. As a result people have awakened to the fact that there is large nonreligious population out there that must be acknowledged. The mainstream media has done countless stories on the phenomenon, as have all the major political chat shows. California representative Pete Stark publicly acknowledged his atheism, making him the first national politican to do so. For most of last season the number two show on television (after American Idol) was House, a show whose title character is an atheist who frequently makes derisive remarks about religious belief.

This is what we need more of. What we need less of is the constant fretting about offending religious people, the incessant warnings about the wrath of the offended pious, the weighing of every honest opinion we express against its possible emotional impact against vaguely defined religious moderates.

I’m afraid I lack Jake’s patience. I think we can do more than simply wait around for people to come to their senses. I think that you can help those people in class to wake up by writing books showing them there is something other than the religious attitudes in which they have been steeped for much of their life. I think most of the time people are happy to go on sleeping until some noisy troublemaker gets their attention.

Social change does not happen when you sit around and wait for people to come around to your view of things. Surely history provides copious examples to that effect.

Comments

  1. #1 Stuart Coleman
    September 13, 2007

    Sooner or later all of these people will come around, or be fade into obsolescence. It’s all the same.

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    September 13, 2007

    I just kind of think it isn’t necessary to push atheism away, into the closets and hope that someday society will accept it. It’s not honest.

  3. #3 Mark Powell
    September 13, 2007

    One important question, and I don’t know the answer. How much of the movement for acceptance of homosexuality is positive building of pride vs. negativity about heterosexuality? My limited experience suggests that it’s mostly about pro-gay and there’s little or nothing that’s anti-heterosexual.

  4. #4 Obdulantist
    September 13, 2007

    “Atheism will become socially acceptable when it becomes so mainstream that people can no longer avoid it.”

    Possibly a somewhat USA-centric view. The USA would be among the most religious (and stridently religious) of the open democratic societies. In my country (Australia), atheism is common, mainstream, and unremarkable. We have even had an openly atheist and very popular Prime Minister (Bob Hawke, from 1983-1991, whose father was a minister). Profession of religious belief is simply not a significant issue when it comes to political support, and indeed we tend to be wary of highly religious folk, though we still have a few.

    Couldn’t see the USA electing an openly atheist President any time soon.

  5. #5 Obdulantist
    September 13, 2007

    “whose father was a minister”

    of religion.

  6. #6 Watt de Fawke
    September 13, 2007

    It’s especially important that little kids hear about atheism before they get railroaded into the shared psychosis of their parents. Just the fact that theism is one choice, atheism another, is important knowledge for anyone at an age where grownups are conning them into believing in the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, santa claus, jack frost, and the sandman, among other preposterous notions. They children’s standing among their age peers will depend on their gullibility, or lack thereof. The kids who wise up earlier become the opinion leaders, the ones to emulate.

    It would be good for kids, before sunday school indoctrination begins, to know that their parents imagine one way, other parents imagine another way, and some others have no time for such imaginings. It would be good for kids to learn early that none of the religions agree with each other on anything, while atheists all disbelieve alike.

  7. #7 Russell Blackford
    September 13, 2007

    Obdulantist is right. Bob Hawke is one of my few political heroes – not so much because of his views about religion, but because he was a superbly successful prime minister who never lost an election and won four of them, made important economic reforms, still maintained social democratic ideals, blah, blah. Yet, someone like Hawke could never have been US president.

    That said, even here in Australia there’s a continual need to critique religion, and we have both the current prime minister (John Howard) and the current leader of the opposition (Kevin Rudd) playing far too much to the church for my liking.

  8. #8 Rob Knop
    September 13, 2007

    I don’t think the analogy to gay rights applies.

    The New Atheism is strident about religion being fundamentally incompatible with science and rationality. Proponents say that those who are not atheists are deluded or wicked. They say that one who is a scientist and a non-atheist are compartmentalizing at best, prevaricating at worst.

    The gay rights movement never said it was delusional or wicked to be straight. They demanded acceptance. They never said that being straight was inconsistent with a world view that would accept their orientation.

    I fully agree that atheism should be mainstream, and atheists shouldn’t be ostracized. But the way that the “New Atheism” is going about it is by stridently attacking religion and the religious, not by stridently insisting that their position is one that should be accepted as a valid position to hold.

