Chris Mooney reports on Psych Evidence that Supports New Atheism, writing:

In general, I believe what we know about human psychology runs contrary to the New Atheist approach and strategy. However, I do my best to follow the data, and here’s a study that suggest at least one aspect of their approach may work. The tactic finding support here is not necessarily being confrontational-that would tend to prompt negative emotional reactions, and thus defensiveness and inflexibility towards New Atheist arguments-but rather, making it more widely known that you’re actually there-as “out” atheists try to do.

I actually think Chris is being too nice to New Atheism here, which is rather remarkable. As I’ve said before, it’s hardly surprising that making a group more visible is a better way to build public acceptance than being less visible, and I support efforts to increase atheism’s visibility. But New Atheism is hardly the only way for atheists – or nontheists more generally – to get the word out that they’re here and want to be taken seriously. It’s a myth that there’s no such thing as bad publicity: if no one knows who you are, it’s all the more crucial to present yourself well. And for the reasons Chris alludes to above, and for reasons I’ve laid out ad nauseam, I don’t think New Atheism is the best way to present atheism.

Indeed, I think the details of the research bear this point out. The study’s introduction nicely lays out the current state of research on public attitudes towards atheists, and sets up the nature of the challenge atheist outreach faces. According to researcher Will Gervais:

In addition to displaying an unwillingness to vote for politicians who do not believe in God, American respondents rated atheists as the group that least shares their vision of America and the group that they would most disapprove of their children marrying. … although most stigmatized groups have become more accepted over the past several decades, this has been less true for atheists; as a result, atheists now rank at the bottom of large-scale polls of cultural inclusion. This may indicate that antipathy toward atheists is not the simple result of general intergroup conflict processes.

That is to say, it can’t just be that people are iffy about atheists because atheists are different and different people are scary. They must have some specific reason(s) to find atheists disreputable. In particular, Gervais argues that atheists are seen as untrustworthy, with adherence to some organized religion being seen by the public (in the US) as a marker of trustworthiness:

religious people use the religious beliefs of others as heuristic cues of trustworthiness, equating religiosity with moral standing. Individuals who believe in supernatural agents capable of witnessing and punishing moral transgressions are viewed as more motivated to inhibit their selfish tendencies; this, in turn, promotes trust of “God-fearing” believers. One study vividly illustrates this pattern. Tan and Vogel (2008) had subjects participate with each other in a classic behavioral economic game that measures trust. Participants were more likely to entrust their money to an anonymous stranger if they found out that the stranger was strongly religious.

In a series of experiments, Gervais showed that informing students about the prevalence of atheists reduced their sense of distrust towards atheists, and reduced measures of their prejudice against atheists. This supports efforts like the scarlet A and at least some forms of the bus ads and billboards being run in major cities. To my knowledge, no one has done focus groups or other market research on the relative effectiveness of different slogans from these ads, but I would think it would be relatively easy to evaluate their effects in targeted cities by running a poll shortly before the ads (and associated media coverage) appear, and then a second poll several weeks later (with perhaps parallel polls in a demographically and culturally comparable control city in a different media market and in which no ads are run).

Based on this study, I’d guess that slogans like Coalition of Reason’s billboards (“Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone”) would be more effective than the more combative ads from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ads which do not emphasize the presence of atheists and other non-theists in the community and which in some cases could be taken as insulting or trivializing religious people (not merely religion). Hardly an ideal way to increase trust in the broader population. COR’s billboards might be even more effective (given this research) if they didn’t just say there’s at least one other non-theist around, but how many there are. Perhaps something like: “Don’t believe in God? Neither do one in ten of your neighbors.”

But atheist outreach could well backfire if it makes atheists seem offensive or immoral, plays into the Cold War’s “godless Communist” canard, sets atheists apart from their broader community, or otherwise feeds into this widespread, naive, harmful, and unjustified mistrust of atheists. This doesn’t mean atheists should hide their light under a bushel, but it does mean being strategic in how they communicate with the broader public. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Comments

  1. #1 Marion Delgado
    April 22, 2011

    Josh:

    Joe Romm cracked me up by writing that Fred Hiatt had had a “come-to-science moment.” I thought that was hilarious turn of phrase, but I imagine some people would say aha! and indicate that even we know science is a religion or something.

    What do you think?

  2. #2 Richard D
    April 22, 2011

    That’s actually a pretty interesting article. I was intrigued by the fact that in modern America it would seem that not only is observance of a given religious practice a cognitive short cut to being in the ‘in crowd’ but observance of any religious practice at least makes you more trustworthy than an atheist.

    In that light it would seem that getting as many people to personally know an atheist and not think of them as a symbol but as a person is a pretty good tactic since I cant think of too many ways in which we could have our own similar costly signals of trustworthiness (although for the scientists amongst us, huge amounts of debt or loss of potential earnings accrued in grad-school seem pretty costly to me!).

  3. #3 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2011

    I never had an occasion to criticize atheists before the advent of the new atheism. Though I’d had lots of criticism for organized “skepticism” before then it was never on the basis of atheist or materialist ideology.

    I have also never witnessed college educated, New Englanders subtly roll their eyes in weary exasperation when someone began to criticize religion in the well worn terms of the Russell school of atheism before c. 2004. The new atheism is getting increasingly old and it doesn’t wear well.

    And I’m unaware of atheists, in such number, expressing embarrassment over the antics of other atheists before about that date either. Though there was some expressed over the activities of Maddy O’Hair, especially as she became more humorless and nastier than she was in the beginning of her career as America’s Most Famous Atheist. She was kind of funny, at first.

    The criticism of the intellectual product of the new theists is about the only positive thing I’ve seen come out of this period when it’s been such a fad. There are aspects of old line atheist invective which I’d taken as, at least, scholastically sound before reading its refutation, at times by other, better informed, atheists and newly vocal agnostics. I’ve learned a lot about the lapses in honesty and integrity by the likes of Clarence Darrow and Bertrand Russell, who I’d accepted along the lines of their PR, before taking a closer look.

    If that’s progress, that’s for atheists to decide among themselves.

  4. #4 g724
    April 22, 2011

    It seems to me that the underlying problem aside from issues of tribalism and emotional concordance, is that most humans have a difficult time conceptualizing a negative (“don’t think of an elephant”).

    Thus when you say “I don’t believe in God,” others may overgeneralize the negative to include “systems of morals & ethics.”

    Thus a modest proposal:

    Rather than just saying what you *don’t* believe, say what you *do* believe as the foundation of your ethical system.

    For example “I am not religious; the foundation of my ethical system is Kant’s categorical imperative, which holds that one should treat others as ends-in-themselves rather than as means to other ends, and that one should act in accord with principles that can be generalized across an entire society.”

    Now that gives the other person something to think about. If they come back with “but without God to punish wrongdoing, what’s to keep you honest?”, the answer might be “my moral compass is sufficiently strong that I don’t need to be in fear of punishment in order to do what’s right.”

    One can also pose hypotheticals: “Would you steal something if you knew you would never be caught?” Someone whose moral compass is strong and internal would not steal under those conditions or any other.

    IMHO the difference between non-religious, average-religious, and very-religious people, will eventually be found in differences in the size and connectivity of the contralateral temporal lobe (the one opposite the individual’s writing hand). Further, these differences will fall into a normal curve. The hypothesis can be tested by harvesting and analyzing brains from the cadavers of willing volunteers who enroll in the research via a document similar to an organ donor card.

  5. #5 Larry Moran
    April 22, 2011

    I, for one, am absolutely delighted that Americans are talking about atheism in newspapers, on television and radio, and even in Presidential speeches. It even comes up from time to time on the internet! :-)

    That discussion rarely happened (in the media) in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. It happened since about 2005.

    I wonder what caused the change?

    Social change is difficult. It seems perfectly reasonable that the beginnings of social change will involve polarization as some people realize for the first time that their cherished beliefs are being challenged. To me, this is a good sign.

  6. #6 Larry Moran
    April 22, 2011

    g724 writes,

    IMHO the difference between non-religious, average-religious, and very-religious people, will eventually be found in differences in the size and connectivity of the contralateral temporal lobe (the one opposite the individual’s writing hand). Further, these differences will fall into a normal curve. The hypothesis can be tested by harvesting and analyzing brains from the cadavers of willing volunteers who enroll in the research via a document similar to an organ donor card.

    We have the ideal groups to test such a silly hypothesis. The societies of western Europe have moved from being religious to being non-religious in about one hundred years. If there’s a biological basis for this (not!) then there should have been a noticeable evolution in brain morphology over the past century.

    I can’t think of any intelligent scientist who would subscribe to such an outlandish claim. The abandonment of religion is a cultural phenomenon. Anyone can do it if they try.

  7. #7 Lynxreign
    April 22, 2011

    But atheist outreach could well backfire if it makes atheists seem offensive or immoral, plays into the Cold War’s “godless Communist” canard, sets atheists apart from their broader community, or otherwise feeds into this widespread, naive, harmful, and unjustified mistrust of atheists.

    This sentence is hilarious. It boils down to athiest outreach could backfire if it makes athiests offensive or immoral, which is already a widespread belief.

    You mention it yourself in the same sentence. The very fact that there is a “godless Communist” canard puts the lie to the idea that athiests are the ones making themselves seem offensive or immoral. Athiests have been vilified for a very long time without being combative and there’s no reason to think “playing nice” will change that.

    Here’s one object lesson about what “playing nice” will do for you. How are Liberals seen today? What’s that? They’re villified and used as the scary “other” even though they’ve done nothing to deserve it and 30 years ago it wasn’t like that at all? Huh, I wonder how that happened.

