Framing Science

i-34c6aea2f716fdd3af08f716d9ba34ef-MyersAshirt.jpg
The dominant image of atheism: Blogger PZ Myers wearing a scarlet letter “A” for atheism T-shirt.

Atheists have a major image problem. There’s a reason that when people ask me what I believe I have to say with a smile: “I’m an atheist…but a friendly atheist.” For sure, atheists for a long time have been unfairly stereotyped in the mainstream media and in popular culture. But we also have a lot of lousy self-proclaimed spokespeople who do damage to our public image. They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion for attacking and ridiculing religious believers. Any fellow atheist who disagrees with their Don Imus rhetoric, they label as appeasers.

These “new atheists” are the dark under belly of atheism. In books, blogs, and public statements, they sell us ideological porn, sophomoric rants that feed our dark sides and reinforce our own unfair stereotypes about the “other,” i.e. the religious.

Yet all of this does far more harm than good. The addictive nature of their rhetoric radicalizes us and leads us to an ever more closed off conversation about how we are superior and everyone else is delusional.

In the process, we miss out on working together with religious communities around shared common values and problems. And when their self-promoting atheist punditry is picked up by either the mainstream press or the religious media, we as a community of atheists incur deep self-inflicted wounds, with news coverage feeding the stereotype that we are a bunch of intolerant and arrogant eccentrics.

Consider this recent article at the National Catholic Register. Titled “The Face of the New Atheism,” it profiles PZ Myers and his rants against the Eucharist and the Catholic community. Notice the key words emphasized. The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”…the list goes on.

Is this how we really want Catholics to view us? Do we really want a group of moderately religious Americans–who polls show otherwise prize science and reason, and who stand for many of the same values that we hold dear–to think of us through the prism of PZ Myers?

The image of atheism doesn’t have to be this way. As I have argued before, if you want to improve the image of atheists you have to step away from being just another shrill voice in the argument culture and focus on building a diverse, inter-connected community, of standing for something, rather than just against something!

The points of emphasis for the rest of the public should be on “strong community member and leaders,” “teachers,” “listeners,” “working with others on common problems,” “tolerant,” “engaged,” “open-minded,” “pragmatic,” “improving society,” “cares about people and social issues…”

Consider the example of this National Public Radio story that ran yesterday. It profiles CFI’s Camp Inquiry, a “brain spa” as one camp counselor puts it. The story focuses on a community of open-minded, tolerant teenagers coming together to do all the normal things kids do at camp, but also to discuss philosophy, science, and religion. Rather than attacks and ridicule, the camp kids are focused on learning, reflection, and dialogue. Atheists are not “the other” in the form of an eccentric, angry old man, but rather community members like any other American.

This is the “new atheism” that we should promote, not an image of attacks and intolerance.

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The other image of atheism: From the NPR segment, DJ Grothe leads a discussion with kids attending Camp Inquiry.

Comments

  1. #1 FutureMD
    August 8, 2008

    For discussion an analogy, was it the friendly gays who didn’t make waves who got society to change or the scary queers who started riots and got in people’s faces?

  2. #2 Corey
    August 8, 2008

    I have recently decide to stop self-identifying as an atheist at all. As mentioned, I don’t want to stand “against” religion, I want to stand FOR something. Why allow theism to be in how I self-identify at all?

    I label myself a skeptic instead. In my mind that is a label that says I stand for reason and evidence. It transcends religion and creates a tremendous common ground with many otherwise religious people. It can often pull a conversation right out of the “higher authority” and “bible-based” murk onto a much higher plane.

    When people ask me if I believe in God, I either tell them to mind their own business (if I think they’re looking for an argument) or that I only believe in what I can prove scientifically (if I feel they are sincere in wanting to know me). If they say “how can you not believe in God” I will usually reply with “the same way I can’t believe in …” and mention something they will obviously consider claptrap. It can be very effective to show people that your view of God is the same as your view of conspiracy theorists or moon hoaxers or alien abduction-ers or whatever. They find a middle ground and it changes the conversation and their view of you very much.

    I arrived here after decades of being exactly what you just described: “superior and everyone else is delusional.” It was a dead-end, and left me lonely and embittered. Instead, I now stand fast in my beliefs, labeling myself without succumbing to the labels of others, and still interacting very nicely with many religious people.

    It’s a much better place.

  3. #3 FutureMD
    August 8, 2008

    If atheists are radicalized its because the culture at large has made them this way. How do you expect a sane person locked in an insane asylum to act? Why should we show deference and respect (as in your camp example) to those that show us none? PZ is a perfect example because the religious showed their true colors by demonizing him at every opporunity. Did you even read the article about PZ that you posted? No mention over the controversy or context that prompted his so called sacreligous actions. Nope he’s just the angry atheist that hates crackers. You’re holding religion’s hands as they lead us right back into the dark ages.

  4. #4 justawriter
    August 8, 2008

    OK Matt, you can start by standing for something instead of just bashing PZ and other “new atheists” constantly. The cure for speech you don’t like is more speech (and actions to back it up) and not just telling people to shut up.

  5. #5 DaleP
    August 8, 2008

    Matthew said:
    Consider this recent article at the National Catholic Register. Titled “The Face of the New Atheism,” it profiles PZ Myers and his rants against the Eucharist and the Catholic community. Notice the key words emphasized. The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”…the list goes on.

    Quote from the article you cited:
    Myers is, as Bill Donohue of the Catholic League described him to me, “the face of the new atheism: irrational, dogmatic and hate-filled.”

    If you are quoting the words of Bill Donohue to criticize P. Z. Myers, you are indeed revealing what he thinks, but you are not citing anything about American Catholics in general. He speaks for a small minority viewpoint. In fact, looking at Donohue’s history, it is clear he is far more hate-filled than PZ. If PZ is being unfairly portrayed in the article you cite, it may be problem for American atheists, but it is not a problem that PZ can solve by stifling himself, or changing his beliefs about what to say when he speaks out.

  6. #6 Pierce R. Butler
    August 8, 2008

    Please define “ideological porn”, and tell me where I can get some.

    Also please tell me just what kind of atheist is likely to get a warm ‘n’ fuzzy portrayal in the National Catholic Register, or even to want one.

  7. #7 Matt Platte
    August 8, 2008

    I, for one, welcome our New Atheist overlords.

  8. #8 Synaptix
    August 8, 2008

    “They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion to attack and ridicule religious believers. Any fellow atheist who disagrees with their Don Imus rhetoric, they label appeasers.”

    Strawman.

    They don’t attack religious believers, they attack religious belief. Big difference.

  9. #9 ogghead
    August 8, 2008

    Feh. That article would have been slanted whether or not PZ trimmed his beard beforehand. I’m glad there are more accomodating atheists like yourself. I’m just as glad we have those who are not willing to varnish the truth.

  10. #10 Jon Eccles
    August 8, 2008

    “angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners”

    now if anything is just “attack and ridicule”, that is.

    Apart from anything, the most obvious cheerleaders for a more militant atheism, including for instance Dawkins, Hitchens and Myers himself, are all married men with families. Not that it matters, anyway.

    And not that the reality would necessarily bother you, image clearly being far more important than substance in your analysis. You might consider practicing what you preach, though (given the lack of any scholarly criticism of PZ’s actual arguments in your piece, the religious metaphor seems appropriate), and trying to avoid mere abuse.

  11. #11 Richard
    August 8, 2008

    There’s a place for both approaches to the issue. Grothe’s work has value and Myers’s also has a place. I listen to Grothe’s podcast every week and I enjoy Pharyngula. I’m am a tad tired of your tisk-tisking. Let ‘em all go at it.

  12. #12 Brian
    August 8, 2008

    “For discussion an analogy, was it the friendly gays who didn’t make waves who got society to change or the scary queers who started riots and got in people’s faces?”

    Neither.

    Society changes in small steps, and only changes when old people die. That is a sad fact of life. Society has “changed” for homosexuals at exactly the same rate that the current younger generation has been allowed to influence media.

    Religion will die out when the religious die out, and not a day sooner.

    /cynic

  13. #13 Ron Hager
    August 8, 2008

    Friendly? Certainly not to the rest of the atheist community. Calling himself friendly and then writing that attack on us makes him about as unfriendly as James Dobson. Mr. Nisbet seems enjoy calling atheists names and demeaning their efforts to move humanity in a positive direction. Perhaps he is one of those moles placed in the movement much like the gun control people have recently uncovered.

  14. #14 Dustin
    August 8, 2008

    I wonder who you’re winning over by sitting on your high-horse issuing this sanctimonious prattle. I also wonder who has been the more effective voice for the use of method and inquiry in all aspects of our lives: you, or Dawkins.

    Talk is cheap, Nisbet.

  15. #15 Oran Kelley
    August 8, 2008

    For discussion an analogy, was it the friendly gays who didn’t make waves who got society to change or the scary queers who started riots and got in people’s faces?

    Well, you seem to think you know the answer to this question . . . what is it?

    If atheists are radicalized its because the culture at large has made them this way. How do you expect a sane person locked in an insane asylum to act?

    Jeez, buck up. Trying to dress up atheists as historical victims along the lines of gays or blacks is just pathetic.

    @Nisbet: I think it’s pretty hopeless to write on this topic around here–PZ’s core audience is a bunch of adolescents and suspended adolescents, deeply Oedipal types who love atheism primarily because they think it upsets someone–they think it’s some kind of rebellion. The confrontation is an essential part of the ballgame for them. They and the rabid fundies are counterparts–the atheists while constantly crowing about their intellectual superiority, are nearly all intellectual mediocrities who don’t read well and can rarely make anything but the grossest kind of distinction. The rabid dogs on both sides deserve each other, really. It’s just too bad they aren’t fighting each other physically: both those herds can use some culling.

  16. #16 Aaron Golas
    August 8, 2008

    Yeah, we have an “image problem,” and posts like these just make it worse. From the very beginning:

    Atheists have a major image problem. There’s a reason that when people ask me what I believe I have to say with a smile: “I’m an atheist…but a friendly atheist.”

    Nice framing there, implicitly yielding that most atheists aren’t friendly, and you’re just an exception.

    You say we have an “image problem,” but what you mean is that we have a personality problem. That religious people hate us because we’re worthy of hate. And to try and make your point, you drag PZ through the mud:

    They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion for attacking and ridiculing religious believers.

    You’re seriously going to tell me the likes of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are grumpy and uncharismatic? I guess that’s why PZ is cruising the Galapagos this week. Besides, there’s a difference between attacking religious believers versus religious beliefs.

    PZ and Dawkins are targets of religious ire not because they are mean, but because they are outspoken. When you note the media coverage biased against us and ask “How can we get PZ to shut up?” instead of “How can we get them to cover PZ fairly?”, then you are contributing to the problem. Stop it.

  17. #17 Stephanie Z
    August 8, 2008

    Irreverence does not equal hate, no matter how many times people try to make that connection. It wasn’t true in the Vietnam protest culture. It wasn’t/isn’t true in the “here and queer” movement. It isn’t true in the culture of “New Atheism.”

    However, as a communicator, you should be aware that repetition will lead some people to believe even the obviously false. So why are you repeating this?

  18. #18 ildi
    August 8, 2008

    “They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion for attacking and ridiculing religious believers.”

    “PZ’s core audience is a bunch of adolescents and suspended adolescents, deeply Oedipal types who love atheism primarily because they think it upsets someone–they think it’s some kind of rebellion.”

    Ouch! I guess there’s no point in trying to discuss this with you guys.

    Psychoanalysis – you’re not doing it right.

  19. #19 Dan Miller
    August 8, 2008

    I think part of the problem is that your focus isn’t exactly what defines atheists as a group. How many theists are actively opposed to “strong community member and leaders,” “teachers,” “listeners,” “working with others on common problems,” “tolerant,” “engaged,” “open-minded,” “pragmatic,” “improving society,” “cares about people and social issues…” and so on?

  20. #20 Jason
    August 8, 2008

    Well, I think you just blew your chances of being one of PZ’s guest bloggers when he goes on vacation.

    Seriously though, I agree that the atheist image is way too…assholey…these days. Contrary to what some seem to think, suggesting that atheists try to be understanding and polite is not the same thing as saying “be a doormat & never express your views.” I can’t deny that the over-the-top jerks have their uses, but the bulk of us should aspire to being thoughtful, pleasant intellectuals rather than pissy, opinionated blowhards who happen to be pretty smart.

  21. #21 FutureMD
    August 8, 2008

    “Jeez, buck up. Trying to dress up atheists as historical victims along the lines of gays or blacks is just pathetic.”

    I don’t think atheists have personally received as much ill-treatment as either of those groups and for one reason only: they are much more difficult to identify. Atheism as an ideology is about as reviled as anything can be to the American public.