    -Rob

  9. #9 Ginger Yellow
    September 13, 2007

    Well, I actually agree that most people who convert will do so when they realise the sky fairy stuff doesnt make sense. But having vocal atheists helps create the environment in which people will come to that realisation. If false theistic assertions regularly go unchallenged, then they’re not going to seems so silly. It’s just basic psychology. If enough people assert something as fact and nobody challenges them, no matter how absurd the proposition is you’re likely to believe it.

  10. #10 Jeff Hebert
    September 13, 2007

    Rob Knop said:

    Proponents say that those who are not atheists are deluded or wicked. They say that one who is a scientist and a non-atheist are compartmentalizing at best, prevaricating at worst.

    In other words, what’s so horrible about the “New Atheists” is that they not only think religionists are wrong, but they have the gall to say so.

    And yet — news flash! — atheists of course think theists are wrong, just like theists think atheists are wrong. It sort of comes with the territory. You’re a nominal Christian, Rob, naturally you think those who don’t believe in God are wrong as well.

    And that’s ok. It’s normal for people to disagree, especially about something this big. It’s even healthy.

    What would be wrong would be to advocate that religion or atheism should be outlawed, and its adherents forcibly converted or incarcerated. Luckily, no one on the “New Atheist” side believes any such thing. They just think you’re wrong, and they say so.

    I fail to see what’s either revolutionary or evil about that.

  11. #11 Russell Blackford
    September 13, 2007

    Some people are trying to push the analogy with gay rights too far. The point is that you won’t win people to your viewpoint – which in this case is scepticism about religion, not just civil rights for atheists – unless you argue for it.

    Sure, some people will become atheists or at least sceptics about religion because the “invisible man” doesn’t make sense. But it will be a lot better for them if there is a body of contemporary literature that subjects religion to merciless sceptical scrutiny (from as many angles as possible). I know from my own experience that, back in the day, I desperately needed to have access to the relevant work of Bertrand Russell, Paul Edwards, JL Mackie, etc. It is absolutely necessary that books such as The God Delusion continue to be written and published.

  12. #12 David D.G.
    September 13, 2007

    Those who point out that the analogy between gay rights and new atheism movements isn’t exact are quite correct. Gays only want equal acceptance, not to vilify heterosexuality, nor to “convert” heterosexuals to homosexuality.

    But that’s not the whole point of the analogy, and it does not have to be “exact” in its parallels to make the point.

    Atheists DO suffer from forms of persecution in the U.S., especially in certain regions (e.g., the rural south) and professions (e.g., politics — there is even a rule in Texas that says its legislators must believe in God).

    The fact that atheists must actively combat certain religious assertions in order to assert themselves (primarily because that’s how atheism is defined in the first place) is a difference from the situation with gays vs. heteros, so it has certain differences in effects as it happens. But in my opinion, that does not undermine the analogy, especially regarding what Jason is saying about getting atheism out in the open being key to mainstreaming it. That seems to me to be just obvious sense, since you cannot hope to get sympathy for a point of view that people either don’t know about at all or know about only through the filter of lies they are told about it.

    ~David D.G.

  13. #13 MartinM
    September 13, 2007

    The gay rights movement never said it was delusional or wicked to be straight. They demanded acceptance. They never said that being straight was inconsistent with a world view that would accept their orientation.

    With respect, I think you’re misapplying the analogy somewhat. The opposite of ‘for gay rights’ is not ‘straight.’ It is ‘against gay rights.’ And being against gay rights is indeed inconsistent with a worldview which accepts their orientation. Did the gay rights movement ever say that it was delusional or wicked to be against gay rights? I rather suspect so.

  14. #14 Blake Stacey
    September 13, 2007

    One lesson of the past century’s worth of civil rights movements is that you don’t have to be gay, black or female to support equal rights for people who are gay, black, female or any combination of the above. Isn’t that exactly the position we uppity atheists would like the devout but ecumenical religious folks to take with regard to our frank godlessness?

  15. #15 Chris Bell
    September 13, 2007

    I hope you enjoy this speech by Lincoln, where he discusses the necessity of kindness when convincing an opponent, even though your cause “be naked truth.”

    Here is the key part, edited slightly:

    When the [religious], were incessantly told, not in the accents of entreaty and persuasion, diffidently addressed by erring man to an erring brother; but in the thundering tones of anathema and denunciation . . . that they were the authors of all the vice and misery and crime in the land; that they were the manufacturers and material of all the thieves and robbers and murderers that infested the earth; that their houses were the workshops of the devil; and that their persons should be shunned by all the good and virtuous, as moral pestilences – I say, when they were told all this, and in this way, it is not wonderful that they were slow, very slow, to acknowledge the truth of such denunciations, and to join the ranks of their denouncers, in a hue and cry against themselves.