    One could argue that “playing nice” is now why Democrats won’t fight back and why this nation is in the Right-Wing disaster it is in right now. Right-Wing demogoues and Religious demogogues are of the same cloth, they’re bullies and the only way to stop them is to stand up to them and punch them in the nose if need be.

    Nothing has worked to this point, it is time to punch them in the nose.

  8. #8 plankbob
    April 22, 2011

    You’re a little behind on FFRF’s work:

    http://ffrf.org/news/releases/raleigh-nontheists-come-out-of-the-closet-in-myth-dispelling-ffrf-bill/

    And they’re mounting an interactive website soon to “build your own” billboard to introduce yourself to your neighbors.

  9. #9 Fred Edwords
    April 22, 2011

    It’s clear that people can’t stop talking about us godless folks. And that’s great.

    Marginalized groups go through three phases as they head toward social acceptance: (1) talking about them is beyond the pale, (2) people can’t stop talking about them, and (3) talking about them is boring. I’ve seen this process play out with the Civil Rights movement, interracial marriage, and to a certain extent the Gay Rights movement. Now atheists are at that sweet spot of point #2. Progress!

    Of course the necessary path for getting to point #2 is you have to make a lot of noise. If people don’t know you’re there, they can’t talk about you. And the best way to get noticed and also appreciated is for your movement to have both “good cops” and “bad cops.” Therefore you need both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Log Cabin Republicans and Act Up, soft atheists and New Atheists. Everybody is necessary and everybody plays a part.

    That’s why the United Coalition of Reason, though taking a softer approach itself, doesn’t disparage those who are more abrasive. We’re all in this together to raise the public profile and rally those who already agree with us.

    Ironically, as if following the article’s suggestion in the next-to-last paragraph, our Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason ran a bus ad campaign in Fort Worth, Texas, with the slogan “Millions of Americans are Good without God.” This was at the end of last year. What happened? There was a bus boycott!

    But, hey, it was a publicity bonanza for us and the local nontheistic groups in the DFW area got a sudden influx of new members. So it’s all good.

    And we appreciate your thoughtful article. Keep talking about us.

    Fred Edwords
    National Director
    United Coalition of Reason

  10. #10 Jim Lloyd
    April 22, 2011

    With all bases loaded, Fred Edwords hit the ball out of the park!

    Fred, I tried to go to http://www.unitedcor.org/ with the intent of joining your organization, but the site seems to be down.

  11. #11 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2011

    Fred Edwords, if you think that insulting the majority of people is going to win acceptance for atheists, I think you’re taking a most unreasoned stand.

    I take exception to your equating atheists with gay people. The civil rights of Atheists have been protected since 1964 as a group covered under the Civil Rights act. Gay people are not covered and are legally discriminated against in many states and by the federal government. Atheists have never been prevented from marrying, for example.

    Your equation of Act Up and the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Club is also an example of unreason. The Republicans are the major political force behind denial of rights to gay people, their enablers among gay people are in no way the equivalent of a civil rights group. Act Up, by the way, wasn’t a specifically gay group, it was founded for the purpose of forcing the government, under the Reagan-Bush administration, to stop ignoring the crisis.

    I also find it funny to hear atheists resorting to the Reverend Martin Luther King jr and Minister Malcolm X, two minsters of religion, as a model to excuse the antics of the new atheists. I doubt that either would accept the attempt to use them in that way.

    I don’t think that most people talk about atheists unless it’s about the obnoxious behavior of a minority of them. There isn’t much that’s intellectually compelling come out of it. What do you think is going to win friends and influence in the new atheist message? That they are Bright and the large majority are benighted? If so, maybe Dale Carnegie would be useful reading,

  12. #12 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2011

    And there’s also the silly, obnoxious, continual, mutual- self-congratulations.

  13. #13 Jim Lloyd
    April 22, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy, I think you are flat out wrong. Everything you say amounts to “New Atheists should just shut up!” Yet, if New Atheists hadn’t been speaking up, we’d be in exact same boat we were in 10 years ago. A lot has changed in 10 years, and I for one am very happy with the progress.

  14. #14 debunk
    April 22, 2011

    “I also find it funny to hear atheists resorting to the Reverend Martin Luther King jr and Minister Malcolm X, two minsters of religion, as a model to excuse the antics of the new atheists. I doubt that either would accept the attempt to use them in that way”

    Malcolm X made Martin Luther King look more moderate. In that sense he most definitely helped the civil rights movement. Denying that is simply asinine.

  15. #15 debunk
    April 22, 2011

    “And there’s also the silly, obnoxious, continual, mutual- self-congratulations”

    You mean like the sock puppet circle jerk at the Intersection you so enthusiastically participated in?

  16. #16 julian
    April 22, 2011

    I love how your advice amounts to telling the group you admit is being treated unjustly to change their behavior to better match that of the group you recognize as holding onto prejudiced and unjust views. You are a real piece of work Mr. Rosenau.

  17. #17 Josh Rosenau
    April 22, 2011

    Debunk: Regarding Malcolm X and MLK, Jr., you might recheck your history, starting with this post: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/10/role_models_martin_luther_king.php

  18. #18 Josh Rosenau
    April 22, 2011

    Julian: You claim I want atheists “to change their behavior to better match” theists, but the issue here is that atheists are so like theists in so many ways that it’s necessary for them to take special measures to make it clear that they exist (in ways that racial minorities don’t need to make an effort to make their population visible). Once they do, the clear message is that people without religion are just like religious people, just as trustworthy and behaving just as well, and people get that message and become less prejudiced against atheists.

    This doesn’t need to mean individuals even need to come out, as long as they are open about their atheism with pollsters. It can mean organizing a group of atheist volunteers to work at a soup kitchen, or running ads on buses simply saying that there are millions of atheists in the US. My point is that they don’t have to change into more dickish versions of themselves, and that doing so would only be counterproductive. Atheists are no more dickish than anyone else, and they shouldn’t put on that facade just to make themselves heard.

  19. #19 Norwegian Shooter
    April 22, 2011

    Josh, would reading a dickish book on a bus (a theist might accidentally read a page that is dickish) be dickish?

  20. #20 g724
    April 22, 2011

    Re. Larry Moran, re. #6: So if you deny that neuroanatomy and neurophysiology are at all relevant, then what is responsible for the mind in a living person? Culture alone? In conjunction with *what*, exactly? Sounds to me like you’re making a back-door arguement for the existence of an immortal soul! Why not just come out and say that?

    The relevant brain-bits are well-demonstrated to be associated with religiosity (Persinger et. al., numerous peer-reviewed papers in _Perception and Motor Skills_). Stimulation of those regions of the brain produces numinous feelings and inclusion of spiritual content in narratives. If you want to try to falsify the hypothesis, you need to explain the findings.

    The larger generalization one can draw is that the contralateral temporal lobe mediates “feelings of deep personal meaning in relation to something larger than self.” Those feelings can of course be associated with nontheistic content, from the sense of awe about nature, to the inspiration of art and music, to the excitement of athletics and supporting one’s team. (Identification with sports teams is a perfect example of how this works in the culture at-large.)

    Culture can provide the means of expression for the innate biological characteristics, and obviously Europeans have found other associations for their sense of meaning.

    However that does not deny the biology.

    So the decline of theism in Europe does not falsify the hypothesis. The experiment remains to be done: take the relevant measurements of the brains of people across the spectrum from nontheists to religious zealots, and thereby determine if there is a neuroanatomical correlate. Shying away from doing the experiment is merely an exercise in taboos driven by fear of the findings.

  21. #21 Josh Rosenau
    April 22, 2011

    Norwegian Shooter: An intriquing question. I’d say that since I don’t find it problematic when I see a person quietly reading the bible to him/herself on a bus (nor would I find it dickish to watch someone privately reading a creationist book), I wouldn’t regard it as dickish for an atheist to be reading a dickish atheist book. That isn’t to say one couldn’t be dickish about reading a dickish book: e.g. using it more like a Chick tract, reading passages out loud, trying to get other passengers to read it, or being ostentatious about it in some other way.

  22. #22 debunk
    April 23, 2011

    Josh, re: Malcolm X/MLK, you might want to read my post again. I don’t think you understand what I’m actually saying.

  23. #23 debunk
    April 23, 2011

    Josh, re: Malcolm X/MLK, you might want to re-read my post. I don’t think you understand what I’m actually saying. I’m calling accomodationists Uncle Toms.

  24. #24 bird
    April 23, 2011

    Josh Rosenau: if too few people know that they know an atheist, maybe this means that theism and atheism are important, and you should self-identify as an atheist.

  25. #25 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    Malcolm X made Martin Luther King look more moderate. In that sense he most definitely helped the civil rights movement. Denying that is simply asinine. debunk

    The Rev. Martin Luther King jr was far, far more radical than Minister Malcolm X. Martin Luther King’s stands on economic justice alone were entirely more radically egalitarian and far more a threat to the entrenched power structure. His conduct was far more radical, his hiring Bayard Rustin, who was an open gay man who had been convicted on “morals charges” as well as draft resistance, to organize the March on Washington was among the most radical acts of justice for a gay person before Stonewall.

    The new atheist characterization of The Intersection is ridiculous to anyone who has actually followed it. C.M. and S.K. have put up with tidal waves of personal abuse at their blog and their supporters are hardly sycophantic, certainly not as compared with PZ’s or Jerry Coyne’s followers.

    I’ve disagreed with several of the things Chris Mooney has said, at his blog and I haven’t been a regular participant in it for about a year. Several of the regular commentators there, the regulars who don’t regularly go there to attack the owners of the blog, have disagreed with things they have said. No, if you want to go see mutual admiration at its most yurpsom, it’s those two NA blogs I mentioned.