    And to answer your question, it was the crowds chanting “we’re here, we’re queer” who forced society to change, not the nice people who hoped it would.

  22. #22 Dale
    August 8, 2008

    Does the National Catholic Register typically come out with favorable stories about atheists and atheism — just not this time, not for this atheist, because he’s one of the bad, mean, nasty kinds of atheists with the wrong communications strategy? If they were to do a story on DJ Grothe and/or Camp Inquiry, it would be all glowing praise, bunnies and sunshine? In such a case, the NCR would be expected to skip over the atheism and focus on areas of common ground?

  23. #23 Jim1138
    August 8, 2008

    Atheists have always had an image problem. Non-theists, or “the Godless” have closeted themselves out of fear for their jobs and even their lives. Hatred of Atheists is currently mainstream as shown by George HW Bush’s statement on the godless. The lessons learned by Blacks and Gays should not be lost on Atheists. Being nice does not get you acceptance. Only a fool ignores history.

  24. #24 ngong
    August 8, 2008

    What’s sophomoric is continually making arguments that things would be better if every last individual would rally behind a particular strategy. The world would certainly be a better place if we’d all just agree to subjugate our egos to the great leader, Kim Jong Il.

  25. #25 Observer
    August 8, 2008

    I’ll grant that sometimes PZ can come across as a bit of an ass. On most occasions when he does I find myself thinking, “I’m glad somebody had the guts to speak up.” I think multiple approaches are needed when dealing with a diverse public, and sometimes being uncompromising is the best way to go.

  26. #26 True Bob
    August 8, 2008

    Oran, amazing how you can read minds. Please start giving lessons, I want to go on the psychic circuit. Really, I’m trying to make people angry? You have no idea what I am about or how I behave in debate with live humans (or even trolls, for that matter). /eyeroll

    Matt, nice job of framing, yourself. Was that the only available pic of PZ? You set up your own article as clearly biased, and if the text words aren’t enough, here’s a thousand ugly ones at once, first thing*.

    I think there is great value in being nice and friendly, or civilized human beings. That will not tie back to atheism. The True Believers will view “good behavior” as in spite of my atheism, so it’s exceptional. And I don’t think I’ve met any atheist who is nasty and assholy in person, they’re more like, oh, other humans. I agree with those who say change is not driven by well behaved people. Look at all the complaints from christers, all the time. Can’t say the name cheeses in City Council meeting opening prayer** = persecution. Hell, they dominate every aspect of our (US) society, and they whine about persecution. So how will your nice behavior even be observed? Go around doing good deeds, while wearing a big ole atheist scarlet “A”? Be kind, then always interject “I’m a friendly atheist”? Unfortunately,I have to live in this darned real world, where christers imagine they’re persecuted in America and atheists shouldn’t be citizens.

    I don’t think any amount of openly atheistic kindness will make a difference in religious depictions of atheists. The religious will frame us as the enemy, because we are the enemy. We represent a total independence from the mommy church and sky daddy, and any spreading of that message hits them in the bottom line. That counts.

    * Not that I’m commenting on PZ’s appearance
    **which shouldn’t even be happening

  27. #27 Wowbagger
    August 8, 2008

    Is this how we really want Catholics to view us?

    I think we should want them to view us as people who don’t believe in what they believe, and who aren’t prepared to let them bully others into doing so.

    Plenty of christians (catholics included) have this nonsensical idea that atheists are just christians in denial; unenlightened, or unwilling to accept the ‘truth’ of the reality of god. As long as we’re just just a quiet bunch of obsequious forelock-tuggers who defer to the religious they’ll continue to delude themselves with that.

    What PZ has done is something that, apart from anything else, show that there are people who really don’t believe in god and aren’t afraid to stand up and say so – and that’s important. Certainly more important than kowtowing to a lunatic fringe of catholicism.

    To work on ‘shared common values and problems’ we first have to ensure that we’re going to be listened to. If we’re just going to back down every time they throw their weight around when are they going to take us seriously?

  28. #28 JoJo
    August 8, 2008

    Anyone who thinks that the National Catholic Register or professional Catholic Bill Donohue are going to have a warm spot in their hearts for any atheist is 20 beads short of a rosary. Sorry, Matthew, but there are some atheists who are not going to play doormat because being nasty to the poor, prosecuted, downtrodden Catholics and other theists hurts their feelings.

    Your concern is noted. You may be as friendly an atheist as your heart desires. Some of us want to be a little more active in displaying our atheism.

  29. #29 garth
    August 8, 2008

    shorter oran: If they’d just capitulate and shut up, everyone would like them. Why am I the only one smart enough to see that?

  30. #30 John Morales
    August 8, 2008

    Is this how we really want Catholics to view us? Do we really want a group of moderately religious Americans–who polls show otherwise prize science, reason, and stand for many of the same values that we hold dear–to think of us through the prism of PZ Myers?

    First, the prism is not PZ but what’s said about PZ from an antagonistic party.
    Second, it depends on who “we” represents – atheists in general or atheists who share your opinion.

    For me, yes. Bring the cognitive dissonance on, I say.

  31. #31 IBY
    August 8, 2008

    Nisbett, all they are doing are writing stuff. Shouldn’t people be able to express their opinions? Not only that, shouldn’t all ideas be criticized, including religion itself. The ones who got offended accomplished a self fulfilling prophecy by just going along with the bandwagon. In my mind, they have this persecution complex in which they want to be offended. To them, any criticism is offensive. This is my take on it.

  32. #32 Bjørn Østman
    August 8, 2008

    Years from now, when the majority of people are atheists, it will be people who spoke out who will be remembered as having contributed to religion being a fringe phenomenon. People like Matt Nisbet will have contributed nothing whatsoever, just like the black guy who didn’t want to upset his white neighbors, or the queer who stayed at home when the others shouted “I’m here, I’m queer.” The day when an openly atheist politician can get elected in America is not nearer because of Camp Inquiry, or from the work of “friendly atheists” who didn’t want to offend their religious peers. We need to speak up and loud, and stop being afraid of saying what we think about religion, just because it might offend some people. I am offended every time Jehovas Witnesses come to my door to tell me they would love for me to read a pamphlet together with my kids, or when moderate Christians tell me I will go to hell, and they will pray for me. PZ, Dawkins, Harris, etc. are making it possible for many people to speak up against these religious people who have dominated society for way too long.

  33. #33 DarwinRules
    August 8, 2008

    I am 66 years old and I am tired of in-you-face religious freaks and being told how immoral I am because I don’t believe in their god. Thank you PZ Meyers, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, etc. for giving them both barrels.

  34. #34 Zeno
    August 8, 2008

    Any fellow atheist who disagrees with their Don Imus rhetoric, they label as appeasers.

    So when you wear an “A” on your shirt it stands for “appeaser”?

    P.S.: Isn’t it just a little lame to post this the moment PZ leaves town for a week?

  35. #35 negentropyeater
    August 8, 2008

    What gets me is the bickering.
    Shouldn’t it be obvious that stimulating a diversity of approaches will benefit atheists more than arguing endlessly that “my approach is best”. Atheists can benefit from the PZ approach, the Nisbett approach, the Dennett approach, the more the better.
    Just do what you think is best, but stop arguing that what you think is best, is the best.

  36. #36 John C. Randolph
    August 8, 2008

    I reject out of hand the collectivist notion that PZ “represents” me, or any other atheist. Atheism is one thing that we have in common, and we differ on many other matters.

    As for how I treat believers, it depends on their behavior. If they’re polite, I’m polite. If they’re pushy, I push back.

    -jcr

  37. #37 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 8, 2008

    Matthew, I am sick of your patronizing behavior. PZ did the right thing. I am unconcerned about how the National Catholic Register perceives him, because they obviously don’t know the first thing about self-examination for how we perceive them. I like DJ, but I also like PZ.

    If the Catholics and the other Christians that you want to cozy up to can’t take criticism, then aren’t they the ones you should be questioning? After all, they believe that they are protected by Jesus’ love from all wrongs. Why must they bleat, and why must we accommodate their easily hurt feelings.

    And the fact at atheists aren’t physically bashed nor lynched doesn’t mean that we are not excluded from politics because of our lack of beliefs. If gays and blacks had only kept their place, then perhaps no one would ever gotten hurt and everyone would still be happy.

  38. #38 Gordon S
    August 8, 2008

    FutureMD said: “For discussion an analogy, was it the friendly gays who didn’t make waves who got society to change or the scary queers who started riots and got in people’s faces?”

    I must have missed the Gay Riots of 1997 that burned Georgia to the ground.

  39. #39 gillt
    August 8, 2008

    I’ve been debating these “librul” christians all week over on a religious website which spewed some bigotry on how atheists can’t have a morality. I’m concise; they call me intolerant; I’m plain-spoken, they call me rude; I’m assertive, they call me insensitive; I know more science than they do, they call me ignorant. I want to thank you Matt Nisbet from the bottom of my cold, black, heathen heart for giving the religious the impression that it is okay to slander atheists because we’re all too timid to respond to blatant ignorance and hardened intolerance.

  40. #40 Feynmaniac
    August 8, 2008

    “They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion for attacking and ridiculing religious believers.”

    By repeating this garbage are you really improving the atheist image?

    “Consider this recent article at the National Catholic Register….The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”…the list goes on.”

    Anything short of converting to Catholicism isn’t going to get atheists to be viewed well in the ‘National Catholic Register’, or by the majority of Catholics for that matter.

    “As I have argued before, if you want to improve the image of atheists you have to step away from being another shrill voice in the argument culture and focus on building a diverse, inter-connected community, of standing for something, rather than just against something!”

    The abolitionist movement was “against something”. I think they have quite a good image.

    “[R]eality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard Feynman

  41. #41 Josh
    August 8, 2008

    CFI is an organization that promotes “Science, Reason, Free Inquiry, Secularism, and Planetary Ethics.” PZ is a scientist who writes a blog subtitled “Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal.” Their missions are clearly different. CFI would have trouble achieving its goals if it went out of its way to piss of “moderate religious people.” (By the way, there’s something you always seem to forget: there is nothing moderate about praying to an invisible sky-god you have never seen, heard, or for the existence of which you have no evidence. It’s loony, dude.) Similarly PZ would have trouble achieving his if he were a whimpering vulva–I mean a “friendly atheist–like you.

  42. #42 John
    August 8, 2008

    “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”

    None of those labels are true of PZ Myers, or the New Atheists in general. Anyone who applies such a label does so falsely.

  43. #43 Brian Egan
    August 8, 2008

    “The other image of atheism: From the NPR segment, DJ Grothe leads a discussion with kids attending Camp Inquiry.”

    Those girls look so stoked to be at that camp… =P

  44. #44 K
    August 8, 2008

    Can you begin to guess how very little I care what anyone thinks of me being an Atheist? Oh noes! Some random crazed Catholics don’t like me because I’m an Atheist! Oh noes! Worse, some Atheists don’t like me because I don’t like christians and am not afraid to say it out-loud!
    Cry for me, biotch! Let me lick your salty tears!

  45. #45 Alan Kellogg
    August 8, 2008

    The fact you prefer the uptight Mr. Grundy tells me more than you think about you.

  46. #46 weemaryanne
    August 8, 2008

    They may like DJ Grothe better, but that won’t stop them from telling him he can’t get married because he’s gay. Therefore, their approval makes not one bit of difference, not to anything that matters.

    Fail.

  47. #47 ERV
    August 8, 2008

    I have boobs. I like PZ.

    What makes you think those young ladies at Camp Inquiry dont support PZ/Dawkins/MILLITANTATHIEZT?

  48. #48 Geoffi
    August 8, 2008

    They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners

    Matt,

    Do you have communications research to back this up or are you just pulling stuff out of your ass for the pleasure of it?

  49. #49 Russell
    August 8, 2008

    Is this how we really want Catholics to view us? Do we really want a group of moderately religious Americans–who polls show otherwise prize science, reason, and stand for many of the same values that we hold dear..

    I will believe that Catholics prize reason when they stop advocating faith. I am not first and foremost an atheist. If some god makes its appearance tomorrow, in any of a variety of fashions that many fiction writers have described, then I would believe in it in the same way I now believe it existed in the same way I believe the moon exists. That would not reconcile me to those who believe on the basis of faith. My atheism is first and foremost a rejection of faith, as the primary form of human rejection of reason. Perhaps we should be call afideists, rather than atheists. But yes, I want Catholics to see us precisely as those who call a spade a spade, and point out the obvious, that faith is opposed to reason.

  50. #50 Ian Lowe
    August 8, 2008

    You sir, are the problem.

    The ‘new’ atheists are what atheists were all along – those of us who do not feel the need to bow and scrape in the area of religion when people express opinions that are downright crazy/wrong/evil.