    To have expected them to do otherwise than as they did – to have expected them not to meet denunciation with denunciation, crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema, was to expect a reversal of human nature, which is God’s decree, and never can be reversed. When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a “drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one. On the contrary, assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart; and tho’ your cause be naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be made, and tho’ you throw it with more than Herculean force and precision, you shall no more be able to pierce him, than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.

    Such is man, and so must he be understood by those who would lead him, even to his own best interest.

  16. #16 rmp
    September 13, 2007

    If it wasn’t for people like Jason, PZ and Dawkins, I’d still be professing to be a confident theist.

  17. #17 Rob Knop
    September 13, 2007

    With respect, I think you’re misapplying the analogy somewhat. The opposite of ‘for gay rights’ is not ‘straight.’ It is ‘against gay rights.’

    Likewise, the opposite of “for respecting atheists” isn’t “religious.”

    And, yet, the activists for the New Atheism would tear down all of religion.

    This is why I think the analogy is bad.

  18. #18 rmp
    September 13, 2007

    Rob, for the sake of argument, let’s say that I’ve got no problem with people being theistic evolutionists (sp?). But how do we publicly address the religious based reasoning of President Bush? I’ll be very surprised if I ever hear the MSM asking why we should believe in a God that tells our President to go to war in Iraq! It isn’t talked about. I think it should be.

    I’m curious as to what type of conversation about religion you (or Matt Nesbit) would have with President Bush. Would you be willing to have that conversation publicly?

  19. #19 MartinC
    September 13, 2007

    Rob, that sort of hysterical accusation that New Atheists seek to somehow ban religion is a gross misrepresentation of the matter. We might think supernatural beliefs are silly but we don’t seek to ban them. In science, for instance, there is no problem with being religious since all of us, religious or not work on material questions without recourse to the supernatural in our publications. So long as one follows this line then you can believe in whatever you want and still publish papers.

  20. #20 Mecha
    September 13, 2007

    Rob: Last time this came up, I also pointed out how the rights movement analogies which people love to use fall flat in many ways. There _is_ validity in ‘being out’, and getting people to realize that atheism is fine, but it has nothing to do with linking science to atheism, and that is indeed the trap of the science/atheism linkup: excluding people who don’t need to be excluded.

    The analogy falls apart when you do compare it. What do you have to do to be for gay (or any) rights? Support gay rights while not being anti-gay rights (the last part tends to be where people misstep regarding minority rights.) What do you have to do to be for science? Support science, while not being against science (actually, very easy to do, and most non-insane religious members of the science community do it.)

    What would ‘New Atheists’ have you believe? That to be for science, you have to support science, not be against science, and be _against religion_. Which ostracizes scientists and religious both.

    It is not the same. In fact, there is no definition in any real dictionary anywhere which says ‘Science: Something which is not Religion.’ and ‘Religion: Something which is not Science.’

    Religion is not the opposite of science. Anti-gay people _is_ the opposite of pro-gay people. But religion is not the opposite of science.

    MartinC: Rob has been through the experience you so easily say doesn’t exist, right here on Scienceblogs. Hundreds of posts saying that he’s a deluded idiot (even top-level posts on PZ’s journal, it’s so important to call him an idiot!) impugning him as a scientist because he has a religious belief of any sort. The fact is, if you have a religious belief, and you try to say you are a scientist here, in the environment of the New Atheist, you will be ridiculed, not accepted. If religion comes up, you will be called deluded. You can ‘publish papers’, sure. And be treated like crap the entire time for your ‘accepted beliefs.’ The history of Scienceblogs and its members of the New Atheist movement is right there for you to see. Look at it before you treat Rob’s experiences as false. The comparisons between people who are religious, and bigots _in this very post_. Don’t dismiss just because it’s easy. The New Atheists are too willing to paint all religious with the same brush of being deluded and ignorant, and have done it more than enough times around here that an evidence-based mind should be able to realize it.

    -Mecha

  21. #21 Pierce R. Butler
    September 13, 2007

    Religion – sfaik, every religion – requires taking things on faith. Science – without exception – requires measuring and testing everything, and taking nothing on faith. Those two approaches are intrinsically irreconcilable.