  26. #26 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    So if you deny that neuroanatomy and neurophysiology are at all relevant, then what is responsible for the mind in a living person? Culture alone? In conjunction with *what*, exactly? Sounds to me like you’re making a back-door arguement for the existence of an immortal soul! Why not just come out and say that? g724

    Are we thinking about the same Larry Moran? The one I’m thinking about would as soon issue a paper in favor of spontaneous generation of geese as one for the existence of an immortal soul.

    But, thank you, for explicitly stating what I’ve always believed was a major unstated motive of the extreme adaptationists and their allies, the entirely unscientific ideological struggle to use science as an attack on religious belief. It’s always lurking just under the surface. And by “just” I mean it’s fully visible just with the thinnest of covers for purposes of deniablity. In doing that they appropriate the appearance of science for a use that science is unequipped to accomplish. Science can’t disprove the existence of an immortal soul anymore than it could to prove it. Either attempt needs the extra component of dishonesty to come up with a simulation of validation for their position. Only, as is evident in the effort, even those who believe themselves to be the exemplars of science, are entirely capable of self delusion. I believe it is exactly their abuse of science that makes them believe their efforts are what they so obviously are not. Their effort has damaged science in the public sphere and it has diverted resources to their effort that would be better and more honestly used to do legitimate scientific research based in physical evidence without the construction of creation myths based in nothing but ideological purpose.

  27. #27 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    Would an Index of Dickish books be issued? I won’t tell you the pun that comes to mind.

    I’m so frequently reminded of the Dr. Who episode Robot, in which Sarah runs up against the door watcher for Scientific Reform Society who informs her that her irrational choice of outfit might not always be a matter of her choice.

  28. #28 TB
    April 23, 2011

    The atheists that I’ve known for much of my life are quite like the theists I’ve known – good, solid friends. I would like to see their status in America changed – they don’t deserve it.
    How that change can come about and the goals for that change is a worthwhile debate – the simplification of it into MLK vs. Malcom X is ridiculous though. Malcom X didn’t set out to be the stick that drove people to deal with MLK. Is it being suggested that New Atheism is all Kabuki Theater? I don’t think that would go down well with their followers. Or are the people saying this actually comfortable with the idea that New Atheists will eventually be marginalized in favor of a more moderate, inclusive movement (one that hasn’t exactly gotten a lot of notice comparatively BTW)?

  29. #29 debunk
    April 23, 2011

    “The Rev. Martin Luther King jr was far, far more radical than Minister Malcolm X”

    He most certainly wasn’t perceived that way, mainly because of his rhetoric. Same with the so-called “New Atheists”.

    “The new atheist characterization of The Intersection is ridiculous to anyone who has actually followed it”

    I didn’t characterize The Intersection in any way. I merely pointed out the irony of you referring to “silly, obnoxious, continual, mutual- self-congratulations” when you were more than eager to participate in the sock puppet circle jerk, which fits that exact description precisely, Anthony. Weren’t you banned from the intersection for that precise reason? Or was that that other obnoxious sycophant Kwok? You lot all sound the same, anyway, and are equally quixotic.

  30. #30 J. J. Ramsey
    April 23, 2011

    Lynxreign: “Athiests have been vilified for a very long time without being combative and there’s no reason to think ‘playing nice’ will change that.”

    Let me get this straight. Are you really saying that if atheists become more visible but don’t conform to negative stereotypes that it won’t make them any less vilified?

  31. #31 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    You only get one chance to make a first impression.

    OK. The impression that I want to make is this: claims of divine revelation exist on a spectrum between “malicious lie” and “incoherent delusion”.

    The reason that I want to make that point is two fold. 1) I think that this is the truth. 2) I refuse to accept any social construct based on so ridiculous a premise.

    It seems only fair to let the theists know my stance. To say otherwise is dishonest.

    This, in my opinion, is far more charitable than the stance that we* must not show our cards until the theists are lulled into acceptance. Such a stance implies that theists are incapable of using reason in discussing shared policy. My experience** indicates that this implication is false.

    How’s that for a first impression?

    *whoever “we” happen to be.
    **Rural, E. bible-f’in-belt Texas

  32. #32 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    He most certainly wasn’t perceived that way, mainly because of his rhetoric. Same with the so-called “New Atheists”. debunker

    I don’t know how old you are but you couldn’t have been paying attention during the 50s and 60s as The Reverend M.L. King was called just about everything and was constantly under threat of death, as were his entire family. If you mean he didn’t go around calling people names and telling lies about them, no, he wasn’t a perpetual 12-year-old. And another difference between him and the new atheists is that he opposed stereotyping even his opponents and assigning vicarious guilt based on those stereotypes. Minister Malcolm X was beginning to give that up in the last months before he was murdered.

    There were many of us who considered The Nation of Islam to be pretty conservative. It was hardly friendly to socialism, as I was a socialist at the time, as I remain today, it was pretty clear to me that MLK’s economic ideas, as radical as those espoused by Jesus, went far past where Malcolm X was willing to go. I believe that’s why he was murdered as he demonstrated for the labor rights of garbage men.

    Weren’t you banned from the intersection for that precise reason?

    It’s pretty amusing to find out that I’m the subject of the new atheist rumor mill, I’m not surprised to find out that they can’t get it straight. I am unaware of being banned at The Intersection. I believe I posted a comment there in the past month or so. I wonder if we’ve met before, you under a different name, speaking of sock puppets. I am aware of one new atheist sock puppet at The Intersection who variously went by the name “skeptic” and “sorbot” or some such thing, as well as other new atheist sock puppets who periodically give themselves away.

    J.J. Ramsey, I know it wasn’t addressed to me but I never witnessed college educated New Englanders expressing negative thoughts about atheists before the advent of the new atheism. It would have been considered gauche but far less so recently. As I said here, I never had any motivation to make negative comments about atheists before about 2004 and it was in direct response to NA bigotry and lies.

  33. #33 TB
    April 23, 2011

    Antiochus, you’re certainly free to make that first impression and to hold those opinions.

    I’m free to judge that position as unreasonable, intolorant and ignorant.

    Debunk: Have you also vilified Myers for being duped by a dishonest agent, the “Expelled” filmmakers? An agent who arguably has had far more influence on the debate than a serial sock puppet? No? They were both duped, after all. Considering both Mooney and Myers have both denounced the dishonesty and disavowed their involvement with the dishonest agents, I wonder what could possibly be different between the two situations that you would decry one person but not the other?

  34. #34 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    I’m free to judge that position as unreasonable, intolorant and ignorant.

    Sure. But do you? And on what grounds?

    Or is this a conversation that we can’t have without someone taking offense? I am completely willing to forgo pearl-clutching if you are.

  35. #35 debunk
    April 23, 2011

    Anthony, if you’re seriously arguing that MLK was perceived as being more radical than Malcolm X there’s no use in even talking to you.
    I asked you if you weren’t banned for the intersection, or if that was just Kwok.
    And no, you’ve never met me under another name. If I’ve ever posted on the intersection, it was as debunk. What was that you were saying about straw men again?

    TB, how is being duped the issue here?

  36. #36 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    Considering both Mooney and Myers have both denounced the dishonesty and disavowed their involvement with the dishonest agents, I wonder what could possibly be different between the two situations that you would decry one person but not the other?

    For one, Mooney used the duplicitous claim to tar a group of people who don’t even exist (or at least not in the form in which he would have them represented). Then, Mooney, refused to acknowledge that this was a ridiculous thing to have done.

    What parallel do you see here?

  37. #37 julian
    April 23, 2011

    So McCarthy and Co have written off everything but new england college educated folks. No wonder they don’t consider me important.

  38. #38 Josh Rosenau
    April 23, 2011

    Debunk: I understand that you’re calling accommodationists “Uncle Toms.” And I’m saying that Malcolm X called MLK, Jr. an Uncle Tom. He said the March on Washington was a white man’s plot to undermine civil rights. And I think we can safely say that history has not been kind to borne out that judgment. MLK was far more effective than Malcolm X not just at changing laws, but at changing minds and creating a society with less racism.

    Bird: If I were an atheist, I’d come out as one. But I’m not, so it’d be dishonest to say I was.

  39. #39 debunk
    April 23, 2011

    And you’re STILL missing the point. Malcolm X played an important role in the struggle for civil rights in the 60s. Are you going to deny that?

  40. #40 TB
    April 23, 2011

    Antiochus: “Sure. But do you? And on what grounds?”

    Oh, I have to back up my statement when you offered nothing to back up yours? It’s my opinion of your opinion. Clutch your own pearls.

    Dubunk: “TB, how is being duped the issue here?”

    You brought it up with “the sock puppet circle jerk.” If you want to criticize someone for being duped, then do it consistently.

    “For one, Mooney used the duplicitous claim to tar a group of people who don’t even exist (or at least not in the form in which he would have them represented).”

    So I guess we shouldn’t listen to Phil Plait “duplicitous claim” either? “In fact, though the basis of the talk was due to the degradation in tone I’ve been seeing lately (and I’m not at all alone in seeing it), it was also something of a confessional. Like most skeptics, at some points — too many, I now feel — in the past I’ve been a dick. I regret those times, and will strive to make sure they stay in the past.”

    debunk: “And you’re STILL missing the point. Malcolm X played an important role in the struggle for civil rights in the 60s. Are you going to deny that?”

    No, you’re still missing the point. Malcom X wasn’t doing what he was doing to secretly promote what King was advocating.