    Ironically, we atheists probably have more in common with some of the religious in that we actually do accept that there is such as a thing as being right and being wrong – and are happy to frame our responses accordingly rather than adopting this “respect everyone’s beliefs” rubbish.

    True Bob says “I don’t think any amount of openly atheistic kindness will make a difference in religious depictions of atheists.”

    Hear Hear. These people despise atheists utterly and will *never* reciprocate your respect. The only thing that they will accept is your submission and accpetance of their beliefs as correct. Your tolerance of them is misplaced and it’s time you wised up the nature of the cultural conflict that is taking place.

  51. #51 negentropyeater
    August 8, 2008

    The lessons learned by Blacks and Gays should not be lost on Atheists. Being nice does not get you acceptance. Only a fool ignores history.

    Agree with first and third propositions.
    But the lessons learned from both cases is not that “Being nice does not get you acceptance”. But “Being nice ONLY does not get you acceptance. Neither being angry ONLY. Actually the lessons learned are that a diversity of approaches, a nice one, a less nice one, and an angry one, is what gets you acceptance. And full acceptance is not yet achieved. Stimulating diversity of approaches is the real key to success.”

    Only a fool ignores history.

  52. #52 Jeanette Garcia
    August 8, 2008

    I’ve been brow-beaten and fed a fairy tale by christians and catholics for most of my life. Finally, as a senior I am glad to my find some one like PZ, who is not afraid to say, “The Emperor has no clothes.” Religious groups need to have their feathers ruffled. They have certainly intruded into my space for more than enough years. I’m an atheist, and I’m proud.

  53. #53 scooter
    August 8, 2008

    Right.

    And I’m going to stop identifying myself as a Peace Activist because somebody burned a flag and a bunch of paper patriots had a hissy fit.

    ————————–

    New Atheists for Dummies pt8 Ray Comfort,Christopher Hitchens
    KPFT Houston

  54. #54 FO
    August 8, 2008

    @Oran Kelley:

    I think it’s pretty hopeless to write on this topic around here–PZ’s core audience is a bunch of adolescents and suspended adolescents, deeply Oedipal types who love atheism primarily because they think it upsets someone–they think it’s some kind of rebellion.

    Wow, way to advance your agenda through proper “framing”. In one stroke, you paint the majority of Pharyngula readers as something they’re not, and licking Nisbet’s ass by essentially saying, “Yeah, we’re the good guys. We’re not the same as those kids over there!” What a brilliant display of your “framing” abilities!

    They and the rabid fundies are counterparts–the atheists while constantly crowing about their intellectual superiority, are nearly all intellectual mediocrities who don’t read well and can rarely make anything but the grossest kind of distinction.

    You don’t go to Pharyngula often, do you? Do you even bother to read the comments there? The overwhelming majority of commenters there are more than capable of writing complete sentences by which they express their opinions on a certain topic. Moreover, most of them also seem quite able to apply reason to their arguments and opinions. They are also quite capable of differentiating between the rabid fundies (who crawl out from under their rocks whenever something like Crackergate comes up) and the honestly curious believers who wish to learn more about atheism and atheists. Apparently it is not the Pharyngula readers/commenters who are incapable of “anything but the grossest kind of distinction.”

    @Nisbet
    If an atheist blogger were to put up an article equating all Catholics/Catholicism to Hitler, the Inquisition, or some other despicable person/institute which happened to be Catholic, you would be shouting your mouth off about how the atheist blogger is “ruining the image of atheism”, and you would be right. But if it’s the National Catholic Register posting a dishonest, biased, and clearly misinformed portrayal of atheism, which more or less equates all atheists with PZ Myers, it’s somehow PZ Myers’s< 'I> fault?!?

    I have read many of your writings on this “atheism image” topic, and the only message I’m getting is, “No, no, no, everything everyone else is doing is wrong, wrong, wrong!”, without even a hint as to what you think is right. Frankly, your critics appear to be better communicators and framers than yourself. Perhaps it’s time you stop embarrassing yourself any further by posting your unreasonable tirades against PZ Myers and the “New Atheists”.

  55. #55 RBH
    August 8, 2008

    Nisbet should visit my local school district where the fundamentalists have been trying to jam creationism into the public schools and who are running political interference for a science teacher who for years has been operating what amounts to a fundamentalist Christian private school embedded in the public school system. Without benefit of appearances by PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins, the “atheist” epithet is tossed around as an insult, stuffed in the face not only of the few genuine atheists here but also of the moderate Christians who oppose the fundamentalists’ efforts.

    Nisbet lives in an academic fantasy world. He apparently believes that this is some sort of rational discussion with people who are susceptible to reason, and that calm discourse with fundamentalist loons is an effective strategy. Well, come on down here, bunky, and reason rationally with the Christian Dominionists who are infecting my school district.

    I note with interest and not a little disdain that Nisbet was pusillanimous enough to post this on the day when, as was publicly announced on Pharyngula, PZ left the country for a trip to the Galapagos and will have spotty web access. That’s just plain chickenshit, Nisbet.

    I also call attention to Afarensis’ remarks on Nisbet’s post. His invocation of the “Willy Horton” tactic is exactly on point here. If what Nisbet has posted above is an appropriate application of “framing” then I want nothing to do with it.

    Richard B. Hoppe, Ph.D.

  56. #56 Eric
    August 8, 2008

    The original article is exactly right. You atheists should just shut up and stop trying to make waves. America was founded as a Christian nation, and that’s why we slap you down when you speak out like PZ. If you want to fit in, stop broadcasting your faith in being descended from monkeys.

  57. #57 Jim Harrison
    August 8, 2008

    Your characterization of the atheists you don’t like isn’t framing. It’s vicious stereotyping. I bet you could do a good job on Jews or blacks if you put your mind to it.

  58. #58 Jon W
    August 8, 2008

    Do we really want a group of moderately religious Americans–who polls show otherwise prize science, reason, and stand for many of the same values that we hold dear–to think of us through the prism of PZ Myers?

    You worry that these people who “prize science and reason” are incapable of distinguishing one atheist from another. Is that not a little bit patronizing? Why do you insist that atheism needs a single representative?

  59. #59 decrepitoldfool
    August 8, 2008

    Not this again! When you were a child did you touch the hot stove over and over until your mother tied you to the chair?

    I’m a pretty mellow atheist, generally polite and respectful though uncompromising that theism is nonsense. But y’know who convinced me that there really is a place, even a need, for the fire-breathing atheist monster in this world? You did, Matt. Well, you and Ben Stein.

    Keep up the good work. You’ll have PZ on the cover of Time before you know it.

  60. #60 syntyche
    August 8, 2008

    Seriously Nisbet, you’re an atheist — if you don’t like how we’re being represented, then step up to the fucking plate and actually contribute something other than criticisms about what everyone else is doing. Stop telling us what we “should” be doing and actually do it. I think you’re a pretty smart guy, despite what PZ et al may think. You could be an asset to atheists, but this blame game bullshit is getting boring and old. Put up or shut up.

  61. #61 Jim G
    August 8, 2008

    “Framing” indeed. I am infinitely delighted to see yet another post following up on the transparently personal grudge Nisbet has against PZ. Please, everyone on all sides, let it go, and move on.

  62. #62 Azkyroth
    August 8, 2008

    A few quotes on-topic, since I don’t want to bother with this right now:

    “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” -Martin Luther King

    “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” -Frederick Douglass

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana

    Mr. Nisbet, you and yours are repeating the past.

    Give it a rest.

  63. #63 Slaughter
    August 8, 2008

    I don’t have any problem being around religious people, as my family on both sides is full of them. But they also hold other beliefs that I regard as odd: That ghosts exist, that there is something to astrology, and that Saddam spirited away his WMD to Syria and was involved in 9/11.
    Should I politely avoid discussing any of these matters, or shall I challenge them with reason, rationality and evidence?
    PZ Myers is hardly “irrational” or “hate-filled” from what I’ve read. He would just like some evidence, and like most atheists, this one included, he has seen none of it in his lifetime. Nor have I.

  64. #64 Whateverman
    August 8, 2008

    It’s a bit disingenuous to claim PZ represents some significant sect of atheism.

    Obviously, you haven’t spent much time in alt.atheism, as it’s contained every kind of “non-believer” you could possibly imagine for the last 20 years. Yes, I know because I’ve spent time there.

    I applaud the idea that groups should focus on their similarities rather than their differences. But I think you’ve been sniffing the glue a bit too much by trying to paint Crackergate as indicative of anything more than Debate On Teh Internets

  65. #65 brent
    August 8, 2008

    Mr. Nisbet,

    Your argument seems to be poorly conceived and frankly, based upon some pretty questionable premises.

    The central issue seems to be how atheism can position itself for more respect within the public discourse. Unfortunately your examples don’t carry this argument very well especially since they focus more on disparate reactions from entirely different quarters to particular examples of atheism rather than illustrating how any disparity in the approaches to atheism themselves evoke those reactions.

    Fact is, I mostly have no problem with PZ and I find all the hand wringing over his clearly stated opinions to be puzzling. He certainly, like many bloggers, does go over the top from time to time although not nearly as much as his critics seem to believe. But whatever. If you want to argue that PZ should be more politic than hey… good luck. It seems silly to me but its your time and effort.

    Now I don’t really know much about what goes on in the camp you describe. If the camp promotes open mindedness or community than that is wonderful. If it somehow influences the public perception of atheism positively than I am sure PZ and all the so-called new atheists would happily get behind it. I have never seen PZ or anyone else suggest that atheists should shun some sort of positive community advocacy.

    But at bottom, atheism is a belief that will always clash with the Bill Donohue’s of the world. Atheists believe that it really is just a cracker and at some point the kids in that camp are going to have to address that issue or one very much like it. When they do, the Catholic Register will also not be writing very nice things about them, camp or no camp. Maybe I am wrong about that but I highly doubt it and you certainly don’t provide any evidence to the contrary in this post.

    As an aside, I think you should keep in mind that Bill Donohue, who you quote as some sort of evidence of how PZ is publicly perceived, is a complete nut. He goes into fits of apoplectic outrage every month of the year over perceived slights to his belief system. I have seen the man on tv drunkenly threatening to physically assault an artist who did a sculpture of Jesus in chocolate. I think if you spend about 3 minutes looking, you will probably find plenty of Catholics who think of Donohue as an absolute embarrassment.

  66. #66 Somite
    August 9, 2008

    The point of emphasis is that there is no god, right? Are you going to propose an alternative logical point of view? I didn’t think so. Good. Now we have a starting point.

  67. #67 Brad
    August 9, 2008

    If Bill Donohue of the Catholic League described PZ as irrational, dogmatic and hate-filled, it says more about Bill Donohue than about PZ Myers. Project much, Bill?

    Some ideas really are so silly they deserve to be made fun of.

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2008/07/14/mass/

  68. #68 Tulse
    August 9, 2008

    The pearl-clutching is getting really tiresome. How about doing something that promotes your positive program, rather than solely complaining about what other folks are doing?

  69. #69 Ralph Dosser
    August 9, 2008

    Mother Jones, you scare people, so just stand in the back and don’t say anything, OK? And Frederick Douglass, would it kill you to smile?

  70. #70 Azkyroth
    August 9, 2008

    Nisbett, all they are doing are writing stuff. Shouldn’t people be able to express their opinions?

    Expressing one’s opinion that others shouldn’t express (or hold) certain opinions does not imply support for actually preventing others from doing so. Why do so many seemingly sentient organisms need this basic concept explained to them?

  71. #71 Tulse
    August 9, 2008

    But we also have a lot of lousy self-proclaimed spokespeople who do damage to our public image. They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners

    Hmm…both PZ and Dawkins have been very explicit that they are not spokespersons in any formal sense. Both PZ and Dawkins have hugely successful public careers with substantial audiences (PZ has perhaps the most popular science blog on the planet, and Dawkins has regularly had best-sellers, and is in high demand as a speaker). And both PZ and Dawkins are married (the latter to an actress and former Dr. Who “companion”), and both have children.

    So I don’t get where you can describe these two as “self-proclaimed spokespeople” who are “uncharismatic” and “loners”. That’s a clumsy attempt at a frame, and is simply false.

  72. #72 miller
    August 9, 2008

    Posting this as soon as PZ goes on vacation? I do not think the timing is coincidental. Dishonest tactics, Matt, dishonest tactics.

  73. #73 rcn2
    August 9, 2008

    Those kids look bored out of their skulls.

    I am extremely thankful for the clear and direct support given to atheists by those such as Myers and Dawkins.