    Rob Knop has not just insisted on holding to christianism, but to specific “factual” assertions such as humans being made in Yahweh’s image – how could such claims not conflict with reality-based worldviews?

  22. #22 MartinC
    September 13, 2007

    Mecha, it is one thing to be told that someone else thinks your beliefs are irrational or delusional, quite another to be told you are an idiot. I’ve visited Robs blog quite a bit and never got the impression that he was stupid. I remember the kerfuffle regarding his beliefs too but I dont remember anyone calling him an idiot, never mind hundreds of people doing so.
    Rob, if I recall correctly got questioned on the rationality of his beliefs after, unprompted, he chose to share them publicly with the scienceblog community. If I told everyone I believed in the Flying Pink Unicorn God I might expect to be asked some cutting questions about it by fellow scientists but my personal worth as a scientist depends only on what I publish or teach.

  23. #23 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 13, 2007

    Rob-

    While it is true that homosexuals did not argue that it was deluded or wicked to be straight, they certainly sometimes behaved in ways that were considered offensive or too in your face to be politically effective, precisely as I noted in my post. But they have been largely successful because the good done by forcing their issues into the public consciousness outweighed the harm done by turning some people off with excessive rhetoric. So I stand by my analogy.

    Mecha-

    I’m not sure who you have in mind in saying that Rob was called a delusional idiot for his posts about his faith. At least in my case I never said anything close to that. Looking back at what I wrote at the time, I see that I was strongly critical of certain remarks Rob made about Richard Dawkins that I felt were rather unfair. But regarding his religious beliefs themselves I noted simply that they were quite far removed from mainstream Christian thought in this country, and that he conceded nearly all of the major points made by people like Dawkins and Dennett. I stand by those arguments.

    For the record, I believe that people who believe in God are mistaken about a question of fact. I don’t believe they are generally stupid or ignorant (or at least no more so than any other large group of people). But I do believe that the arguments made in defense of God belief are uniformly bad, that religion and science are completely at odds, that fervent religious belief routinely leads to a desire to impose those beliefs on others, and that in the United States in 2007 the mainstream of religious thought is not of the moderate sort. I think the country would be far better off if storng religious faith were not held in such high esteem, and unlike Jake Young I am not willing to wait for people to wake up to that conclusion on their own.

  24. #24 Jonathan Badger
    September 13, 2007

    One lesson of the past century’s worth of civil rights movements is that you don’t have to be gay, black or female to support equal rights for people who are gay, black, female or any combination of the above. Isn’t that exactly the position we uppity atheists would like the devout but ecumenical religious folks to take with regard to our frank godlessness?

    Oh, absolutely, but then we’d have to accept that those liberal ecumenical folks aren’t just “enablers” of the fundies, wouldn’t we?

  25. #25 Sastra
    September 13, 2007

    The word “delusional” is a fighting word when used in casual conversation. Telling someone they’re delusional is equivalent to saying they’re nuts.

    But I don’t think that’s really how the “New Atheists” are using the term. The sense that there is a Higher Conscious Intelligence which purposefully sets all events in motion is an end result of the way our brains evolved to make sense of our world. It’s an intuitionally-rich illusion. When deliberately held as a matter of faith, against evidence, it can be called a delusion. Not in the popular sense, or clinical psychiatric sense, but in the philosophical sense.

    New atheists will be created in the same way that new atheists have always been created: by a kid waking up in class one day and saying, �You know that invisible man business doesn’t make sense.�

    And then they will feel horrible, because how can they still keep meaning, love, and purpose in their life without believing in God? How can they fit in with a world in which everyone else believes? And then they will pick up books by Dawkins and Dennett and Hitchens and say “Oh, ok.”

  26. #26 MartinC
    September 14, 2007

    One reason it is so difficult to counteract religious belief is that, to many religious people, it becomes the equivalent of a family member. I remember a conversation I had last year with a friend, a very moderate muslim, about the danish mohammed cartoons. He told me it felt like someone in his family had been insulted. If you stop for a second to think of religious belief in these terms it is much easier to understand religious peoples resistance to criticism and their reaction to honest statements of atheism as some sort of personal attack. God becomes one of their family – the invisible or imaginary one, no doubt, but certainly the equivalent of one. Tell anyone that they are delusional for loving a member of their family and what reaction would you expect? Even in non-imaginary situations where a particular family member is abusive or dangerous in some way you can still be criticised and rejected by the other family members for simply pointing out this fact. I suspect that this is why those religious denominations with a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ are the ones so resistant to reason while those from a more hierarchical institution such as catholics, for a larger part, at least, find it easier to leave the faith.