  41. #41 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    debunk, how old are you? Do you even remember the period during which Reverend King and Minister Malcolm X were alive? Malcolm X was percieved as being potentially violent while Martin L. King rejected violence but that has nothing to do with the radicalism of their goals. One proof that MLK was more radical in results were the Civil Rights and Voter Rights laws he had a major role in passing. While I have no doubts but that Malcolm X was very important he certainly had no major role in passing federal law that actually changed peoples’ lives and allowed for the exercise of rights in real life. There’s nothing more radical than that. The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. was the most effective radical in the United States in the past century, his importance wasn’t restricted to the United States, either. The progress that he began stalled as other, less radically visionary people took hold of the Civil Rights movement and petered out in the face of the manufactured backlash of the 1970s and after.

    Malcolm X, in the period he was part of the Nation of Islam promoted a far more conservative and, in the end, politically ineffective course. That he was very important to many people is as undeniable as their right to make that decision for themselves, but his effect in society and the law is minor as compared to Martin Luther King jrs. And that is what decides the degree of radicalism. There is nothing more radical than changing the lives of millions of people for the better.

    I know that view isn’t the common one held by people who watched a few movies and TV shows about the period but it happens to be an accurate view of the history.

  42. #42 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    Oh, I have to back up my statement when you offered nothing to back up yours? It’s my opinion of your opinion. Clutch your own pearls.

    You didn’t make a statement other than that you were entitled to your opinion…in your own words, “I’m free to judge that position as unreasonable, intolorant [sic] and ignorant.”

    Should I assume, then, that you do regard my position as unreasonable, intolerant, and ignorant?

    Oh, I have to back up my statement when you offered nothing to back up yours? It’s my opinion of your opinion.

    Which statement? That claims of divine revelation lie somewhere on a spectrum between malicious lies and incoherent delusions? Or that I refuse to accept such a ridiculous premise when debating policies that affect everyone?

    Why are either of these statements unreasonable, intolerant*, or ignorant?

    Clutch your own pearls.

    lol wut?

    So I guess we shouldn’t listen to Phil Plait “duplicitous claim” either? “In fact, though the basis of the talk was due to the degradation in tone I’ve been seeing lately (and I’m not at all alone in seeing it), it was also something of a confessional. Like most skeptics, at some points — too many, I now feel — in the past I’ve been a dick. I regret those times, and will strive to make sure they stay in the past.”

    What is duplicitous in this claim, and what does it have to do with anything?

    *OK…Intolerant I can see. I admit to being intolerant of foolishness.

  43. #43 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    Well, you see, julian, I live in New England, I have lived here all my life. New England is among the more liberal areas of the country, the college educated population of New Englanders tends to be pretty liberal. I am only reporting what I know. One of those is that I never experienced college educated New Englanders expressing anything but full acceptance of atheists before the new atheist obnoxiousness took hold. I was only telling what I’d observed. Unlike the psychic reader-new atheists here and elsewhere who use their super sciency powers to tell people they know their minds better than they do themselves, I rely on observation.

    I always knew that the new atheists were going to produce huge masses of irony, but I never thought they’d go into the mind reading business.

  44. #44 julian
    April 23, 2011

    But I thought you were such a worldly man, Mr. McCarthy! Are you saying that your experiences have been limited only to new england college educated gentle sirs and ladies? Amazing!

  45. #45 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    Julian, some people think others rearrange their prejudices, have fun playing with your thought blocks. You might be able to pass as a wit in some other places.

  46. #46 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    One of those is that I never experienced college educated New Englanders expressing anything but full acceptance of atheists before the new atheist obnoxiousness took hold.

    Oh. I didn’t know that the erudite populace of New England was so accepting until we began to get uppity. I would do anything to regain their esteem.

    We uppity atheists must STFU at once. Then, the degreed citizens of the northeast will clutch us once more to the warmth of their collectively ennobled bosom. And we all know that wherever the liberal enlightened people of the Commonwealth lead, the rabid, hateful, right wing will follow.

    [^ TB: This is sarcasm. It's when you say the opposite of what you mean for effect.]

    [Andrew...the point, which certainly could not have sailed over your NE college-educated head, is that your views are hilariously parochial.]

  47. #47 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    Re: #46

    Not Andrew! I meant Anthony.

    I had a super enlightened, liberal, NE elite friend once, and his name was Andrew. I apologize for the mix-up.

  48. #48 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    Antiochus, I’m not the one who affects a Latin name. Though, if it was intentional that you chose an early figure in the history of antisemitism and for the imperial establishment out of ignorance or intentionally, I couldn’t say.

  49. #49 julian
    April 23, 2011

    Wow!

    That was totally not a pointless, baseless and uncalled for attack on someone you disagree with. Stay classy.

  50. #50 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes is not Latin but Greek.

    Likely AE’s biggest crime was his attempt to Hellenize the Levant. Most of what you read in Maccabees is propaganda; there was a civil war between the orthodox and Hellenized Jews, Antiochus chose the wrong side, and was defeated. I picked the nym because I needed one, had been reading about the establishment of the Hasmonean line, and liked the way the name tripped off the tongue.

    Ironically, “Anthony” does in fact derive from Latin. You should google it.

  51. #51 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2011

    I have cited Antiocus on these blogs as proof that, despite the new atheist lore that Christians invented antisemitism, it was present in pagan Greek culture, as well as later Roman imperial culture. I’d assumed that it was a Latinized form of the Greek name, I studied Latin but not Greek. Which doesn’t change the fact that you chose to associate yourself a well known early antisemite. I wonder why.

    I’m afraid I came by Anthony because my parents had a devotion of St. Anthony of Padua, who was originally Portuguese. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was named after St. Anthony of Egypt. It is my given name.

    Julian, are you returning to your usual state of pointlessness?

  52. #52 julian
    April 23, 2011

    He says while screaming antisemite at someone because of a screen name.

    Btw, where are these gnu atheists thatclaim Christianity invinted antisemitism? This sounds like another of your bs claims.

  53. #53 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    I’d assumed that it was a Latinized form of the Greek name, I studied Latin but not Greek.

    Good thing being wrong on the internet is no crime.

    I have cited Antiocus on these blogs as proof that, despite the new atheist lore that Christians invented antisemitism, it was present in pagan Greek culture, as well as later Roman imperial culture.

    I wish that I were tighter with the rest of the in-group. Then I would have had the opportunity to explain that any kind of religious discrimination seems to go hand in hand with the invention of that religion. But apparently, you are the only one present who has access to wikipedia.

    Which doesn’t change the fact that you chose to associate yourself a well known early antisemite. I wonder why.

    I guess “Jason” and “Menalaus” were already taken. No, no, seriously. I support the Hellenization of the middle east*.

    *See above for an informal definition of sarcasm.

  54. #54 TB
    April 23, 2011

    Aaaand Antiochus offers nothing of substance in reply. Got it.

  55. #55 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    In reply to what?

  56. #56 julian
    April 23, 2011

    @tb

    Do you say that in response to Mr. McCarthy’s accusations of antisemitism or to AE’s request that you be more specific?

  57. #57 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 23, 2011

    Aaaand, TB the Droll requires hours to formulate nonsensical non-responses. Maybe you will be able to explain just wtf you mean to say in the morning. Hopefully after you decide just what you mean to say.

  58. #58 TB
    April 23, 2011

    Julian, I haven’t read Anthony’s posts. Except for commenting on one thing debunk said, I’m not part of that conversation. I replied to Antiochus’ opinion:

    “OK. The impression that I want to make is this: claims of divine revelation exist on a spectrum between “malicious lie” and “incoherent delusion”.
    The reason that I want to make that point is two fold. 1) I think that this is the truth. 2) I refuse to accept any social construct based on so ridiculous a premise.
    It seems only fair to let the theists know my stance. To say otherwise is dishonest.”

    An opinion I say he’s free to hold and I’m free to dismiss and judge accordingly. Now he asks me to back up my opinion without doing anything to validate his own. Pfft. I’ve done as much work as he has (not much!), which was my point in the first place. He put forth an opinion without reason, and so it’s worth is … Not much!
    That he then demands more from me without doing anything himself is just icing on my cake.

  59. #59 TB
    April 23, 2011

    Oh, and I love the snark about me not replying at your beck and call, Antiochus. Here, I’ll save you from breathlessly and obsessively hitting refresh on your browser tomorrow – I’m probably not going to be checking in on this thread for much of the day, since I have a life and all.
    Sorry if I just cost you a few hundred pageviews, Josh.

  60. #60 Norwegian Shooter
    April 23, 2011

    Josh: Really? I just wanted to type “dickish” a bunch. But you’ve outdone me! Is the post a top google result for “dickish” yet? Dickish. How about now?

  61. #61 debunk
    April 24, 2011

    TB: “Dubunk: “TB, how is being duped the issue here?”

    You brought it up with “the sock puppet circle jerk.” If you want to criticize someone for being duped, then do it consistently.”

    So what you’re telling me is that if I refer to the silly, obnoxious, continual, self-congratulatory atmosphere that existed at the intersection, partly due to the presence of sock puppets but with people like Anthony (and Chris Mooney himself) enthusiastically participating, what I’m really talking about is how Chris got duped?

    Are you serious?

  62. #62 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    Julian, I didn’t “scream” anything. I merely pointed out that A. E. had chosen the name of an early figure in antisemitism. One which is often cited primarily in relationship to the history of antisemitism.

    I support the Hellenization of the middle east*.

    *See above for an informal definition of sarcasm. Antiochus Epiphanes

    Well, the middle east has resisted Hellenization for quite a while now. As the Islamic scholarly tradition is responsible for the preservation of much of classical Greek culture, I’d think they’ve had what they wanted from it already.