    Nisbet’s childish image and rantings seem to betray a fundamental difference in philosophy. Nisbet believes in ‘framing’, or “spin”, and thus concentrates on trying to ‘frame’ those he disagrees with rather than dealing with the issues. The evil atheists he disagrees with tend to focus on evidence, truth, and science, and are unabashedly enthusiastic about it.

    I, for one, had enough time in the atheist closet. I wish more atheists wore scarlet ‘A’ shirts when I was a teenager and was told that even questioning God was evil.

    This article clearly outlines a problem with atheism, but it’s not the “dark under belly of atheism” that Nisbet abhors. It’s Nisbet himself, preferring that atheists kept to the closets, or at the very least shutting up and not offending anyone.

    Sorry Nisbet, but no thanks. I couldn’t imagine a worse role model than your vision of atheism.

    Cheers,

    rcn2

  74. #74 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    August 9, 2008

    Have you ever read “The Scarlet Letter”?

    If you have, I think you missed the point.

    If you really are an atheist then you have also missed that point apparently. Atheism is not a philosophy or system of ethics or anything of the sort, it is a simple statement of fact, there is/are no god/s. Therefore all religion is revealed for what it is, a confidence game. And it is big, big business. It makes the oil companies look like pikers.

    So you are intimidated by the religiots and your “solution” to being intimidated is to consent to it. You clearly do not understand what occurred regarding Dr. Myers confrontation with the catholics. That is plausible because you have obviously never had the courage to confront beligerant gangsters.

    While it may be true that the majority of people deluded by the catholic flavor of the con game are moderate and circumspect individuals, Dr. Myers showed unambiguously that some catholics are insanely jealous of their hegemony.

    The fact that you fail to understand this point, makes me wonder whether your self-professed “beliefs” are sincere and foundational, or whether you are just trading on the fringe of the culture wars.

    It is telling that you don’t seem to be able to distinguish between scorn for a fanciful and patently false idea, and death threats from delusional victims of history’s greatest crime, religion. This apology of yours is just pathetic.

    In my opinion you are pandering to the scam artists simply because you know they are the majority. If you truly can reason, then you are a coward, if you cannot, well, then you are just another fool.

    Regards,

  75. #75 AK47
    August 9, 2008

    PZ is a self-proclaimed spokesperson for atheism? Could you please point out where he makes such a proclamation, or are you just being misleading on this point because deception is part of your framing strategy?

    I thought PZ was just a Professor with a popular blog. I thought that there could be a wide variety of atheist viewpoints and we didn’t all have to speak as a monolithic voice and have strategy meetings about talking points.

    This is just your latest whiny plea for PZ to shut up because you don’t like what he has to say. Instead of whining that he does atheists more harm than good, why don’t you go out and do more good so we can all emulate you.

    Stop focusing on the superficialities and talk about the substance. Make a convincing argument for why you think that the Catholic belief that a cracker turns into Jesus is something that PZ should take so seriously that he shouldn’t dare toss one into the garbage.

  76. #76 Matt Platte
    August 9, 2008

    Wow, I *am* impressed! Some of your detractors say you filter comments for content but I was skeptical. Now I see that they are correct. Remarkable!

    I’m just beginning to see where I got my framing all wrong from the get-go. You see, I’d been focused on the “science” part and really paid little attention to the “journalist” side of the equation. But if I substitute Friedman, Jokeline, Novak or that “Joe” guy that has some morning TV show where he blathers on about the Cheetos Brigade (I’m sure you know who he is) — if I just pretend than any one of a thousand talking heads is running this blog, why, then everything falls into place, including the editing of comments.

    Well, toodle-oo, hope things work out for ya.

  77. #77 Equisetum
    August 9, 2008

    The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”…the list goes on.

    This is also the dominant image many people have of religion. Having lived twenty years in the buckle of the bible belt I’d have to say it’s pretty accurate. Far more so than as a description of atheists, who, in my experience tend to be more tolerant, understanding, open-minded and forgiving. And usually just plain smarter.

  78. #78 Autumn
    August 9, 2008

    Shorter Nisbett:
    Rosa Parks should have gone to the back of the bus, and not made the good, servile Negroes look bad.

  79. #79 RayvenAlandria
    August 9, 2008

    You have to be kidding me. You think catholics are tolerate and mainstream? I might believe that if droves of them came out publicly to denounce the ones of their flock who send death threats over crackers. It didn’t happen and it won’t.

    For the moron who thinks Atheists have not been treated as badly as gays and blacks. (or whatever stupidity it was you spouted) I have many, many personal stories to tell you that might change your mind. My children and I have been run off the road, have had guns pulled on us, have been ridiculed and insulted on countless occasions, have actually been denied service by certain institutions, and I have even been physically assaulted because we are Atheists. How did people know we were Atheists? Because I had the audacity to advertise the Atheist group I ran by placing magnetic stickers on my truck. I am a 5’ft 3″ 110 lb female who has had grown men attack me for my lack of belief in their fairy tales. Am I fed up? You bet I am.

    Start wearing a shirt that says “Proud Atheist” or something similar, you will quickly change your mind and come to realize that Atheists are treated with contempt and we are commonly abused. Those that aren’t are in the closet or are lucky enough to live in a place where they are accepted. (Tell me where that is and I will frikkin’ move there)

    We are tired of living in the closet. Some are angry and look as though they are picking a fight but they are not, they are just tired of taking the abuse. I respect men like PZ who will stand up and take the heat (and the death threats). Things will not change until we make them change.

  80. #80 Fedaykin
    August 9, 2008

    Nisbet, you are a complete hypocrite. Your method of trying to convince people to be polite and respectful to people they disagree with is to be rude and disrespectful to them?

    Seriously, saying that people who disagree with your ideas are “usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners” is nothing more than a pathetic ad hominem attack and in writing that way you are doing EXACTLY that which you claim is the wrong thing to do.

    What a joke.

  81. #81 cactusren
    August 9, 2008

    I’m all for being polite and friendly towards everyone (theistic or not), unless they threaten myself or others with harm. And that’s where I think you’ve missed the point, Nisbet. PZ was acting in response to the incident at Central Florida University, where a student was accosted for taking a communion wafer back to his seat to show to his friend who was curious about Catholocism. He then left the service with the wafer. http://www.wftv.com/news/16798008/detail.html

    Subsequently, there were calls for him to be expelled, and even death threats. In such a situation, you surely don’t expect us to sit back, smile and be friendly, do you?

  82. #82 nervouswreck
    August 9, 2008

    Whether you stand up and yell “I am an ATHIEST!” or just just peek out and say “I don’t believe” what does it matter? As long as you are willing to state your beliefs, who else can condemn you? Whether you find it comforting or abrasive, that is your point of view. I for one, don’t care. “I yam what I yam.” Popeye.

  83. #83 eduxrox
    August 9, 2008

    “standing for something, rather than just against something”

    Believers don’t stand for anything (real). When they bring their bizarre speculation into public decision making, their irrational argumentation must be refuted or we will suffer the consequences.

    The nature of the problem is that believers postulate the existence of entities beyond the common realm of the verifiable experience we all share. When believers try to influence public decisions with these imaginary entities, there is we *can* pretend to not hear them an continue with our rational approach. But it would silly not to actively engage the superstition, and expose it for what they is. Feigning “respect” for religion and other delusions is would give the delusions unnecessary weight in the decision making process.

    And I agree that atheism is not a good description of what most atheists are for and against. Most atheists are not only against theism, or even supernaturalisms, but against flimsy and wishful argumentation in general. Theism is just one of the illusions we must counteract. We shouldn’t dignify that particular delusion by labeling us as against *it* specifically. Rationalism or something similar would describe our attitude better.

  84. #84 Stauffenberg
    August 9, 2008

    PZ is honest, he spews what atheists really think, and makes it clear why no atheist is fit for political office.

    More power to him!

  85. #85 Tony Sidaway
    August 9, 2008

    Matt, I guess the next thing we need to do is to get the atheist Pope to issue an edict excommunicating all those unfriendly atheists who let us down.

    Oh wait…

  86. #86 The Chimp's Raging Id
    August 9, 2008

    “I’m an atheist…but a friendly atheist.”

    I’m sorry but that’s just feeble. It sounds as if you’re apologising for your lack of religious belief. Why? Call yourself and atheist and leave it at that.

    They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners

    Angry and grumpy I can understand. That’s a product of reacting to religion invading public policy, polluting young minds and then claiming special dispensation from any form of criticism. As for being uncharismatic loners, who exactly are you referring to? We must be thinking of different people.

    The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”…the list goes on.

    Umm… what exactly did you expect? I will give that article credit for allowing PZ to articulate his position, and I believe he did so directly and honestly. We can’t be held responsible for how other perceive us; our only duty is to tell what we believe to be the truth and back that up with evidence and reasoned arguments. The problem, as numerous others have already pointed out, is that we’re dealing with people who take offence the moment any criticism is levelled at their beliefs, however “respectfully” and politely such criticism is presented.

    This is the “new atheism” that we should promote, not an image of attacks and intolerance.

    How about attacks on intolerance? Would they be acceptable? The problem we face is that the most vocal members of any group tend to be those who hold the most extreme views. In the case of the loudly religious and self-righteous, they are unfortunately gaining far too much control over public policy and debate. For the sceptic/pro-science viewpoint to be heard, we need people who are prepared the make their points with equal volume, but unlike their ideological opponents, to do so backed up with the full force of evidence and critical thought.

    Finally, I thought deliberately choosing a picture of PZ looking like he’d just rolled out of bed and juxtaposing it against DJ Grothe looking dapper to be rather cheap and unnecessary.

  87. #87 jagannath
    August 9, 2008

    Moderates never change anything. They sit quietly and hope that no one ask them anything, specially their opinions or even ask them to make a judgment.

    Moderate christians, muslims, atheist and others are not moderate in the sense they would not be excessive but in a sense they want to have the prestige, protection and power of the group without the efforts which the more radical groups are willing to put into their beliefs.

    If one merely sits in the sideline and looks, one forfeits the right to be considered part of the team. You may complain but unless you act, your complaints are merely rethorics.

  88. #88 Lee Harrison
    August 9, 2008

    Matt, you’re way off base and the message is getting old – as has been said by many others so far. For myself, I just wonder if anyone else noticed how utterly bored those teenage girls appear to be. I present science in front of crowds of a wide variety of sizes and a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, etc – if the best photo I could find of me doing my stuff had an audience looking that ‘rivetted’, I’d have given up by now.

    I like DJ, I listen to his podcast every week, I usually agree with him – but calm and quiet can’t change society, no matter how good it is at building on the changes achieved by the loud and proud.

    And can we cut the ‘Don Imus’ references? You’re starting to look like a Don Imus Framer…

  89. #89 Robin Levett
    August 9, 2008

    Matt:

    By quoting what Jeff Gardner and Bill Donohue have said in this hatchet-job with approval – as a reasonable reaction to PZ’s challenging of many Catholics’ view that death threats are an appropriate reaction for the offence of taking the host back to one’s pew – you are framing them as the voice of reason. Was that your intent?

  90. #90 brtkrbzhnv
    August 9, 2008

    I doubt that our so-called spokespeople got themselves into that position by being uncharismatic loners. Loners rarely seek the limelight, and the uncharismatic rarely get it.

    And atheism isn’t about hate or community or any of that bullcrap � all it’s about is not believing in any goddesses or gods.

  91. #91 Robin Levett
    August 9, 2008

    @Matt:

    …or, to put it another way, why are you framing this as “even his fellow atheists think that Myers’s actions were beyond the pale”, rather than “while I believe that Myers’s actions were over the top, his underlying point is sound – the Catholic church should be condemning the threats to Webster Cook’s life and future career (and to PZ’s), and Bill Donohue who has encouraged those threats”.

    What has made you choose the frame that puts atheists, even if only by association with Myers, in the dock? Why not the frame that puts the Catholic “terrorists” there?

  92. #92 infidel.michael
    August 9, 2008

    There are many faces of atheism (from angry cracker-desecrating monsters to moderate friendly skeptics), but you’ll never see friendly atheist in any Catholic magazine. They just need to feel persecuted and hunted, there will never be a positive image of atheists among believers – that would lead to end of religion and the shepherds know it.

  93. #93 steve_h
    August 9, 2008

    The guys responsible for the National Catholic Register must be very good at framing. They had PZ on their radio show before they wrote that and far from “miss[ing] out on working together with religious communities around shared common values and problems”, they seemed to get along just fine.

    At the end they thanked PZ and father Loya said they and PZ were fellow travellers, searching for honesty, asking questions etc., and PZ was a gift because he gave them a chance to look at themselves and so on.

  94. #94 PZ Myers
    August 9, 2008

    Whoa…for the “picture of atheism” you choose a very poor photo of me looking dopey and laughing and holding a teddy bear, and you use that to justify the stereotype of angry, cranky, hateful atheists?