  27. #27 MartinM
    September 14, 2007

    And, yet, the activists for the New Atheism would tear down all of religion.

    If by that you mean that they’ll forcefully argue the case for atheism, sometimes to the point of being jerky about it, sure.

    But then, the defining characteristic of atheism is believing that all theists are wrong about at least one thing. That’s certainly a point of disanalogy, but I’m not convinced that it’s a critical one.

  28. #28 David Banner
    September 14, 2007

    It seems to me there is a fairly strong ascertainment bias underlying Jason’s use of the examples of “gay pride” and “feminist pride” movements. What about all the “out there” movements that fell flat? Nativists (i.e., the “Know-Nothings”) were “out there.” So were the Black Panthers. The Nation of Islam. The Klan. The 1920′s Communist Party of the USA. There have been lots and lots of social movements. Only a few have succeeded, even though most of them have tried some kind of in-your-face advocacy at one time or another.

    If the real answer is that some movements succeed because (or while) they are truly broad-based, then the “out there” aspect is more or less irrelevant, no?

    That would certainly seem to be true of the acceptance of atheism in Europe. I don’t remember the in-your-face atheists of the 1950′s that put the smackdown on Roman Catholicism in France. Does Sartre count?

  29. #29 Marc
    September 15, 2007

    I have 2 comments:

    - About atheism. If you want to sell your product (in this case Atheism), you’ve got to make it visible. Having atheism books on best sellers lists will do that. Some people _will_ read those books _because_ they’re on those lists – the logic being that if they sell so much, they must be good.

    - About homosexuality. I agree with you Jason except when it comes to the gay pride parade. As a heterosexual man, there’s nothing that turns me off more than seeing effeminate men walking around in strings. Trust me. When I see that, I find myself feeling intolerant towards homosexuality – after all, why would I want to grant equal rights to people whom I see as a farce? For me a homosexual is (should be) a person who happens to be attracted to someone of the same sex, period. The Gay Pride Parade is a farce. If gay people can’t take themselves seriously, why should I take them seriously? This being said, I do my best to ignore the parade.

  30. #30 J. J. Ramsey
    September 16, 2007

    Sastra: “The word ‘delusional’ is a fighting word when used in casual conversation. Telling someone they’re delusional is equivalent to saying they’re nuts.

    “But I don’t think that’s really how the “New Atheists” are using the term.”

    If the New Atheists think they can keep using “delusion” in a popular context without it being interpreted according to its popular meaning, then they are mistaken. Dawkins himself doesn’t quite disclaim the popular meaning. In the paragraph of the premise where he makes clear that he isn’t using “delusion” in a clinical sense by finishing off with this:

    As to whether it [delusion] is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance, when he said, “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

    This is hardly a clear indication that Dawkins would not consider believers “nuts,” in the popular sense of the term.

  31. #31 Leni
    September 16, 2007

    Rob Knopp wrote:

    I fully agree that atheism should be mainstream, and atheists shouldn’t be ostracized. But the way that the “New Atheism” is going about it is by stridently attacking religion and the religious, not by stridently insisting that their position is one that should be accepted as a valid position to hold.

    Rob, you’re just going to have to accept that criticism of religion and bad religious ideas are part and parcel of the “considered atheist’s” (to steal a phrase from George Smith) position. We considered religion, and then left it because of x, y and z.

    My own trip to atheism was fairly short, but it didn’t magically occur to me without warning one day when I stumbled into a lovely frozen waterfall.

    What convinced me that Christianity was false were arguments demonstrating its incoherency. Later, I extended that to other religions and still later I extended it to the supernatural in general. In some sense, my proximity and familiarity with beliefs such as yours is what made me an atheist. I only needed someone to point out the flaws that I had failed to notice (despite the fact that they were staring me in the face my entire life!).

    So part of what justifies atheism (for many of us) are the internal inconsistencies with many religious ideas. If you want to see atheism become mainstream then you will simply have to accept the presence of strident criticisms of your beliefs, or beliefs similar to yours. There’s just nothing to be done about that.