    Given a choice between the morality of the ancient Greeks and the one in the Jewish Law I’d have to choose the Jewish Law as being more just and less depraved. Though I think we’ve learned a few things since then and it would be better to take that into account.

    I don’t have any problem keeping up my side in a contest of sarcasm, though I assumed that Josh wanted to avoid that kind of thing here.

    TB is quite able to conduct his own argument apart without any participation from me.

  63. #63 debunk
    April 24, 2011

    TB: “No, you’re still missing the point. Malcom X wasn’t doing what he was doing to secretly promote what King was advocating. ”

    Where did I say that to begin with?

  64. #64 debunk
    April 24, 2011

    AMcC: “Malcolm X was percieved as being potentially violent while Martin L. King rejected violence but that has nothing to do with the radicalism of their goals”

    The radicalism of their goals is completely irrelevant here. What matters is how they were both perceived by Joe Public. NAs (mostly) get criticised for their rhetoric, not their goals, correct?

    You people do understand what an analogy is, right?

  65. #65 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    and as soon as I am not automatically disqualified from running for public office in a “secular” country because I am an atheist
    a ray in dilbert space

    Oh, dear, that again. If you believe you are “automatically disqualified” from running for public office in the United States, you’ve fallen for one of the more ridiculous lines of new atheist whining.

    As long as you meet the age and citizenship requirements to run for office, nothing can stop you. For your name to appear on the official ballot you will have to comply with state and local requirements, none of which can legally prevent an atheist from appearing, not since the mid-1960s when atheists were included in the classes covered by the Civil Rights Act, the one that The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. did so much to get passed.

    However, neither the “no religious requirement” or the Civil Rights Acts apply to voters who can vote against someone for insulting them and being obnoxious to them. If you included the rest of your comment in your campaign, they wouldn’t be required to vote for you. You might not like that but, hey, you wouldn’t vote for someone if they slammed atheists, would you?

    I’m surprised such “bright” boys would have to have these things pointed out to them over and over again. Grow up.

  66. #66 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    debunk, how old are you? That’s a real question because I doubt you’re old enough to remember what was going on in the 50s and early 60s.

    The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. was successful in doing things that changed the country in ways people believed couldn’t happen just a few years earlier, in places where Minister Malcolm X and The Nation of Islam had little to no presence, for all ethnic groups and religious affiliations, including atheists. Malcolm X and The Nation of Islam had some accomplishments but none of those had anything to do with changing federal or state laws. Martin Luther King’s success was not affected by it, it was entirely separate from it. The paring of the two in the way you believe in, is a theatrical fantasy, it isn’t history.

    Any intimidation white people felt from The Nation of Islam during most of Minister Malcolm X’s career, was entirely local, they were never any kind of danger to anyone except a few city governments and police precincts. The part that perceived intimidation, let’s be honest, you’re talking about the perception of potential violence, played in what successes they had was minimal. It’s an insult to Malcolm X and The Nation of Islam to attribute their success to that perception. As they intended, their success was largely within black communities. Malcolm X was certainly not benefited by what violent potential existed within The Nation of Islam, as it ended in his assassination.

    The role that violence had in the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States is the product of romantic myth by people who never would dream of putting their own sweet fat in any danger. It’s childish and irresponsible. It was the violence of the 1960s that, as much as anything, put an end to progress in the struggle for civil rights. It fueled the reaction that has resulted in the resurgence of the right wing of Republicans, now including the old segregationists and dixicrats, that has resulted in the dismantling of much of the progress that was made through Martin Luther King’s and so many others mature, disciplined, non-violent resistance.

  67. #68 Riman Butterbur
    April 24, 2011

    Josh, this was a very good post, except for that ridiculous phrase “atheists – or nontheists more generally”.

    Except for Fred Edwords, the thread has been virtually a complete washout.

    Every minority liberation movement has to have both a carrot and a stick. The stick alone won’t work because the majority has superior force (cf Nat Turner). The carrot alone won’t work because the majority has no incentive to respect it. How many black slaves, down thru the centuries, protested against their white masters and were laughed at for their delusions of grandeur, while being whipped half to death for their insolence?

    Martin Luther King Jr succeeded where others had failed because he could point to Malcolm X, Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, etc.: If you don’t listen to me, you’ll have to deal with them.

    And yes, MLK worked around his enemies. He never made any headway with George Wallace or Bull Connor; Southern Whites have never accepted black equality to this day. It was imposed on them by the larger society thru the law, vigorously inforced.

    MLk’s aim was stated perfectly clearly: “When all God’s children can sit down together, black and white”; “Not black man and white man, but man and man.” If that’s not mainstreaming, then what do you mean by “mainstreaming”?

    That goal has not been reached. Blacks are still disadvantaged, and still bitterly resentful. It takes generations to wipe out a culture of bigotry. These things happen with all kinds of false starts, and twists and turns; a society evolves the same way an ecosystem does. It’s astonishing that bloggers so engrossed in evolutionary science look at it so simplistically.

  68. #69 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    An opinion I say he’s free to hold and I’m free to dismiss and judge accordingly. Now he asks me to back up my opinion without doing anything to validate his own.

    I just wanted to know specifically what you found to be so unreasonable, intolerant, or ignorant…so I could avoid rewriting the entire history of critical thought, and whatnot. But fine. I’ll give you my reasoning in a nutshell.

    Real phenomena (those that have properties that allow predictable interactions with other real phenomena) can be explained naturally, e.g. by empirically testable propositions*. Such explanations are necessarily more proximate and parsimonious than supernatural explanations, simply because they do not require invocation of ad hoc assumptions of the “supernatural”. Further, most supernatural explanations are 1) not needed, and 2) formulated in such a way to evade further investigation. Those that are neither of these things are clearly in conflict with experience and can be rejected. The fact of the matter is that everyone (including even the most fervent theist) dismisses most supernatural explanations out of hand.

    I said that “claims of divine revelation exist on a spectrum between “malicious lie” and “incoherent delusion”. This is because I think that such claims are always false (for reasons that I’ve given above). Why do people make false claims of experience? There are two reasons. They are lying or they are deluded.

    This is hardly the problem. If people felt free to simply follow what their delusion required of them without harassing the shit out of everyone else, it wouldn’t be a big deal. As far as I am concerned, those people are welcome to their delusions.

    However, a great number of such delusions form the basis of public policy. This is no more evident than the political movement that seeks to prevent gay and lesbian Americans from obtaining the right to marry. The only “reason” for such a movement takes the form of interpretation of divine revelation. I refuse to accept that because it was a malicious lie when it was written down by the apostle Paul**. Public policy (policy that affects everyone) should be decided based on evidence that is available to all. Divine revelation is therefore inadmissible. The religious have access to the same knowledge and logic available to anyone else, and they ought to bring these to bear on issues of public policy.

    Oh, dear, that again. If you believe you are “automatically disqualified” from running for public office in the United States, you’ve fallen for one of the more ridiculous lines of new atheist whining.

    Ahem.

    Here’s a statute from the constitution of my state:

    Texas’ Bill of Rights Section 4:
    “RELIGIOUS TESTS: No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”

    As it stands, I am not allowed to run for public office in the state in which I live***. If I fought such a thing in federal court, I have no doubt that I would win. However, I would have to do that, wouldn’t I? And a religionist wouldn’t. How isn’t that institutionalized discrimination?

    Getting back to TB: How is an atheist to express dismay about being beholden to ancient, insubstantial, and unquestioned mandates of the divine without being “unreasonable, intolerant, and ignorant”?

    *This is called “science”.

    **An absolute cad, in the most negative sense of the word.

    ***Similar statutes in seven other states, including the lofty ennobled constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachussetts. Article III reads:
    “Therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.”

  69. #70 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    Martin Luther King Jr succeeded where others had failed because he could point to Malcolm X, Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, etc.: If you don’t listen to me, you’ll have to deal with them R. B.

    Martin Luther King jr’s effectiveness came from his inclusiveness, his respect for his colleagues and his opponents, his refusal to hate his enemies, forcing them to confront him on the basis of someone who wouldn’t hate them, it was a product of those aspects of his faith. It didn’t come from using Malcolm X as a threat, Malcolm X was never a serious threat to the large majority of white Americans who were in opposition to what MLK was struggling for. If anything, he insulted white people who were part of the Civil Rights struggle, up till shortly before his assassination.

    Rap Brown was hardly on the scene by the time Martin Luther King jr. was murdered. He didn’t become head of SNCC until the year before. I think MLK was bothered by Stokely Carmichael because he knew the movement was in danger of being hijacked by egomaniacs like him and the results were far more a threat to the struggle for civil rights than for the white power structure.

    The greatest practical effects of threats of violence by black activists were to damage the effort to make progress, not to the white elite who were hardly in any danger from them at any time.

    If you think that Edword’s contribution is the high point of this thread, you’re unlikely to contribute to any kind of so-called civil rights push for atheists. If atheists suffer any disadvantage, it’s not due to legal discrimination but through prejudice against all atheists on the basis of their not believing in a God. In other words, you’ve got a People problem, not a legal problem. Doing what was so helpful in stopping progress towards civil rights, alienating the majority of voters and the people who are in a position to practice petty discrimination that wouldn’t be addressable by law, will only benefit people who don’t like atheist folk. If you think that’s rational, well, I’m not surprised by the rest of your comment.

    Maybe you have to take Martin Luther King jr. seriously enough to consider his point that you don’t love people who are your enemies because you like them but because God loves them, before you can begin to understand why he was so successful, why people were willing to follow him even though they, unlike today’s new atheists, stood a good chance of being killed in the struggle for what atheists got in 1964 with little to no personal risk.