    It would have been more justifiable to use it in an article ranting about how atheists are not pretty and have bad hair.

  95. #95 rationalSheep
    August 9, 2008

    hmmm, is that the best pic of PZ you could find? Oh wait, to fit your “frame” it must have been the worst…

    If you want to lift the lowest common denominator, your ought not to employ the techniques of those who target it.

  96. #96 Rob Knop
    August 9, 2008

    When trying to make comparisons between atheists and gays, bear in mind that even if it was the “out there” gays who made more difference (something I have not seen proof of), those gays were demanding to be recognized for what they were… but they were **not** also, by and large, saying “and those of you who are straight are deluded, stupid, ignorant fools mired in the dark ages. Only people who are gay are right.”

    That’s where the comparison between the asshole wing of the atheist movement and the “out there” wing of the gay rights movement breaks down.

    By all means, be out there and talk about atheism, and demand that atheists should get as much respect as anybody else. But do it like Sean Carroll or Matthew Nisbet– engage people in discussion, don’t engage them in self-aggrandizing childish insults the way PZ does. As a coworker of mine said, it’s important to know the difference between being a skeptic and being a dick about religion.

  97. #97 kate corwyn
    August 9, 2008

    The same sort of comments were made about feminists in the 1960s/70s but with hindsight it is clear that without the stridency the case would never have come to the attention of the average male chauvinist pig or his wife, nor would most of the anti-discrimination laws have been passed. Atheism is at a similar stage, we need those who shout loudly at the front in order to clear the way for the less pugilistic amongst us. You might also consider that by not being prepared to express our opinions in public that we are giving the religious dictators free rein to continue their ways and to claim authority over all of us.

  98. #98 Paul Hands
    August 9, 2008

    Nisbet,

    Flatly put, you’re wrong. I’m with Dawkins and PZ on this front : we MUST shout and protest and ridicule. Otherwise indifference rolls over us and we get ignored.

  99. #99 iRobot
    August 9, 2008

    Yes, I agree, by having an opinion different from the masses I am the problem and should be reeducated, NOT!

    Seriously, if PZ was some monk or priest, would anyone make an issue of the beard? No, he would be some spiritual savant. That’s framing for you!

  100. #100 Science Avenger
    August 9, 2008

    Oran made shit up thusly: PZ’s core audience is a bunch of adolescents and suspended adolescents, deeply Oedipal types who love atheism primarily because they think it upsets someone–they think it’s some kind of rebellion.

    Do you guys really think weaving this fiction in the place of sound argument is going to persuade anyone of anything? Pathetic is too elevated a term for this nonsense. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes of actually reading the comments on Pharyngula to see how completely full of it you are. You can’t make a logical argument based on actual evidence, so you make shit up. VERY boring.

  101. #101 Jason Streitfeld
    August 9, 2008

    I looks to me like Matt Nisbet has little concern for the political, scientific, or philosophical details involved here, and would rather try to make a name for himself with vague and dubious assertions about the “new atheists,” instead of tackling any of the issues invovled in the debate between science and religion.

    Who are these “self-proclaimed spokespeople,” these “male loners” he is talking about?

    The fact that Nisbet only targets PZ Myers leads me to think he is merely trying to compete with Myers for attention within the science blog community. I’m not impressed.

    Incidentally, I do have some issues with atheism as a political movement today. It’s not that its leaders are too unfriendly, intolerant, or scathing; it’s that it isn’t always focused where and how it should be.

    Atheism should be more focused on deflating the absurd NOMA principle which stifles public discourse and education–not by blindly attacking any and all perceived threats, such as attempts to bring ID into the classroom; and not simply by increasing awareness of the case for evolutionary theory; but by working towards bringing critical discussions of religion into our science curriculum. Religion should not be protected from public criticism, and that includes the public classroom.

  102. #102 benjdm
    August 9, 2008

    I’ll take this as a concrete example of what framing should be. In response to the Webster Cook incident, where a student at UCF treated freely distributed bread as freely distributed bread, PZ made the ‘error’ of protesting and getting criticized for it. Nisbet employed the ‘correct’ response of not protesting.

    I’ll take not being a doormat, thanks.

  103. #103 debaser71
    August 9, 2008

    There room for all sort of atheists and personalities and ways to inspire and motivate people. Some people don’t react to politeness, others do. SOme people need to be motivated in a way that appeals to them. IMO to insist “atheists should do this this and this but not this this and this” is naive, short sighted, foolish and ironically comes across as “holier than thou”.

    Change comes from all angles. If someone is a bit harsh for your tastes, instead of bashing them for it, step into the gap they create for you.

  104. #104 negentropyeater
    August 9, 2008

    I’ve tried to post 2 comments : one is #26 here at 7:58 PM yesterday, the other #88 at 9:53 PM.

    It is now 14:07 PM next day. I don’t know if and when this comment will end up being posted. I’ve posted all three at the respective times on Pharyngula.

    Your comment policy is :
    “Keep it substantive, serious minded, on topic, and respectful.”

    So, I believe I fit that policy. If you can’t check the comments and delay posting so much, it’s just unacceptable.

    I think I’m going to send a complaint to the seed overloards. This is not acceptable of a member of scienceblog, if you want to manage your blog that way, take a blogger account and let it die of inattention. You benefit from the scienceblog pool, and from the increased traffic from Pharyngula, but give a very bad image of scienceblog and gives a shit of the commenters. What’s that for a scienceblog ?

    Also, I’ve noted your post about how influential you thnk you are on the 3 July. Based on this stupid ranking from Wikio that only counts links and not number of comments at all.

    So you really do not care at all about comments, do you ?

    Also, Danio yesterday posted a link to this post, hey that just increased your ranking so much, because Pharyngula is so high on the list, you should be happy no ? That’s probably the only reason you’re even on that list, because many Pharyngula commenters post links to your blog posts they find the most inadequate in their comments on Pharyngula.

    Would you care to check if my hypothesis is correct ? Is that how you define yourself as one of the top influencial Science blogs, based on how many commenters are pissed of by your posts and inadvertently link to them on their comments on Pharyngula ?

  105. #105 negentropyeater
    August 9, 2008

    Why did you delete 2 out of the 3 comments I posted ?

  106. #106 Joel
    August 9, 2008

    Jesus Christ Matt, the religious freaks have been killing people since the dawn of time over their beliefs, and continue to do so. You want to rant about people expessing their distaste for religion in an unfriendly manner?

    “I’m a friendly athiest” OMG.

    There’s a place for people like PZ in the dialog, just as there is a place for people like you who want to sit around the camp fire singing Kumbaya.

  107. #107 John
    August 9, 2008

    Rob Knop –

    Apples and oranges. No, the “out-there” gays are not saying that straight people are stupid or ignorant or stuck in the dark ages, but I think they are saying that about homophobes. Just like these high-profile atheists mock and challenge people’s religious beliefs, so do these proud queers (and their straight supporters) mock and challenge people’s sexual beliefs (which incidentally are largely rooted in religion).

    Calling people stupid or ignorant based on sexuality is just silly and indefensible since sexuality is not a consciously-selected worldview (unless you’d like to claim that?). Religion, however, is an intellectual decision and is thus open to such criticism.

  108. #108 Anna K.
    August 9, 2008

    Those who make positive impacts in their communities, without hiding who they are, and without bashing those who think differently, are the real movement heroes, and the ones who change most hearts and minds. I see it in my church: the presence of several gay couples who are active and involved has caused other members to rethink their prejudices as well as their theologies. I did not grow up with a negative impression of atheists because I have family members who are atheists and who do not feel the need to put down those of us who are not. I think it’s a stretch to say that insulting and offending people provides cognitive dissonance: what it does, in my observation, is simply to alienate people and shut down the dialogue.

    If you want to cause real cognitive dissonance, I think the answer is to act in positive ways and still be open about who you are. It’s hard for people to dismiss someone who has worked with them to create something good. It causes people to rethink their prejudices about certain groups, when, say, someone who is known to be a Christian gets out there and supports gay rights, or someone who is known to be an atheist volunteers at the soup kitchen. If someone is friendly and their life seems to cause cognitive dissonance for those around them, the next step for some is to ask that interesting, approachable person more about it, and after that people start to rethink their ideas about what Christians or gays or atheists are really like. Cognitive dissonance is productive when it can pair up with curiosity and a real exchange of ideas. otoh I’ve noticed that anger and insults just shut people down, without changing prejudices.

  109. #109 J. J. Ramsey
    August 9, 2008

    Jim1138: “The lessons learned by Blacks and Gays should not be lost on Atheists. Being nice does not get you acceptance. Only a fool ignores history.”

    That depends entirely on what you mean by “nice.” If by “nice,” you mean unobtrusive or not disruptive in some way, then yes. If by “nice,” you simply mean being friendly or kind, then you are talking nonsense. It is thoroughly possible to be forceful without treating one’s opponents with hatred and contempt.

    Nisbet: “They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion for attacking and ridiculing religious believers.”

    You should have stopped at “grumpy.” Myers may not be too charismatic in person, but his writing certainly gets attention, and there is no question that Dawkins has charisma. Neither of them are loners.

  110. #110 unicow
    August 9, 2008

    There’s a reason that when people ask me what I believe I have to say with a smile: “I’m an atheist…but a friendly atheist.”

    I hope that’s a joke, because otherwise that’s a really terrible way to promote the idea that atheists are normal, friendly people. You’re implicitly suggesting to everyone who asks you about your beliefs that while you are friendly, most atheists are not.

    If an atheist introduces himself/herself this way to someone who already has a negative opinion of atheists then your statement would do nothing but support that opinion. To those without a negative view of atheists, it would promote one. To most atheists, you’d just come off as decidedly unfriendly.

    Should Muslims say “I’m a Muslim… but not a terrorist”?

  111. #111 Matt Penfold
    August 9, 2008

    By all means, be out there and talk about atheism, and demand that atheists should get as much respect as anybody else. But do it like Sean Carroll or Matthew Nisbet– engage people in discussion, don’t engage them in self-aggrandizing childish insults the way PZ does. As a coworker of mine said, it’s important to know the difference between being a skeptic and being a dick about religion.

    And remember, people should not get upset when an official of the Catholic Church assaults a member of the congregation simply for having the gall to return to their seat without first eating the wafer. Also they should not get upset when a diocesan spokesperson calls failing to eat the wafer a hate crime. It was not the assault by the Church that was the crime (the person who assaulted Webster Cook was a Eucharist Minister, thus making them an official of the Church and making the Church responsible for their actions when acting in that role), it was the failing to eat the wager and leaving with it after the assault that the Catholic Church officially called a hate crime.

    But still why should I complain about all this. Knopp, Nisbett et al are all too willing to blame the victim and those who stand up against the physical and verbal bullying of the Catholic Church. I note neither Knopp nor Nisbett have being willing to make such a stand.

  112. #112 Jim Lippard
    August 9, 2008

    I agree with Corey about preferring “skeptic” over “atheist” as my own self-identifying label, for the reasons he gives. “Skeptic” describes what I’m for, rather than what I’m against, and also describes a methodology and attitude rather than a dogma. I’m also happy to be labeled as an atheist, and to identify myself as such. But I could imagine becoming persuaded that some kind of god exists (e.g., through a religious experience), in which case I’d still be a skeptic even though I’d cease to be an atheist. Skepticism is something that there’s value in promoting for everyone.

    But I strongly disagree with Nisbet’s repeated false dilemmas–that you must either do this *or* that, and implying that we can’t endorse both or a sufficient diversity of views that allows both. We can, and I do.

  113. #113 MYOB
    August 9, 2008

    I’m a bit late to this conversation but if I can contribute anything I think the problem here is Mr. Nisbets belief that atheists can be accommodated by believers if only they were nicer and less ‘in-your-face.’
    I would like to remind people of the polls that were taken some while back where people were asked about the types of people they would accept as president or otherwise leaders of their country. The results were overwhelmingly against atheists and even suggested most americans would prefer a gay person than an atheist! So why would that be so?
    How do believers, or perhaps the less exposed believers, get or form their opinions about atheists?
    My answer would be what they think atheism is. It is my opinion that people look at atheism, not as a general sense of godlessness but rather a rejection of god. If we were to try and correct them by adding that it’s not about their god or someone else’s but the whole concept of gods or religion they would still see this as a rejection of ‘their’ god.
    And in their mythology the idea of rejecting god was done by only one other and thus atheism has become tantamount to devil worship. They cannot see it as being god-less, to them this is impossible. For them atheism is a religion, not the absence of religion so they will always see atheism as a religion and that it is the deceptive religion of the devil who rejected god.
    The reasons why they cannot see the simple differences are probably too many to discuss here but I have no choice at this point but to offend some by saying that delusional and weak-minded are the descriptions that first come to mind.
    I would also add that these attitudes are nationwide and thus cannot be entirely due to their having seen or met Dawkins and/or Myers.
    This does not suggest they are stupid. But there is a difference between being smart and being able to see past superstition.