    Certainly I see the value in being respectful to people, and maybe even gentle. (I don’t always do it, but I see the value and of course admire those who do.) But surely you understand that no matter how politely we say it, it’s never going to be a welcome message. Ultimately, when it comes to this subject, for many believers there is no difference between criticism and strident criticism.

  32. #32 Robert O'Brien
    September 16, 2007

    If it wasn’t for people like Jason, PZ and Dawkins, I’d still be professing to be a confident theist.

    That’s unfortunate.

  33. #33 Leni
    September 16, 2007

    LOL @ Robert. I’m sure both you and baby Jesus have shed many a tear over the untold millions of souls harvested by the “New Atheist” movement.

    I imagine it keeps you up at night, wide-eyed with fear for our eternal souls. Probably it inspires you to commit more and more acts of kindness in the hopes that perhaps you, the humble and mild-mannered Robert O’Brien, will save just one soul from the terrible, terrible fate that awaits those of us who hate Jesus and love terrorists!

  34. #34 Caledonian
    September 17, 2007

    This is hardly a clear indication that Dawkins would not consider believers “nuts,” in the popular sense of the term.

    Now, now, religious believers aren’t necessarily insane. Only the sincere ones. The rest are merely dishonest.

  35. #35 greg laden
    September 17, 2007

    I hereby seed your blog with my response to Jake:

    http://gregladen.com/wordpress/?p=1321

    It may be that the process you talk about of social change will follow that of most other “liberal” causes. At one time few scientists were atheists, and as the famous study in Nature some time back demonstrated, this seems to be a phenomenon even among the elite of the elite.

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    September 17, 2007

    Me:

    One lesson of the past century’s worth of civil rights movements is that you don’t have to be gay, black or female to support equal rights for people who are gay, black, female or any combination of the above. Isn’t that exactly the position we uppity atheists would like the devout but ecumenical religious folks to take with regard to our frank godlessness?

    Jonathan Badger:

    Oh, absolutely, but then we’d have to accept that those liberal ecumenical folks aren’t just “enablers” of the fundies, wouldn’t we?

    I was speaking about what might be possible in the future, not what is true today. Optimism about the former does not preclude a glum assessment of the latter.

  37. #37 Anton Mates
    September 17, 2007

    The word “delusional” is a fighting word when used in casual conversation. Telling someone they’re delusional is equivalent to saying they’re nuts.

    But I don’t think that’s really how the “New Atheists” are using the term.

    Dawkins, at least, rarely uses the term “delusional” at all in reference to believers (as opposed to beliefs.) Rather, he says they’re “deluded.” “Deluded” doesn’t carry any implication of insanity–it just means you hold at least one belief which is obviously counter to reality.

    Many people who believe (to paraphrase Bierce) that their spouse is remarkably attractive and their children are remarkably intelligent, are deluded–but it doesn’t follow that they’re delusional.

  38. #38 greg laden
    September 17, 2007

    Regarding “Delusional as a fighting word”

    But if your friend is telling you that he really really did see bigfoot, then you are helping him.

  39. #39 J. J. Ramsey
    September 17, 2007

    Anton Mates: “Dawkins, at least, rarely uses the term ‘delusional’ at all in reference to believers (as opposed to beliefs.) Rather, he says they’re ‘deluded.’ ‘Deluded’ doesn’t carry any implication of insanity–it just means you hold at least one belief which is obviously counter to reality.”

    I’m sorry, but I think you are splitting hairs here and making a distinction that most English speakers are not going to buy.

  40. #40 rmp
    September 17, 2007

    ______________
    If it wasn’t for people like Jason, PZ and Dawkins, I’d still be professing to be a confident theist.
    ______________
    That’s unfortunate.

    Posted by: Robert O’Brien | September 16, 2007 4:28 PM

    Care to expand on your comment, I’m not following?

  41. #41 hoary puccoon
    September 18, 2007

    Are you really just talking about atheists’ rights, Jason, or are you arguing in favor of a kind of atheist evangelizing? Because some of the atheists here sound like they’re about a half step from putting on a short-sleeved white shirt and a skinny tie and passing out tracts.
    I have nothing against it if what you want to do is evangelize for atheism, but that’s not the same thing as simply demanding your rights. Confusing the two makes everyone on both sides feel picked on.

    I do have a big problem with the argument that religion and science are mutually exclusive. This is mostly simply political. Gee whiz, why not add, “and learning about Darwin leads to sex, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll,” while you’re at it? As if keeping creationism out of public school science classes isn’t already hard enough!