  70. #71 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    An opinion I say he’s free to hold and I’m free to dismiss and judge accordingly. Now he asks me to back up my opinion without doing anything to validate his own.

    I just wanted to know specifically what you found to be so unreasonable, intolerant, or ignorant…so I could avoid rewriting the entire history of critical thought, and whatnot. But fine. I’ll give you my reasoning in a nutshell.

    Real phenomena (those that have properties that allow predictable interactions with other real phenomena) can be explained naturally, e.g. by empirically testable propositions*. Such explanations are necessarily more proximate and parsimonious than supernatural explanations, simply because they do not require invocation of ad hoc assumptions of the “supernatural”. Further, most supernatural explanations are 1) not needed, and 2) formulated in such a way to evade further investigation. Those that are neither of these things are clearly in conflict with experience and can be rejected. The fact of the matter is that everyone (including even the most fervent theist) dismisses most supernatural explanations out of hand.

    I said that “claims of divine revelation exist on a spectrum between “malicious lie” and “incoherent delusion”. This is because I think that such claims are always false (for reasons that I’ve given above). Why do people make false claims of experience? There are two reasons. They are lying or they are deluded.

    This is hardly the problem. If people felt free to simply follow what their delusion required of them without harassing the shit out of everyone else, it wouldn’t be a big deal. As far as I am concerned, those people are welcome to their delusions.

    However, a great number of such delusions form the basis of public policy. This is no more evident than the political movement that seeks to prevent gay and lesbian Americans from obtaining the right to marry. The only “reason” for such a movement takes the form of interpretation of divine revelation. I refuse to accept that because it was a malicious lie when it was written down by the apostle Paul**. Public policy (policy that affects everyone) should be decided based on evidence that is available to all. Divine revelation is therefore inadmissible. The religious have access to the same knowledge and logic available to anyone else, and they ought to bring these to bear on issues of public policy.

    Oh, dear, that again. If you believe you are “automatically disqualified” from running for public office in the United States, you’ve fallen for one of the more ridiculous lines of new atheist whining.

    Ahem.

    Here’s a statute from the constitution of my state:

    Texas’ Bill of Rights Section 4:
    “RELIGIOUS TESTS: No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”

    As it stands, I am not allowed to run for public office in the state in which I live***. If I fought such a thing in federal court, I have no doubt that I would win. However, I would have to do that, wouldn’t I? And a religionist wouldn’t. How isn’t that institutionalized discrimination?

    Getting back to TB: How is an atheist to express dismay about being beholden to ancient, insubstantial, and unquestioned mandates of the divine without being “unreasonable, intolerant, and ignorant”?

    *This is called “science”.

    **An absolute cad, in the most negative sense of the word.

    ***Similar statutes in seven other states, including the lofty ennobled constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachussetts. Article III reads:
    “Therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.”

  71. #72 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    Awaiting moderation…

  72. #73 TB
    April 24, 2011

    What do you know, I have a few minutes today after all.

    Debunk: “So what you’re telling me is that if I refer to the silly, obnoxious, continual, self-congratulatory atmosphere that existed at the intersection, partly due to the presence of sock puppets …”

    Oh, so now you’re only “partly” talking about the “the sock puppet circle jerk.” You wouldn’t be moving the goal posts there, would you?

    “,,,but with people like Anthony (and Chris Mooney himself) enthusiastically participating, what I’m really talking about is how Chris got duped?”

    Conflating whatever criticisms you have of Mooney and the Intersection with him getting victimized by a serial liar that Mooney disavowed as soon he found out about him (and subsequently turned him in to his advisor) is unreasonable. And whatever it is you don’t like about Mooney, one untrustworthy personal testimony doesn’t disqualify other personal testimony – as evidenced by the quote from Phil Plait.

    I bring up PZ because, as much as I dislike him, it would be unreasonable for me to blame him for being used as propaganda through the dishonesty of the “Expelled” filmmakers.

    I realize you were trying score points on Anthony, but you’re doing so by “blaming the victim.” As an example, I invited you to be consistent and blame PZ for being a victim – after all, “Expelled” continues to make the rounds as a propaganda device while the dust up at the Intersection was a tiny blip in the life of the internet.

    What do I mean by “blaming the victim?” “the sock puppet circle jerk” implies that not only did they know about the sock puppets, but that they endorsed their behavior as well.

    If that’s not what you meant to imply, perhaps you weren’t being very clear, hmm?

  73. #74 TB
    April 24, 2011

    Debunk: “TB: “No, you’re still missing the point. Malcom X wasn’t doing what he was doing to secretly promote what King was advocating. ”

    Where did I say that to begin with?”

    You didn’t. That’s the point you’re missing.

    I’m actually defending New Atheists here. I believe they are serious in their goals and want to be successful, just as Malcom X intended to be.

    If you’re going to use the MLK/Malcom X dynamic as an example, you have to use ALL of it. So, are you implying that the New Atheists are useful as a stick, but as soon as the mainstream embraces the carrot, the NA stick can be marginalized?

  74. #75 julian
    April 24, 2011

    @McCarthy

    Are you honestly unable to look past the NE?

    You realize gnu atheism isn’t exclusive to the USA or the West? Many of us have actually lived outside the utopia you supposedly live in. I get you don’t think much of people like Igwe or Hrsi Ali but could you at least recognize not everyone is coming from the same place you are.

  75. #76 Richard Simons
    April 24, 2011

    I’m a bit out of touch here (my excuse is that I am a non-USAian) but just what form is this “new atheist obnoxiousness” taking? Could we have a few examples? Presumably it is at least as bad as the posters that say ‘God has you in his sights’ and the preachers that thunder for hell-fire and destruction to rain down on all unbelievers. Perhaps it is more like the posters that proclaim ‘the fool has said in his heart that there is no God’. I’m assuming there is nothing to rival the antics of Phelps and his gang. All I have seen from this distance seems pretty tame stuff once you get away from a few blogs that most people don’t even know exist.

  76. #77 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    So, are you implying that the New Atheists are useful as a stick, but as soon as the mainstream embraces the carrot, the NA stick can be marginalized?

    I can address this while awaiting moderation, I suppose.

    What I find objectionable is discussion of how people can be “used”. Many of those who are labeled as “New Atheists” are simply saying what they think is true. Speaking for myself, I get tired of having my ears filled with nonsense with the expectation that I keep my head bowed and my mouth shut. Maybe your goal is to make the theists appreciate that you contribute something of value to society. That is not mine. My goal is to live my life honestly. Part of that is refusing to acknowledge the validity of arguments made from special revelation. And frankly, I don’t care if that offends anyone.

  77. #78 Markita Lynda: Healthcare is a right
    April 24, 2011

    Without reading all of the comments, I think that the new atheists are remarkably like the Older atheists, such as Robert G. Ingersoll, whose sobriquet was ‘The Infidel.’ They didn’t mince words, once it was marginally safe to do so. The last known execution for atheism in the British Isles was only in 1698: Thomas Aikenhead,for uttering doubts about biblical passages. Kazimierz Lyszczynski, the first admitted Polish atheist, was executed in 1689, for ridiculing poor logic in theological apologetics. Both men denied being atheist and reaffirmed their faith, to no avail. At this point I have to stop searching the Web, because topics like “Should Gays be Executed or Merely Jailed?” and “Execute all Mexicans, Gays, and Atheists” and “All Atheists Should Be Killed in an Oven” are making me angry.

    In that kind of a climate, the courage of others in the 1700s to write that they did not believe in a personal god was remarkable.

    In my opinion, a new atheist is simply one who refuses to conceal his or her existence or apologize for it and perhaps even states “I do not agree” or “I believe in reality” when confronted with the sacred cow of received myth.

  78. #79 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    but with people like Anthony (and Chris Mooney himself) enthusiastically participating, what I’m really talking about is how Chris got duped?”

    You are obviously sifting through the new atheist folklore about the infamous “Tom Johnson” affair. About the only thing I remember saying about that was that was that there was no evidence that he wasn’t telling the truth and it wasn’t incredible that new atheists would be acting obnoxiously at a meeting. If I said more than that I’d like a link to where I said it.

    That’s one of the problems with testimonial evidence, given without possibility of verification (see the last comment thread) it’s not possible to know more than if it seems plausible to you. I look at PZ’s or Coynes or any other blog of any ideological nature and see scads of unverifiable testimony. I hate to break this to you guys, but blog commentary isn’t much like scholarly writing with citations. I know because I’ve got every confidence that you’ve been reading the allegations of “gillt” who has repeatedly lied about things he alleged I said and who continued to repeat the lies even after I’d given him the links to where I’d said something quite different. He is in inveterate liar.

    Julian, you are as insubstantial as ever.

  79. #80 julian
    April 24, 2011

    And I have my answer.

  80. #81 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    … it wasn’t incredible that new atheists would be acting obnoxiously at a meeting.

    To the credulous, maybe. I attend several scientific meetings each year, conservation events, seminars, etc. and recall no mention of atheism, or religion, for that matter. Last year, Ken Miller gave our plenary address, and received a standing ovation. Maybe you are just referring to the “new atheists” of New England.

  81. #82 Markita Lynda: Healthcare is a right
    April 24, 2011

    Josh, you’re right that knowing you know people who are X can greatly reduce prejudice against X’s. I’m old enough to remember when, “Everyone knows someone who is gay; they just don’t know who they are” was a novel idea. We’ve come a long way.