    In conclusion though it is obvious to me that there are different types of believers out there. Some less dogmatic and more laid back who don’t really care what atheists think and do as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But the people writing these articles and people like Donohue(sp?) are not them. These are not the people we should be looking for acceptance from in the slightest nor should we care what they think of us cause in their minds we are destroyers simply for being, not because of what we say or do.

    MYOB’
    .

  114. #114 eduxrox
    August 9, 2008

    “Gays […] were **not** also, by and large, saying “and those of you who are straight are deluded, stupid, ignorant fools mired in the dark ages”.”

    On the issue of contention, their right to live as gays, they were indeed saying that the other side was wrong. We should also point out that theists are wrong, whenever we fear that their delusions may influence our lives.

  115. #115 Jim Lippard
    August 9, 2008

    Matt: Have you read Susan Jacoby’s book _Freethinkers_?

    That book describes several occurrences in the fight for the abolition of slavery and the right to vote for blacks and women where a moderate compromise group achieved success while more extreme factions were marginalized. But it’s likely that much of the motivation for the movements in the first place came from members of the extreme factions.

    Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wanted to tie the black vote and women’s vote together, while William Lloyd Garrison (himself one of the extremists on the abolition of slavery) supported the 15th Amendment (black right to vote) without modifying it to support universal suffrage. Anthony and Stanton disagreed about the role of religion; Anthony was willing to make common cause with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. That got the 19th Amendment passed–but also the 18th (Prohibition) and the imposition of censorship laws.

    In the early 19th century, would you have told Garrison to shut up? In the late 19th and early 20th, would you have told Stanton to shut up? If not, why do you tell atheist critics of religion to shut up?

    I also don’t understand your apparent endorsement of a wild-eyed kook like Bill Donohue as a spokesman for all Catholics, though it looks like another example of the same mistake you make in characterizing P.Z. Myers as a spokesman for all atheists.

  116. #116 RBH
    August 9, 2008

    Since the comment I left here 14 hours ago apparently didn’t make it through Nisbet’s moderation frame, I mirrored it on Afarensis.

  117. #117 greg laden
    August 9, 2008

    Matt,

    That picture of PZ is hysterical! I think he’s got a pretty bad internet connection in the Galapagos, but when he comes back maybe he’ll have a chance to see it.

    Here is my view of your comments.

  118. #118 Ophelia Benson
    August 9, 2008

    Golly gee, the National Catholic Register doesn’t approve of PZ Myers, therefore we atheists have to go around saying imbecilic things like ‘I’m an atheist but I’m a friendly atheist.’ What would you expect the National Catholic Register to think of an articulate and influential atheist?

    As for ‘usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners’ – that’s just vulgar and stupid. (And not even true!) You stoop lower every time, Matthew.

  119. #119 Kyle
    August 9, 2008

    Let me propose a hypothetical:

    A group of people seriously believes that 2+2=5 in our number system. They are downright convinced of it.

    Another group comes along and points out that 2+2=4. The reasoning doesn’t fly with the first group and they still believe that. No matter how many tea and crumpets conversations you have, the group remains convinced that 2+2=5. And they act accordingly.

    Another group comes along and calls them what they are, idiots. They marginalize the group for long periods of time. This group isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade; or in this case, an idiot and idiot. The tea and crumpets rationalization group calls for tolerance and to stop the insults. Peace is the key. However, over time, people believing 2+2=5 start to realize they are wrong not because of the reasoning behind it but because they cannot be associated with such a marginalized group. Those who break away fall back in line with a new group because they are moderates.

    Who is in the right here? Are those who call a spade a spade to blame? Are they being militant? Are they being childish? What are we to take from that? Does the end justify the means?

    And I might add that I didn’t create the hypothetical with Group 1 exercising dominance and intolerance for CENTURIES AND CENTURIES.

  120. #120 Ophelia Benson
    August 9, 2008

    Come to think of it, I left out a step – I overlooked a glaring (and self-flattering) contradiction. You call yourself ‘friendly’ yet you post a trashy, petty, childish, dopy, schoolyardy comment like this complete with picture? You, friendly? What a joke! You’re a spiteful obsessive insult-monger, you are; what’s so friendly about that? Your whole schtick is ‘those guys are mean but I’m nice'; but you’re not nice; so your whole schtick is based on a completely absurd claim.

  121. #121 Neil Schipper
    August 9, 2008

    Lee Harrison said:

    I just wonder if anyone else noticed how utterly bored those teenage girls appear to be

    Actually, I hadn’t, but after taking a closer look, yup, it’s pretty striking! (But it’s not necessarily a representative characterization of their overall camp experience, or even of that discussion.)

    On the issue of moderate vs. aggressive gays, I’m not sure how one would go about disentangling all the different causes of the improvement in their social position, but I would venture to suggest that over the last few decades there have been hundreds of thousands of private conversations along the lines of,
    “Say, I heard Frank was gay.”
    “No kidding, I never would have thought! I have to say, he sure is a good _______ (writer, manager, electrician, congressional aide, teacher, athlete, musician, etc.).
    The way people from a detested minority live their lives and interact with the larger community has a huge influence on shifting perceptions, and “logical, rational and moral” arguments may mean less than intellectually-oriented types pretend.

  122. #122 AK47
    August 9, 2008

    [Matt, I submitted this last night and it’s still not posted. Is there a reason this needs to be censored? WTF?]

    PZ is a self-proclaimed spokesperson for atheism? Could you please point out where he makes such a proclamation, or are you just being misleading on this point because deception is part of your framing strategy?

    I thought PZ was just a Professor with a popular blog. I thought that there could be a wide variety of atheist viewpoints and we didn’t all have to speak as a monolithic voice and have strategy meetings about talking points.

    This is just your latest whiny plea for PZ to shut up because you don’t like what he has to say. Instead of whining that he does atheists more harm than good, why don’t you go out and do more good so we can all emulate you.

    Stop focusing on the superficialities and talk about the substance. Make a convincing argument for why you think that the Catholic belief that a cracker turns into Jesus is something that PZ should take so seriously that he shouldn’t dare toss one into the garbage.

  123. #123 Brian Macker
    August 9, 2008

    I’m sorry but atheism isn’t an ideology and my being an atheist isn’t the same as membership. I have as much in common other atheists as I do with other people who don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. Whatever Myers, or you for that matter, does not reflect on me.

    Besides I don’t recall Bill Donohue having a very high opinion of anyone who doesn’t believe in his imagined god.

  124. #124 Dave
    August 9, 2008

    Pffft, appeaser.

  125. #125 truth machine
    August 9, 2008

    Ever the hypocritical ad hominem-wielding asshole, eh Matt?

  126. #126 truth machine
    August 9, 2008

    For discussion an analogy, was it the friendly gays who didn’t make waves who got society to change or the scary queers who started riots and got in people’s faces?

    Well, you seem to think you know the answer to this question . . . what is it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

  127. #127 Justin
    August 9, 2008

    There is room for multiple approaches in making atheism more palatable to the public. There is no need for somebody to try to form a centralized strategy. However, you are being naive if you think the image problem for atheism is one of “framing.” Atheism clashes with cultural values, much as homosexuality and many aspects of liberalism do. The only way to change this is multiple exposure and winning the battle of ideas. Framing does little good.

  128. #128 rmp
    August 9, 2008

    Should everyone act like PZ? Of course not! Should someone push the evelope? Of course!

    If it weren’t for PZ, I’d still be in the closet. Sorry Matt but I can’t say the same for you. BTW, the PZ picture really is a lack of class!

    I’m not saying that any publicity is good publicity BUT, I suspect that many conversations have occurred about atheism that wouldn’t have happened without PZ stirring the pot.

  129. #129 AyJay
    August 9, 2008

    After millenia of judging the godless with impunity the theists are at long last learning how it feels to be scrutinised by the godless (at least in civilised states). The theists’ resentment at this assault on their beliefs and their power has begun to manifest itself in a breathtaking display of passive aggression as they recast themselves (once more) as a persecuted minority.

    I don’t make show of my beliefs (unlike the theists) but if I’m asked for an opinion I’ll give it. My days of feeling awkward on behalf of the questioner are long gone. People shouldn’t ask questions they are not prepared to hear the answer to.

  130. #130 ponderingfool
    August 9, 2008

    So the pic of atheists you want to promote is some guy dressed up but trying not to look too formal, who is talking to tween girls who look really bored? I mean it is an outdoor camp, dress accordingly DJ Grothe.

  131. #131 Coturnix
    August 9, 2008

    I think PZ look great in this picture. But I can’t be objective, since I took that picture (last year at SciFoo).

  132. #132 RickD
    August 9, 2008

    I fail to understand how PZ controls how he is portrayed by the National Catholic Register.

    Or by this blog, for that matter.

    Your choice of photos shows just how weak your argument is. See…the militant atheist is unkempt, wears a silly T-shirt and hangs around with his mouth open. The reasonable atheist calmly lectures in front of attentive, nubile young women.

    The question I have for you is: do you really think two photos serves as a reasonable substitute for a cogent argument? Are you trying to line up future income as a PR professional, or do you actually give a damn about atheism?

  133. #133 Beowulff
    August 9, 2008

    Rob Knop wrote:

    but they were **not** also, by and large, saying “and those of you who are straight are deluded, stupid, ignorant fools mired in the dark ages. Only people who are gay are right.”

    No, but you’re missing a big point here: they were saying that the anti-gay bigots are deluded, stupid, ignorant fools mired in the dark ages. I happen to agree with them and see no problem in saying so. So there goes your argument down the drain :)

  134. #134 Anonymous
    August 9, 2008

    Robb,

    Do you think it was the closeted gays who made a change? You are dishonest!

    Monson

  135. #135 Jason
    August 9, 2008

    Rob Knop,

    I can only assume that you have never actually observed or read an accurate account of an “out there” gay protest. Gay protests routinely involve highly critical commentary and imagery regarding opponents of gay rights and gay equality. The slogan Hate is not a family value is especially popular. Gay protesters frequently accuse people who oppose gay rights and who claim that gay sex and gay marriage are immoral of bigotry and prejudice. Most often, religious bigotry. And for the most part, I think these accusations are correct, and that expressing them in clear, strong, direct language is entirely justified.

    To address your specific charges: I don’t think that religious people in general are stupid. I do believe that they are in general deluded, and often ignorant and foolish. Religious belief is especially foolish when held by people of high intelligence and learning, who really ought to know better.

    And I’m not going to stop expressing these beliefs just because people like you don’t want to hear them.

  136. #136 Zane Selvans
    August 9, 2008

    I agree with your preferred image for non-theists… but I think it’s important to consider whether the religious establishment, Catholic or otherwise, will often have an incentive to choose to promulgate the image of atheists as being angry and destructive and hateful. They will probably choose to focus on Dawkins and Meyers and their ilk, regardless of whether there are other atheist archetypes to choose from.

  137. #137 Ray S.
    August 9, 2008

    Why would I care what a religious extremist would think of me? Some one who believes more than 8 impossible things before breakfast is not likely to be able to hold their own in a reality based dialog with me. Must be my fault according to you. I cannot respect such beliefs (though I certainly will defend their rights to believe them) and sitting quietly in the corner isn’t going to earn respect from them. I’ll grant that my being vocal isn’t isn’t initially going to earn their respect, but long term I think it has a greater chance of succeeding than being what Rosa Parks was not.

  138. #138 Richard Rasmussen
    August 9, 2008

    I’m not a militant atheist, and I do respect religion because it teaches and inspires people to be good. I do criticize religion, but I don’t demonize it, as militant atheists do. Using my reason (that’s what we all stand for, isn’t it?), I try to understand it. I think there should be a diversity of voices in the atheist/naturalist community, as well as in the scientific and skeptical communities. PZ, Dawkins, and Hitchens will say what they like, and that’s okay with me. Let’s hear other voices, too, like Nikka Lalli, yourself, John Alan Paulos, Philip Kitcher, Eugenie Scott, and others. As Nikka Lalli said, “Atheists don’t speak with just one voice.” Let’s all speak up!

  139. #139 Andrew
    August 9, 2008

    Nisbet: You do not speak for me and nor does PZ. However, I am more likely to agree with PZ because at least he is honest whereas you are just disingenuous (in this issue).

    Sure, I don’t think antagonizing the religious just for the hell of it is the right way to do things, but that is clearly not the case here. If this is an example of your “framing” then you can shove it.