    But my other objection is that you’re lumping everyone who has any religious feelings at all in with the fundies. It’s true that a literal interpretation of the bible cannot be reconciled with modern evolutionary theory. (However, claiming the bible is nothing but a myth cannot be reconciled with modern Middle Eastern archaeology, either.)

    But have you actually talked to scientists who are church attenders about their religious beliefs? Virtually all the scientists I’ve ever known whose religious views I knew about (and who weren’t outright non-believers) either identified being religious with ethics or defined God as something like “the beauty and regularity of nature and natural laws.” You can call that compartmentalizing if you like, but it’s obvious science is getting the roomiest compartment.

    The beauty part, as far as I was concerned, with losing my faith was that I wouldn’t be hectored any more with holier-than-thou religiosity. Hearing the same stiff-necked judgmentalism coming at me from the other side doesn’t make me want to shout my disbelief loud and proud. It makes me want to drop the whole issue.

  42. #42 Caledonian
    September 18, 2007

    I do have a big problem with the argument that religion and science are mutually exclusive. This is mostly simply political.

    No, it’s mostly simply ‘philosophical’. I would prefer the term ‘conceptual’.

    The method of science is different from the method of religion, and each method utilizes things that the other rejects. They’re diametrically opposed and cannot in any way be combined or harmonized.

  43. #43 hoary puccoon
    September 18, 2007

    Caledonian–
    Sorry for the lack of clarity. I meant my *objection* to the argument that religion and science are mutually exclusive is mainly political.
    I don’t in general like to argue that way. If something is true, it’s true whether it’s politically expedient to say so or not. But it this case, I think the argument is an oversimplification. (You can’t run experiments by praying for results, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use religious or ethical considerations in choosing research topics.) So why even bring the topic up?

  44. #45 Restaurant
    December 13, 2008

    thanks

    Restaurant

  45. #46 film izle
    July 29, 2009

    his seems to the be most understood affliction of our age. But as parents, I can see their desperation … and it has become pandemic

  46. #47 su deposu
    September 21, 2010

    work was wrong. That happened to a colleague of mine.

    Long story short, everybody assumed that, due to a particular paper, that translation followed a certain pattern of initiation throughout the cell cycle. By stopping the cell cycle at different points, then checking the translation profile, he found something different. He asked a friend to double check his work, and it turned out that he was correct,

  47. #48 su deposu
    September 21, 2010

    By stopping the cell cycle at different points, then checking the translation profile, he found something different. He asked a friend to double check his work, and it turned out that he was correct, and the previous work, which relied on only one cell line was not as correct as his. Why was his m

  48. #49 konteyner
    October 5, 2010

    perhaps with the option to refresh a la summize. This begins to overcome the greatest weakness of twitter – conversations. It also makes the task of finding and maintaining your personal social network much easier.

    It becomes easier for like-minded folks to find each other. And when someone does start following you, it’s pretty easy to figure out why.

    But why stop there. If you highlight a tweet from one of the people you’re following, the same thing would happen in your second timeline.

  49. #50 siyah mermer
    February 9, 2011

    form an Indian-American partnership will be lost. Once again it seems that the obsessive attention to Iran’s nuclear program is

  50. #51 otel rehberi
    February 15, 2011

    If gay people can’t take themselves seriously, why should I take them seriously? This being said, I do my best to ignore the parade

  51. #52 hayvancılık
    February 24, 2011

    If you highlight a tweet from one of the people you’re following, the same thing would happen in your second timeline.

  52. Was it because gays waited for enough people to wake up and see the injustice of their situation?

  53. #54 mobilya
    May 10, 2011

    to be patient while the rest of the public comes around. The religious right has been energized by their activities,

  54. #55 sorgula sorgulama
    May 25, 2011

    and train maintenance personnel on every new airplane. Also in order to have an effective army the Chinese probably need to cut back the number of active duty soldiers, but in order

  55. #56 prefabrik
    May 28, 2011

    Was it because gays waited for enough people to wake up and see the injustice of their situation?

  56. #57 kabin
    June 25, 2011

    and train maintenance personnel on every new airplane. Also in order to have an effective army the Chinese probably need to cut back the number of active duty soldiers, but in order

  57. #58 seffaf branda
    August 4, 2011

    Branda
    brandacı
    branda kumaş
    branda çeşitleri
    branda tente

  58. #59 ilan ver
    August 16, 2011

    Was it because gays waited for enough people to wake up and see the injustice of their situation?

