In which I provide my two cents regarding the current discussion between PZ Myers, Pamela Gay, and others.
The relevant posts and threads:
Should skeptic organizations be atheist organizations? by PZ Myers.
Why are we lying to Pamela Gay? by Seth Manapio
Separation between Scientific Truth & Belief by Pamela Gay.
I’m going to assume that you’ve read these, or are at least familiar with the main points of the argument.
I know Pamela Gay well enough to know that she is a smart person, a nice person, a well meaning person, an important member of the science education community, an effective skeptic, and a Catholic. Or something, maybe Protestant. Whatever.
I have faith that Pam will some day cast aside her religion and become an atheist like the rest of us1, but until then, a) I don’t care that she’s religious and b) I assume she would not mind if I mocked her religion now and then. After all, if you’ve ever observed or been part of a conversation between, say, a Protestant and a Catholic or a Catholic and a Jew who happen to be respectful friends, you will often see quite a bit of mocking when the conversation comes around to religion.
“Do you know why I’m smarter than you, Laden?” I remember my old school buddy Miles asking me.
“Huh?” I replied.
“Because my ancestors took the smartest young men, made them Rabbi, married them to the smartest young women, made sure the Rabbi’s family was well fed and protected from the randomness of the Bronze Age world in which they lived, and above all, made sure they had lots of children,” he stated
“Eh, what?” I replied.
“Your ancestors, on the other hand, took the smartest young men and made sure they had no children. Darwin, Laden. Self imposed Darwinian Selection,” he continued.
“Huh?” I replied.
You get the point. Unless you are an extremist or a fundamentalist, you can mock and get mocked and it can be part of your conversation and it only sometimes gets tense. And this applies to conversations among religious people, between religious people and atheists, and among atheists.
And, indeed, among Skeptics. I will, in fact, be doing some skeptics-mocking at the upcoming Convergence, and some of that may happen at the same panel attended by PZ and Pam Gay.
In a comment on Seth’s post, Gay notes:
I’ve been having dialogues with several prominent skeptics about how if skeptics are going to be inclusive (which many moderates want), than the language needs to change.
Pam, I respectfully disagree. (With the part in parentheses.) I’m not a moderate, but I want inclusiveness. I am happy and proud to be on a panel with you at a place like Convergence, and I value your inputs and your products. Even if you do believe in some weird shit that I know is wrong1. More specifically, I object to the linkage between inclusiveness and “moderate” vs “extreme” or by some nomenclatures, “new” (as in “new atheist”). That seems to represent a false scale that coordinates a certain approach to the atheism/religion discussion and one’s ability or tendency to be inclusive in a discussion. I am sure that a lot of people make that link, but it is a false one. We non-moderates are not exclusionary.
Which, probably, is the point of PZ’s post: It makes no sense to act differently in the discussion of religion if someone who is religious is part of that discussion (or not). Nor does it make sense to exclude people from the conversation depending on their beliefs. Unless, of course, those particular beliefs drive said individuals to be exclusionary themselves, and that could apply to many religious people as well as a number of non-religious people.
Also, as PZ noted, “The Second Coming of Christ” is a bad answer in a physics class no matter how the question is worded. In my classes I note in the beginning and remind the students now and then what the topic of the class is, and that their conversations in class and section, and writings in essays, and answers to exams should reflect that they are aware of this.
1That was mocking. That was not serious. And, I’m rather annoyed that I have to explain humor and parody to some people. But whatever.