  140. #140 deadman_932
    August 9, 2008

    Let’s lay the cards on the table here.

    In Florida, a guy had been threatened — physically and academically — for taking a wafer back to his seat.

    That’s the incident that spurred PZ to (1) stand up, (2) speak out and (3) take action that focused on the idolatry (among other odd aspects of such a notion) inherent to claiming a wafer IS a body.

    PZ never actually physically harmed another person, but may have caused emotional disturbance for people — who felt more strongly about a wafer’s symbolic content than the actual threats to a Florida student.

    Now, we have Mike Nisbet and Oran Kelley upbraiding PZ.

    But did Mike Nisbet or Oran Kelley ever take up the cause of the Florida student?

    Did they contact the Catholic League and forward their arguments regarding tolerance, love and groovy good vibrations? Did they step forward to mediate this crisis? DID THEY DO ANYTHING AT THAT TIME?

    Not that I know of.

    I think this episode illustrates the difference between (1)vapid theoretics/ armchair academics and (2) actually attempting to change the world by thought and deed.

    On a final note to Mike Nisbet: others have pointed out the fallacious nature of your various attempts to tarbrush PZ and those who post at Pharyngula. I’ve posted there perhaps 5 times, each time with posts similar in style and substantive content as this one. You are not merely wrong in your tarbrushing, you’re guilty of using **numerous** fallacies.

    If your arguments above are illustrative of your skills in “framing,” then I can see why PZ took exception to your past criticisms.

    PZ’s criticisms — which I have read and agree with fully now — also point to your actual motive for this petulant attack.

    Sorry, Mike, but you’re not showing any actual competency in the “art” you attempt to forward.

  141. #141 rmp
    August 9, 2008

    Rob, (on the off hand chance this ever gets through Matt’s filter), I think you’re stretching the analogy farther than any of us intend. We want the right to be outspoken about our beliefs without being ridiculed about being obnoxious. If you can point to a successful atheism movement changing the face of the USA that I’m missing, please fill me in.

  142. #142 Bubba Sixpack
    August 9, 2008

    Nisbet:
    “They’re usually angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners with a passion for attacking and ridiculing religious believers.”

    Wow. What a straw-man you have compiled here. When I see these types of comments, I have to wonder: is there any psychological projection going on here? Or barring that, an attempt to get into the good graces of bullies by using hyperbolic labels for the picked-on?

    I would ask for the supporting evidence that these people are usually “uncharismatic male loners”, but “most people know” that would be an unfruitful request (see, “anyone” can use your argumentation techniques).

  143. #143 Neil Schipper
    August 10, 2008

    Lee Harrison said:

    I just wonder if anyone else noticed how utterly bored those teenage girls appear to be

    Actually, I hadn’t, but after taking a closer look, yup, it’s pretty striking! (But it’s not necessarily a representative characterization of their overall camp experience, or even of that discussion.)

    On the issue of moderate vs. aggressive gays, I’m not sure how one would go about disentangling all the different causes of the improvement in their social position, but I would venture to suggest that over the last few decades there have been hundreds of thousands of private conversations along the lines of”:

    “Say, I heard Frank was gay.”
    “No kidding, I never would have thought! I have to say, he sure is a good _______ (writer, manager, electrician, congressional aide, teacher, athlete, musician, etc.)”

    This effect is particularly pronounced when the person is famous — Liberace, Rock Hudson, a high-ranking military person who IIRC made the cover of Time back in the 70’s, to name a few.

    The way people from a detested minority live their lives and interact with the larger community has a huge influence on shifting perceptions, and “logical, rational and moral” arguments may matter less than intellectually-oriented types pretend.

  144. #144 Autumn
    August 10, 2008

    RayvenAlandria,
    Thank you. I believe that Mr. Nesbitt has never lived in rural America (or any part of the Old South, including northern Florida), as his illusions of what most good, religious people think of atheists seem time-zones away from my experience.
    I have had to literally count the people in a public place who I knew would come to my aid v. the number of people I knew wouldn’t, before responding to a question about beliefs. More than I ever thought I would have to. And many of my friends are quite religious. Not only that, but antagonistic debates about religion and politics are welcomed by them, they are happy to have an opponent. They are certainly glad that I am a “new atheist”, as I am not in hiding (around them).

    If there was some identifiable mark of atheism, you can be assured, Mr. Nesbitt, that those “afflicted” would suffer as much as other persecuted minority groups have before them.

  145. #145 Autumn
    August 10, 2008

    Rob Knop,
    So threats of physical harm are to be met by what, in your opinion?
    Nervous laughter?
    Immediate equivocation?
    I say “Nuts”.

    Threats must be addressed for what they are, and their enabling base must be addressed for what it is.
    Saying that a group of people who have refused to give any indication that they think that threats of physical harm to a person and that person’s family might be wrong, while they echo the sentiments of the pshychotic criminals in question, are as criminally debauched a group of thugs as exist anywhere.
    Mr. Nesbitt, do you think that the threat of death should be met with an appeasing whimper?
    Perhaps an insouciant shrug?

    You keep saying that atheists are not in danger the way that blacks or gays were in danger, but given evidence that we are, you tell us to be quiet, so we don’t disturb the hired muscle.

    I don’t expect you to stand up for me, but have some pride, and stand up for yourself.

  146. #146 Patrick
    August 10, 2008

    This might just be spitballing here, but I don’t consider calling people “angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners ” friendly.

  147. #147 Jamie
    August 10, 2008

    shorter matt nisbet:

    REAL atheists go to atheist church and spend their lives pre-emptively apologising to religious people in case their existence offends

  148. #148 penn
    August 10, 2008

    Nisbet, you’re a douche.

    You’re self-proclaimed purpose is to sanitize atheism/scientists and make them more palatable to the masses.

    In reality, you’re useless and anyone who employees your tactics just seems fake.

  149. #149 a lurker
    August 10, 2008

    I have stated in Science Blogs a number of times that I do have some strong disagreements PZ Myers, Dawkins, etc.

    But I will state that my disagreements with them are minor compared to this utterly shameful article. Myers and Dawkins have at least the courtesy not to go digging around for the worst photo of someone they can find.

    I am sure that Myers and Dawkins would falsely classify me as an “appeaser” since I think that some of their inflammatory rhetoric can do harm than good. But after this post, I can say that there is at least one nonbeliever who can properly be called appeaser: Matthew C. Nisbet.

  150. #150 FO
    August 10, 2008

    @Rob Knop:

    When trying to make comparisons between atheists and gays, bear in mind that even if it was the “out there” gays who made more difference (something I have not seen proof of),

    It is quite obvious that the “out there” group (by which I mean those who are vocal) were much more responsible for the change in social and legal attitudes toward gay people. By being vocal, these people showed that they exist, that they’re not ashamed of what they are, and that their sexual preference has no bearing whatsoever on their moral values — which dispels many of the most common accusations leveled against gays. It also breeds familiarity (like those living in a war zone may become used to corpses — not a good analogy, but I hope you get the point), and familiarity reduces fear and shock. Silent, non-vocal gays may have influenced their local communities, but it was ultimately the vocal gays who enabled a society-wide change in attitudes toward them.

    those gays were demanding to be recognized for what they were… but they were **not** also, by and large, saying “and those of you who are straight are deluded, stupid, ignorant fools mired in the dark ages. Only people who are gay are right.”

    Perhaps, but those who opposed the gay movement were mostly straight people, the majority of which were ignorant fools mired in dark-age beliefs and superstitions. Moreover, it is also dishonest of you to imply that, by and large, atheists do say things similar to what you wrote. Even when some atheists do retaliate, it’s almost always because of provocation from “the other side of the fence”: ignorant fools mired in dark-age superstitions and beliefs.

    That’s where the comparison between the asshole wing of the atheist movement and the “out there” wing of the gay rights movement breaks down.

    Frankly, you’re comparing apples and oranges here. First off, there is no “atheist movement”. Unlike the gay rights movement, there is no unified “atheist front” which seeks to change social perception of atheism. This is not surprising. Second, being gay or straight is a matter of choosing a certain sexual orientation — it involves a positive determination of identity. On the contrary, atheism is a negative — if you don’t believe in any god, you’re automatically an atheist. If you want to compare “a lack of religious belief”, then you should do so with “a lack of sexual preference”.

    PZ may come across as an asshole to you, but tarring everyone with his brush speaks more about yourself than about him. I suggest you think twice before doing so again.

  151. #151 jabr
    August 10, 2008

    Rob, I think an abolitionist/slavery comparison fits better.

    The problem isn’t just that religious people are intolerant, it’s that *religion* is intolerant. If they were all vaguely spiritual Unitarians, or the equivalent, then whatever, but they aren’t. A lot of them of them are crazy and believe stupid, dangerous nonsense.

  152. #152 DiscoveredJoys
    August 10, 2008

    You may (or may not) be a whiz at framing, but I suspect you are choosing the wrong narrative to frame.

    As long as you are (apparently) stuck in the ‘political debate’ narrative fromework, where you ‘win’ by rhetorical tricks and personal attack, you extend the debate with the ‘other side’ who are using the same framework. No-one can cange change peoples’ minds by eloquence of argument in this type of framework – any advantage is seen as won by tricks.

    Now if you adopted a different framework – e.g. “the godstruck are victims of a mind parasite that we don’t want to spread further into the general population” – then you can use the “medical fight against disease” narrative which carries a whole host of metaphors which can be used to sway peoples’ opinions. Symptoms, contagion, irrational behaviour, isolation, vaccination, medicine, cure, care for the afflicted – much more positve.

    In the meantime you seem to be arguing against people doing their best to heal the sick…

  153. #153 Chris P
    August 10, 2008

    Well, I’ll tell you that I am getting sick and tired of paying taxes to support religions. Sick and tired of religious groups being allowed to exclude atheists from their staff. Sick and tired of politicians invoking God to solve their problems. Sick and tired of a multiplicity of religions who cannot agree on which God is the “Right One”. Sick and tired of “In God we trust” and “One nation under God”. It’s all BULLSHIT.

    No we’ve got to stop this BS. Playing dead has got us nowhere.

  154. #154 island
    August 10, 2008

    Whoa…for the “picture of atheism” you choose a very poor photo of me looking dopey and laughing and holding a teddy bear, and you use that to justify the stereotype of angry, cranky, hateful atheists?

    I think that it clearly illustrates his point that “Atheists have a major image problem”… and it’s mostly you… ;)

  155. #155 island
    August 10, 2008

    PZ’s latest antics have accomplished nothing other than to further alienate a group of people who typically support all of the same positions on science and politics that scientists *generally* support.

    How does that help anything?

  156. #156 wandoo
    August 10, 2008

    Is PZ holding a teddy bear?

    I put up with DJ sometimes because of his guests but I’d travel to hear from PZ.

  157. #157 Irene Delse
    August 10, 2008

    What, Nisbet’s article is not a parody?? The mind boggles.

    ‘Cause, with the strange choice of photos, I was having a hard time to know whether to laugh with or at this blogger. I mean, between PZ Myers’ with wild hair and teddy bear (and that photo must obviously illustrate the fact that atheists are a bunch of really, really laid-back party-lovers, right?) and the one of a DJ Grothe in bad-looking pants, lecturing a bevy of teenage girls’ legs while managing to avoid looking at them, what was I to believe?

    Sheesh. Cranky unpleasant atheists, indeed.

  158. #158 NP
    August 10, 2008

    When have atheists NOT had an image problem?

    And what have you been doing to help the image of atheists, Matt? Heck, I didn’t even know you were one till today…and frankly, I think you’re a prick.

  159. #159 rmp
    August 10, 2008

    I wish Matt would focus his energies on doing what he believes to be the ‘way’. Stop wasting your time and energy telling those of us who choose to be outspoken to shut up. We ain’t gonna do it.

  160. #160 echidna
    August 10, 2008

    I don’t think that scientists are changing to become cranky grumpy troublemakers with an image problem. I think that scientists hold the value of truth higher than that of cooperation, and want to protect this value from people who would denigrate it.

    Church groups are not benign, or beneficial groups when they mislead people, lying about the nature of science and reality, and try to damage education not only for their own people, but for everyone. It is not possible for me, among others, to remain disinterested in the effect of religious society on education. Destruction is not on; and I for one won’t stand by and just let science education be destroyed because some aspects of reality get in the way of a particular interpretation of the bible. It is not necessary to be an atheist to feel this way, but I’m sure it helps.

    BTW, I don’t see the same outrage against Newton’s theory of light diffraction, which demonstrably explains the rainbow, described in the bible as a specific act of god. This is every bit as contrary to the bible as evolution, but because it is easy to demonstrate, it does not attract the ire of religious groups. It would look just too foolish. Instead, there is this general anti-science stance, which is very damaging for every society that has this meme.