  59. #60 Arnavutköy Evden Eve
    November 15, 2011

    nice sharing

  60. #61 Favori branda
    November 24, 2011

    Branda
    Brandacı
    Branda kumaş
    Branda çeşitleri
    Branda tente

  61. #62 seffafbranda
    February 9, 2012

    branda
    brandacı
    branda ceşitleri

  62. #63 seffafbarnda
    February 9, 2012

    branda
    brandacı
    branda ceşitleri

  63. #64 Wow
    February 9, 2012

    “The New Atheism is strident about religion being fundamentally incompatible with science and rationality”

    All you need to to is read Anthony McCarthy and you’ll know that that is true.

    All you need to do is observe mainstream US television and you will see it is true.

    The evidence is there, but you can’t see it because, to you, it’s normalcy.

  64. #65 Wow
    February 9, 2012

    Mecha “right here on Scienceblogs. Hundreds of posts saying that he’s a deluded idiot”

    But being religious doesn’t mean you cannot be a deluded idiot.

    Therefore you need to show that the claim of deluded idiot is unwarranted and used solely because Rob is religious.

  65. #66 İzolasyon
    March 5, 2012

    Klasik çatı, sandviç çatı yada trapez çatı sistemlerinden hangisine sahip olursanız olun, belirli aralıklarla bakımını ve onarımını yapmak şarttır.

  66. #67 Prefabrik yapı
    March 6, 2012

    Eğitim binalarında en dikkat edilmesi gereken özelliği yapı güvenliğidir. Geleceğimizi emanet edeceğimiz umudumuz olan çocuklarımızı ve gençlerimize güvenli bir ortamda eğitim sunmamız en önemli unsurdur.

  67. #68 Modüler su deposu
    March 7, 2012

    Polyester yerinde montaj depolarımızın en önemli avantajı girişi dar mekanlara kolayca yerleştirilerek 100 tona kadar depo çözümü sunulabilmesidir.

  68. #69 Dekoratif panel çit
    March 8, 2012

    Teknolojinin, ekonominin, ihtiyaçların ve zevklerin değişmesi ile birlikte pek çok alanda olduğu gibi tel çit sistemleri de yeni boyutlar kazanıyor, ihtiyaç duyulan önceliklere göre yeni formlar oluşturuluyor.

  69. #70 Yangın kapısı
    March 14, 2012

    Yaşam alanlarımızın bölmelerini birbirinden ayıran ve özelimizi koruyan kapılar yapıların en önemli ayrıntılarıdır. Yüklendiği özelliklere, kullanılan malzemelere ve aldığı şekillere göre değişen kapılar, kendi içlerinde de pek çok çeşide ayrılır. Ama bir çeşidi vardır ki insan hayatını kurtarmada ve olası felaket durumlarında zaman kazandırma konusunda oldukça etkili ve önemlidir.

  70. #71 Burun
    March 15, 2012

    Uzun süreli nefes alma güçlüğü çekiyor veya burunda şekil problemi yaşıyorsanız, burnunuzdan memnun değilseniz belki de rinoplasti sizin için bir seçenek olabilir.

  71. #72 Güzellik merkezi
    March 15, 2012

    Estetik cerrahi sonrasında bile yaşlanma devam edecektir. İşte değişen görünüm için birçok olası nedeni vardır.

  72. #73 Plastik cerrahi
    March 16, 2012

    Göğüs estetiği ameliyatları arasında göğüs büyütme estetiği, göğüs küçültme estetiği, göğüs dikleştirme estetiği, göğüs toparlama ameliyatları, meme büyütme estetiği, meme küçültme estetiği, meme toparlama ve meme dikleştirme estetik ameliyatları, göğüs asimetri düzeltilmesi ameliyatları yapılmaktadır.

  73. #74 Estetik
    March 17, 2012

    Estetikmed Güzellik ve Sağlık Merkezi olarak hedeflerimizin arasında, hastaların endişelerinin gidererek arzularının yerine getirilmesidir.

  74. #75 notebook tamiri
    April 21, 2012

    Getting the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange (GAMME, for those who might not know exactly what Rob is referring to) to work was a huge pain, although once I figured out the right settings it was a piece of cake. I guess it would have been nice if I would have documented the entire process in detail, but I didn’t, and now it has been a little while, so I’ll relate the tale as best I can remember.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.