  82. #83 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    A. E. do you think I’m going to accept you as an impartial judge in the matter of new atheist obnoxiousness? I don’t recall that Tom Johnson said what kind of meeting he was talking about. I’ve certainly encountered obnoxious atheists, as well as religious fundamentalists at meetings of small-nonprofits and at Democratic town committee meetings as well as in other contexts. I’ve never known of atheists to be unusually good, though your experience might be that they are invariably little angels.

    In any case, you haven’t produced evidence that I said more about the what “Tom Johnson” said than what I said I did above. Maybe “gillt” would like to provide the links. Though I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I was you.

  83. #84 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    A. E. do you think I’m going to accept you as an impartial judge in the matter of new atheist obnoxiousness?

    I don’t expect that you’ll come to any reasonable conclusion at all. So, no.

    The original claim was that Johnson was at a conservation meeting. Of some ilk.

    “Many of my colleagues are fans of Dawkins, PZ, and their ilk and make a point AT CONSERVATION EVENTS to mock the religious to their face, shout forced laughter at them, and call them “stupid,” “ignorant” and the like – and these are events hosted by religious moderates where we’ve been ASKED to attend. They think it’s the way to be a good scientist, after all.”

    Complete rubbish.

    I’ve certainly encountered obnoxious atheists, as well as religious fundamentalists at meetings of small-nonprofits and at Democratic town committee meetings as well as in other contexts.

    Maybe you should send a detailed report to Chris Mooney. He would certainly believe you.

    In any case, you haven’t produced evidence that I said more about the what “Tom Johnson” said than what I said I did above.

    lol wut?

    You haven’t explained what you said here:

    If you believe you are “automatically disqualified” from running for public office in the United States, you’ve fallen for one of the more ridiculous lines of new atheist whining.”

    In light of information that has been presented, do you still stand by that?

  84. #85 Anthony McCarthy
    April 24, 2011

    If you believe you are “automatically disqualified” from running for public office in the United States, you’ve fallen for one of the more ridiculous lines of new atheist whining.”

    You really are grasping for straws, aren’t you. The qualifications for running for office are defined in the federal and state constitutions, depending on whether or not it’s a federal or state office. Those deal with citizenship or residency, in the case of a state, and any restrictions of age or, and I left this out, legal status. No atheist is barred anywhere from running for a public office if they are otherwise qualified. It would be a violation of the Constitution of the United States and the Civil Rights Act for there to be a restriction on running for office on that basis.

    Likewise, the requirements for your name to appear on the official ballot cannot restrict you on the basis of religious orientation, including if you are an atheist.

    However, those restrictions don’t guarantee that you will win an election, that’s dependent on the people voting in the election, they aren’t required to vote for someone who insults them, not even atheists who do so. You don’t have the right to have someones’ vote, you have to make the case for a voter to give that to you. Insulting them isn’t a known vote getter. They don’t even have to give you their vote if you flatter them.

    Any questions?

  85. #86 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy: You really are a piece of work. I linked to seven pieces of legislature, and quoted two that contradict your assertion. You seem incapable of learning, or at least unwilling to alter your ideas when evidence is brought to bear on them.

    What do you have to say about laws that discriminate against gay men and women to form marriages? Or ones that allow honor killing of girls for perceived sexual immorality? Or allowances for genital mutilation of infants based on religious belief? Revelation is a sham. It is a lie. And when we it as a reasonable basis for policy, people suffer.

    And it isn’t just laws that hurt people. The soft glove of religious oppression insures that Catholics either have many children or forgo sex, even within the bounds of sacramental marriage. It insures that a large proportion of gay young adults and teens believe fervently that they deserve to burn in hell for their sexual orientation. It allows otherwise rational people to come to the conclusion that I (and those like me) deserve an eternity of torment because of my lack of belief. Nota bene: Deserve. Because such a punishment is just.

    But let’s do play nice, because we wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings. We want everyone to be happy and comfortable with whatever nonsense they believe, regardless of the collective weight this gives to such august institutions that protect sexual predator clergy or to the inquisitors that are thus inspired to great acts of cruelty, or a nonexistent deity who can yet manage 1 million tiny injuries that constrict both the capacity for thought and the enjoyment of freedom.

    But your beef is with the obnoxious atheist? As far as I am concerned, we are not obnoxious enough.

    Any questions?

    Not a one. But I would like to point something out. Even if all of what was written about my ‘nymsake in Maccabees 1 & 2 were true, he still wouldn’t hold a candle to the most vicious despot of the old testament, and in history for that matter. I’m just glad that one of them doesn’t exist.

  86. #87 julian
    April 24, 2011

    In McCarthy’s defense, your post was in moderation for so long, AE, he may not have seen it.

  87. #88 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 24, 2011

    julian: that’s reasonable. I retract my vitriol.

  88. #89 Chris Schoen
    April 24, 2011

    Antiochus,

    Did you actually read through the link you provided? It makes it quite clear that any state statute requiring any religious test for public office is unambiguously unconstitutional, according to Article 6, which the 14th amendment has made applicable to state law since 1868. Religious tests were unanimously declared unconstitutional in 1961 by SCOTUS.

    It would be better, of course, if the laws were repealed at the state level, but lets put them in perspective. In 1967, the Loving v. Virgina case deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. They stayed on the books until the late 90s in many states. That’s deplorable, but it’s not the same as saying that mixed-race marriage was illegal in those states after 1967 in either practice or fact. There are also still some Jim Crow laws on the books, but they have no force in law.

  89. #90 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    “On the books” matters. Should anyone contest the candidacy of an atheist, the only recourse is federal court. Sure-win or not, it is a rigamrole that only atheist candidates have to face. Regardless of whether one would eventually win in federal court, it is state-sponsored discrimination. It only takes one lunatic to force the issue.

    If people should be outraged that Jim Crow laws were still on the books would your reply to this outrage be, ” you’ve fallen for one of the more ridiculous lines of new atheist civil rights whining”? My guess is that you would find such a statement to be repugnant*. I don’t think that the struggle for civil-rights is** qualitatively similar to the struggle for freedom from religious oppression that continues today, but discrimination is discrimination.

    What about those other laws? Gay marriage? State sanctioned genital mutilation? Do you deny that laws based on divine revelation are 1) baseless, or 2) harmful? Or am I just whining?

    *I assume that you are not a bigot. I don’t think that I’m being overly-charitable.
    **present tense.

  90. #91 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    Antiochus, are you claiming that atheists are barred from running for political office in the United States? Are you really claiming that? Do you have any cases of that happening after the Civil Rights Act was passed? Do you have cases which were successfully challenged on the basis of atheism? The “no religious test” clause is as clear as it could possibly be, it has been the law of the United States since the constitution was adopted, federal law supersedes state laws and local statutes, the Constitution supercooled federal statutes when those conflict with it.

    Did you folks ever take 11th grade civics or 10th grade American History, if not 8th Grade American History?

    What do you have to say about laws that discriminate against gay men and women to form marriages? A.E.

    As I’ve already given that as a right which straight atheists have never been deprived of and even gay ones aren’t deprived of exercising on the basis of their religious orientation, I’m surprised you think you have to ask. Of course I’m against discrimination against gay couples who want to marry.

    Ideally, I’d like the state to only sanction civil unions between consenting adults. I like the French version, which has been used most often by unmarried women and their widowed mothers. Marriage should be a private matter and a religious one for people who choose that.

    Or ones that allow honor killing of girls for perceived sexual immorality?

    The phrase “honor killing” is a lie, there’s nothing honorable about murdering women. It’s a crime against humanity as certainly as any other forms of terror and genocide are. Are there laws like that on the books of the United States? Where?

    Are you going to be serious? Do you think I’d be in favor of them? I guess my regular blogging hasn’t figured into the new atheist gossip mill. I write for a feminist blog.

    What next? You going to ask me if I favor selling Irish babies so English people can eat them?

  91. #92 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    Atheist extraordinaire

    OK. Who said, “Send in the clowns”?

  92. #93 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    Antiochus, you might want to see what I said about the issue several years ago.

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2008_05_11_archive.html#6550163996939358283

    Come to think of it, didn’t your hero, Athiochus Epiphanes murder his nephew so he could gain power? Not to mention the wholesale murder and enslavement of Jews? I’d imagine many of them were children.

  93. #94 Chris Schoen
    April 25, 2011

    “On the books” matters. Should anyone contest the candidacy of an atheist, the only recourse is federal court. Sure-win or not, it is a rigamrole that only atheist candidates have to face. Regardless of whether one would eventually win in federal court, it is state-sponsored discrimination. It only takes one lunatic to force the issue.

    My point was we should let the rhetoric fit the crime. What you describe here is a little less high octane than claiming atheists are legally barred from public office in Texas. I’m not claiming there are no obstacles to an atheist getting elected in Texas (the biggest being that atheists are mistrusted and unpopular). But it’s simply false to assert, as you do above, that the law prevents atheists from running.

    And yes, if someone complained, in 1995, that the anti-miscegenation laws in South Carolina made mixed race marriages illegal, I would call this, too, a false claim. (I would not call it “whiny.” That was someone else’s term, not mine.)

    I’ll say again the laws in both cases should be repealed, but their presence in the legal code does not give them the force of law; that’s not how jurisprudence works.

  94. #95 Lynxreign
    April 25, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy: “OK. Who said, “Send in the clowns”?”

    Well, you were already here, they must have figured they were welcome. Congratulations, I’ve rarely read such a load of self-congratulatory, self-satisfied drivel as what you’ve posted here.

  95. #96 Lynxreign
    April 25, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey:

    Lynxreign: “Athiests have been vilified for a very long time without being combative and there’s no reason to think ‘playing nice’ will change that.”