    Standing by and watching the desecration of reality-based education is not an option.

  161. #161 Wes
    August 10, 2008

    PZ’s latest antics have accomplished nothing other than to further alienate a group of people who typically support all of the same positions on science and politics that scientists *generally* support.

    How does that help anything?

    Posted by: island | August 10, 2008 2:10 PM

    What???

    PZ alienated Bill Donahue and his followers. Let’s not forget that Bill Donahue referred to evolution as “the king-kong theory of origins”. Not all Catholics believe in evolution, especially in the United States. Many of the Catholics I know here in Oklahoma are outright young earth creationists.

    And let’s not forget the Church’s official anti-science positions on stem cell research, cloning, IVF, AIDS and condom use, genetic modification, and many other issues. The Catholic church is not “pro-science”. It’s just not officially anti-evolution.

    Besides, many of the people pouring hate on PZ right now would hate atheists anyways. If it weren’t PZ, they’d just be yelling about someone else. No amount of framing could turn a Bill Donahue acolyte into a tolerant and enlightened liberal.

  162. #162 rmp
    August 10, 2008

    Not that it matters to anyone but FYI, I will no longer comment here! I know you are all amazed, shocked and disappointed. I just don’t see the point of trying to have a dialog on a blog that has a one day delay between submitting a comment and it getting on the thread (if at all). Communication with one another here is practically impossible. The irony of that is palatable.

  163. #163 James Hanley
    August 10, 2008

    I agree that it’s a shame PZ isn’t a cute teenage girl in shorts. Other than that, I think your argument is ridiculous.

    I’ve publicly said that I’m not impressed with PZ Myers, but you’re just kowtowing in fear to the Bil Donahue’s of the world. What’s next, asking us to send James Dobson some warm chocolate chip cookies?

  164. #164 Pierce R. Butler
    August 10, 2008

    island – If you look around at PZ’s blog (since our host here declines to provide any links, it’s under “Pharyngula” in the “All Blogs” pop-up at the upper-right corner of this page), you will find that Myers acted, not just to yank Catholics’ chains, but in protest at their (still-continuing) excessive backlash against (at most) a minor breach of etiquette by a student named Webster Cook at the University of Central Florida (another significant detail which our host couldn’t fit into his frame).

    How does it help anything for a professor to stand by while students’ (yes, actually two UCF students are being persecuted) academic careers – and lives! – are threatened for a trivial, meaningless, and harmless violation of a church’s dogma at a campus facility?

  165. #165 Siamang
    August 11, 2008

    Anna K wrote:

    ” It causes people to rethink their prejudices about certain groups, when, say, someone who is known to be a Christian gets out there and supports gay rights, or someone who is known to be an atheist volunteers at the soup kitchen.”

    Anna, when I’m doing volunteer work, I don’t mention my (lack of ) religious belief. To me, that would be being a bigger asshole than saying brutally honest things about religion on a blog.

    I do my what charitable work and giving I can do anonymously, and without any smug “ho, ho ho, I bet you didn’t know I was an ATHEIST” attitude, like I’ve got anything to prove to anyone.

    I do good works for the sake of the good of them, not (as Sean Prophet puts it) as a loss-leader to promote my agenda. I refuse to treat giving like it’s a recruitment slogan or a public-relations ploy.

    If we have to do that to win the “debate”, we’ve already lost an essential part of what sets us apart from the religion industry.

  166. #166 Brandon
    August 11, 2008

    FO, I stopped reading at, “being gay or straight is a matter of choosing a certain sexual orientation.”

  167. #167 Anonymous
    August 11, 2008

    PZ’s latest antics have accomplished nothing other than to further alienate a group of people who typically support all of the same positions on science and politics that scientists *generally* support.

    How does that help anything?

    Posted by: island | August 10, 2008 2:10 PM

    Dipstick!
    PZ, RD and the rest have put atheism on the agenda again, and also put the stupid, irrational dogma and rituals in many religions in the spotlight, so people can see the swindle for what it is.
    When religion is again becoming threat to science and the teaching of science, it is no good being meek and mild.
    Fuzzy apologists without courage should remain in the basement as their sensitivities might get a knock if they come out in the daylight.
    Modesty gets us nowhere!!

  168. #168 Screechy Monkey
    August 11, 2008

    Rob Knop: “By all means, be out there and talk about atheism, and demand that atheists should get as much respect as anybody else. But do it like Sean Carroll or Matthew Nisbet– engage people in discussion, don’t engage them in self-aggrandizing childish insults the way PZ does.”

    I don’t recall ever reading Nisbet say anything about atheism except to complain about other atheists. And as for childish insults, what do you consider epithets like “Don Imus atheism,” “angry, grumpy, uncharismatic male loners,” and of course, “screechy monkeys”? And is his choice of photo of PZ an example of him engaging people in discussion?

  169. #169 Beowulff
    August 11, 2008

    Mr. Nisbet: I’m sure DJ Grothe and others do fine work with Camp Inquiry, but I don’t think it’s a proper example of a strategy that will reach more believers than PZ’s strategy: exactly how many fundamentalist Christians do you expect to send their kids there? How many Christians (even moderate ones) are reached by an activity aimed specifically at atheists and skeptics?

    I also don’t think this was the best picture you could have used to illustrate the sense of “community”: Grothe is dressed in a way that doesn’t fit his surroundings and sets him apart from his audience; he’s looking the other way; and his audience looks quite bored. I’m sure there are many better pictures around that you could have used, because if this scene would be typical for Camp Inquiry, I can’t see how it could be the recurring success that it appears to be.

  170. #170 Ian
    August 11, 2008

    >PZ’s latest antics have accomplished nothing other than to further alienate a group of people who typically support all of the same positions on science and politics that scientists *generally* support.

    oh, you mean the church responsible for covering up paedophilia by priests, spreading misinformation about condoms and basically trying to set the lot of women in this world back by a generation?

    That they *sometimes* happen to agree with science is not relevant – they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  171. #171 Paul Murray
    August 11, 2008

    “The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of “hate,” “contempt,” “dogmatism,” “a junior high level understanding of religion,” “irate,” “incredulous,” “bigoted”…the list goes on.”

    Sure. What would atheists have to do to get those irate, dogmatic, contemptuous and bigoted religious people to stop using these words?

  172. #172 onscrn
    August 11, 2008

    Some here might be interested in a recent blog post that I (former atheist and physicist) made about my exchanges with commenters on an atheist blog, which I think is relevant to this topic. It’s called “Conversations in the Clubhouse of Truly Smart People.” It was a follow-on to another I made, reflecting on my years as an atheist and why it had taken me so long to change my mind. I’m not sure I’d hold the exchanges up as exemplary, but they remained relatively civil. That may be because I wasn’t out to convert anyone, but just to raise the possibility that they might be in a mind-set that would not admit evidence for God at all.

  173. #173 idahogie
    August 11, 2008

    Here’s some framing for ya:

    Reading a post like this is like listening to Joe Lieberman talk about how to be a good Democrat.

  174. #174 Beowulff
    August 12, 2008

    onscrn: some basic netiquette for you: if you really want to discuss your blog post, you should enable comments on your blog. Now you force others to go off topic on someone else’s blog to respond to you.

  175. #175 Jeff Darcy
    August 12, 2008

    If being all nice and polite is the Way To Go, what are we to make of Matt’s or Oran’s caricatures? Not very nice and polite, are they? Oran’s offensive portrayal of atheists mirrors closely the very worst of how he claims they portray religious people – adolescents attempting rebellion on one hand vs. toddlers who need Mommy Church to validate them on the other, with “you can’t reason with such folks” on both sides. Take a big dose of Matthew 7:3 and don’t call me in the morning.

  176. #176 Josh
    August 12, 2008

    Those girls look bored. What a great image!

  177. #177 TTT
    August 12, 2008

    Mr. Nisbet: I have never seen a good-faith discussion of atheism or PZ Myers from you. Every single message begins with snotty abusive quips and “poisoning the well”-type arguments that pre-emptively damn anyone who could possibly try to respond to you. It’s beyond sophmoric.

    Why don’t you stand up for Webster Cook, who surely would have already been expelled and/or murdered by Donohue’s terrorist cult if PZ hadn’t shone a very big public spotlight on the case? I’m sure it was very mean for PZ to deny Donohue’s terrorist cult the thrill of scalping their sacrificial victim.

  178. #178 Dustin
    August 12, 2008

    I can’t help but notice that island’s comments in this thread aren’t anything but barbs directed at PZ. How is it that a personal attack made it through your rigorous moderation? Surely you aren’t so petty as to relax your moderation standards when someone it taking potshots at your favorite scapegoat? Man, Nisbet, you’ve got a spine. Such integrity is hard to come by these days.

  179. #179 FO
    August 13, 2008

    @Brandon:

    FO, I stopped reading at, “being gay or straight is a matter of choosing a certain sexual orientation.”

    Well, that was pretty far into my post… =P OK, I think I get your point. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way. Of course our sexual orientation is not just a “matter of choice” — that’s what the bigots would have us believe. I was trying to say that being gay or straight is a form of positive identification (I AM straight/gay), while atheism is a form of negative identification (I AM NOT a Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist/…/Theist).

    Gah. That’s what happens when you try to post just before taking a nap.

  180. #180 idahogie
    August 13, 2008

    Reading a post like this is like listening to Joe Lieberman talking about how to be a good Democrat.

  181. #181 Lee Harrison
    August 13, 2008

    Hi Matt

    I’m not trying to be snarky here, but I am seriously wondering how Oran Kelly’s first comment on this post can be said to meet the requirements of your comment policy.

  182. #182 W
    August 13, 2008

    The “new atheists” have done enormous damage to atheism’s image in the public eye (yes, there is one, whether we like it or not). Outside of the cult-like circle jerks that take place routinely on PZ’s blog and Dawkins’s site, the “new atheism” is generally seen for what it is (at least among my left-leaning friends): commercialized philosophy-to-go, generated by a small handful of belligerent ideologues, and consumed uncritically by neophytes, bigots, and pseudo-skeptics.

    But I’m an optimist. Give it a few more years. “New atheism” like all superficial trends will become passé.

  183. #183 donquijotesrocket
    August 16, 2008

    This situation/discussion starts by exhibiting something I’ve noticed in political conversations and too much in society in general of late. Any disagreement or dissent however mild or measured immediately gets labeled “hate or “hatred” it’s a part of the framing erected by the established to portray themselves as victims- usually all the while accusing the other party of playing the victim card. IMO It’s this tendency fostered by the conservatives in the political arena that gives permission for some unstrung person to shoot up a UCC church because of their liberal views because you know those liberal tolerant people just hate us godly, god-fearing folk so we should hate them first and harder.It also promotes and excuses threatening someone with death because that someone has held some one of your beliefs up to ridicule an altogether out of proportion response if you ask me, but then religion has seldom been known to do things in half measures.Even recognizing that on occasion religion does promote some good I can’t help but feel that the world would in the long run be better off without it.

  184. #184 omar ali
    August 19, 2008

    Are you joking?

  185. #185 DavidONE
    September 30, 2008

    So you find the worst image you could of Myers and then the most ‘respectable’ image of some other atheist.

    Nisbet, you’re a loathsome little man.

  186. #186 Libby
    October 4, 2008

    Future MD: “And to answer your question, it was the crowds chanting “we’re here, we’re queer” who forced society to change, not the nice people who hoped it would.”

    Comparing the “atheist movement” to any other civil rights movement is ludicrous. Civil rights movements demand equality with and respect from the majority. The “atheist movement” is not demanding that at all. The atheist movement is not demanding equality, but homogeny. We want EVERYONE to be an atheist. A “win” for the movement is not someone respecting atheism, but BECOMING an atheist. If we keep viewing the “movement” in such ways, its no wonder atheists are viewed as big scary mean bullies. We ARE!

  187. #187 Rorschach
    July 4, 2009

    Oh,this is an interesting blog.
    NOT

    Nisbet, you’re a loathsome little man.

    It would indeed appear so.

  188. #188 James Miller
    October 8, 2009

    I’m totally fine with the “new atheism”. We need more outspoken atheists to combat the overwhelming insanity that is organized religion. Passive atheism accomplishes nothing. I don’t think we need to have parades or get in people’s faces, but we do need to voice our opinions whenever necessary and not be shrinking violets when it comes to standing up for what we all know is reasonable and correct. Fight organized religion with rational thought! Get organized religion out of our government and schools!

  189. #189 Taff
    October 11, 2011

    You may be interested to know (or not), but Meyers is getting his ass kicked over at what is normally considered to be a consumer advocacy site:

    http://saltydroid.info/pz-myers-gasbag-bigotry/

    The style of writing is probably not what you are used to. ;)

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