    Let me get this straight. Are you really saying that if atheists become more visible but don’t conform to negative stereotypes that it won’t make them any less vilified?

    What? I can’t even figure out what you’re trying to say in your interpretation. I’m saying that if Athiests are loud and rude, they’ll be villified, but at least will have the chance to define themselves and speak for themselves. If they’re quiet and meek, they’ll be villified and those doing the villification will continue to present them as horrifying charicatures with horns that are to be feared by “good” people.

    In the former case, they have a chance of persuading people. In the latter, they have none and are keeping quiet in the hopes of being barely tolerated.

  96. #97 julian
    April 25, 2011

    “I’ll say again the laws in both cases should be repealed, but their presence in the leg code does not give them the force of law; that’s not how jurisprudence works.”

    Hmmm

    But wouldn’t the same apply to say abortion or ID? Despite the very clear rulings in both cases, neither are what I would call settled. There are still very active and very influential agents acting to undermine Roe V Wade and I can’t count how many people willing to give ID a blank check at the State level. Yes it’s fine to say the Circuit Courts will come down on this or that side, but how does that diminish the support for these laws and the tenacity they display?

    I think it’s a similar case here minus the organizations, although i’d be willing to bet you’d see a powerful response from the religious right if some of these were to be challenged.

  97. #98 J. J. Ramsey
    April 25, 2011

    Lynxreign:

    I’m saying that if Athiests are loud and rude, they’ll be villified, but at least will have the chance to define themselves and speak for themselves. If they’re quiet and meek, they’ll be villified and those doing the villification will continue to present them as horrifying charicatures with horns that are to be feared by “good” people.

    Thank you for clarifying.

    First, there’s a false dichotomy here. You write as if the only choices are “loud and rude” and “quiet and meek,” but an atheist can be loud without demonizing the religious or acting as if he/she thinks they’re morons.

    (Yes, I am defining “rude” here as meaning “demonizing the religious or acting as if he/she thinks they’re morons.” I want to clearly distinguish between being vocal and being nasty.)

    Second, loud and rude atheists confirm the negative stereotypes that theists have about atheists, reinforcing the vilification and making it harder for atheists to come out.

  98. #99 Chris Schoen
    April 25, 2011

    Julian,

    You may not be aware that there are currently pre-Roe anti-abortion laws currently on the books in several states–including “blue states” like MA, VT, and WI. Everybody knows these are null and void and have no force in law.

    It would be alarmist in the extreme to claim that these statues are actual, practical impediments to getting an abortion in those states. This is not to say that many states don’t have practical impediments to getting an abortion. All too many do. But the never-repealed pre-Roe laws “on the books” have very little to do with the matter.

    Everything is subject to challenge in our system (except for the authority of the Constitution itself, and even that could be overthrown by a revolution.) “Acting to undermine” existing law is a valid and necessary part of the process. I would like to see a “rigorous response” against Taft-Hartley and Citizens United. But until further notice, these are the law of the land.

    I’m not arguing against the support and tenacity of anti-atheist sentiment in Texas and elsewhere, just like I would not argue against the support and tenacity of racism and sexism throughout the US. But it is about as unambiguous as it gets that at the present time, no laws prevent seeking or holding office on the basis of a religious test.

  99. #100 julian
    April 25, 2011

    “…loud and rude atheists confirm the negative stereotypes that theists have eists, reinforcing the vilification and making it harder for atheists to come out.”

    You could say that about any group. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the personwith the prejudice to recognize their mistake and judge people based on their individual actions and not from second hand stories or the occasional troll they’ve met online.

    And I don’t buy that it would make it harder for atheists to come out. Regardless of the stereotypes others are pushing onto you, realizing you aren’t alone makes speaking out easier. ( at least in my limited experience.)

  100. #101 Lynxreign
    April 25, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey

    First, there’s a false dichotomy here. You write as if the only choices are “loud and rude” and “quiet and meek,” but an atheist can be loud without demonizing the religious or acting as if he/she thinks they’re morons.

    The false dichotomy is not mine, it is that of those that decry athiests. They tend to reply to “Hi, Im an athiest” with “How dare you call me an idiot!”

    I want to clearly distinguish between being vocal and being nasty.

    Shame the religious don’t do so. As an example, look at the reactions to the bus campaigns and billboards that simply state “good without god” or “Athiests are here”.

    Second, loud and rude atheists confirm the negative stereotypes that theists have about atheists, reinforcing the vilification and making it harder for atheists to come out.

    Have any evidence for this? As I mentioned above:
    Loud & rude – confirm negative stereotype
    Loud, & not rude – negative stereotype still claimed by religious
    not loud & not rude – stereotyped by religious

    My evidence for this is history, the stereotype came to be without Loud & rude.

  101. #102 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    In the former case, they have a chance of persuading people. Lynxreign

    Persuade people of what?

    As to your comment directed to me, you should try PZ, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins and especially James Randi. It might give you some perspective. Or not, as may be the case.

  102. #103 Lynxreign
    April 25, 2011

    That athiests aren’t what they’re made out to be. Sure, they might be “loud and rude”, but they’re also confident and decent people and not at all what the listener has been told all his life. In fact, they’re independant and disagree with each other too! Whereas the religious expect obedience, athiests do not and for those not afraid to think for themselves, this is a wonderous realization. One I’ve seen.

    I’ve read PZ, Coyne, Dawkins and Randi. It is that perspective (among a great many others) that informs my comment directed at you.

  103. #104 julian
    April 25, 2011

    @ Chris Schoen

    But isn’t that the point? That all those stumbling blocks and hurdles are put their despite what the ‘law’ supposedly says? And that many of those stumbling blocks and hurdles are the biases and prejudice of the local populace trying to manifest itself through the courts and legislative body?

    Although I’m not all that familiar of anti-choice laws inblue states I figured there had to be and I think that sorta supports AE’s point. The laws aren’t a stumbling block because no legilatures state side want to chip away at Roe for whatever reason (fear of backlash, honestly support it, don’t think they’d be very effective) and not like it should be because it’s been decided.

  104. #105 J. J. Ramsey
    April 25, 2011

    Lynxreign: “The false dichotomy is not mine”

    You were the one who contrasted “loud and rude” and “quiet and meek” as if they were the only two options.

    Lynxreign:

    As I mentioned above:
    Loud & rude – confirm negative stereotype
    Loud, & not rude – negative stereotype still claimed by religious
    not loud & not rude – stereotyped by religious

    Actually, it’s more like this:

    * Not loud & not rude – religious don’t have to work hard to maintain negative stereotype
    * Loud & rude – religious have to work even less hard to maintain negative stereotype, since the atheists help them reinforce it
    * Loud, & not rude – Negative stereotype is faced with counter-evidence, requiring cognitive dissonance to maintain the stereotype

    You want your opponents to have to face cognitive dissonance. You want to make it harder for opponents to keep their prejudices.

    Furthermore, the experiments showing that “informing students about the prevalence of atheists reduced their sense of distrust towards atheists” would indicate that loud and not rude is more or less the way to go. If atheists are relatively prevalent (the “loud” part) and they aren’t having the negative effect that the students expect (the “not rude” part), that nudges the students to believe that atheists aren’t so bad.

  105. #106 julian
    April 25, 2011

    But many gnus aren’t ‘rude.’ Many are downright friendly if a little rough around some edges. Yet stereotypes persist and get pushed by everyone from fundamentalist to moderate and then some.

    Think feminism. Feminism isn’t about hating men, or propping up a matriarchal soceity, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any significant numberof self identified feminists that believe that. But that’s the way much of soceity percieves them so that many young feminists say things like ‘i’m a feminist but…’

    The reason people hold prejudiced views against minority or anyone really has little if anything to do with how that group behaves itself.

  106. #107 Lynxreign
    April 25, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey

    As Julian points out, many of the gnus are quite personable. The Rude part of “loud and rude” is from the religious side and will be uttered no matter what the loud athiest does. Rude isn’t the negative part expected by the listener. Seeing that athiests are moral people is what pushes the listener to seeing that they aren’t so bad. Rude is normal, rude is commonplace, rude is expected. That it is the worst the religious can point to when confronted with an actual athiest speaks volumes to the listener and it is in favor of the athiest.

  107. #108 Bill Thacker
    April 25, 2011

    As a gay atheist I have a strong sense of deja vu. I’ve definitely been here before. Symptoms:

    – My “group” is vilified by every major religion as sinful, deceitful, and untrustworthy. Check.

    – Religious speakers/writers dehumanize us by saying we are inherently insane. Tactics include accusing us of having a mental illness like “perversion” or lacking human morality (psychopathy). Check.

    – Politicians and clergy attack us publicly, but complain that it’s unfair for us to attack them in response. Check.

    – We are invisible unless we self-identify. Self-identification is dangerous and few risk it. Check.

    – Some people in the group want to criticize our oppressors to call attention to the injustice. Others want to work *with* religion to achieve mutual tolerance. In-fighting within the minority results, weakening the movement. Check.

    So, what did the gay rights movement teach me that atheists can use today?

    1) Come out, come out. Stereotypes are dispelled by real life counterexamples. People who know a gay person are far less likely to to be anti-gay. And when closeted gays see lots of openly gay people, they may come out, too. Being out humanizes us, weakens bias against us, and gains us more allies.

    2) Keep the issue in the public eye. They’ll get used to it eventually and lose their outrage.

    3) Do what you can to work toward equality. Let others do what THEY can, even if you don’t like their approach. Every second you spend fighting your fellow atheists is a waste of TWO peoples’ effort.

    What won’t work:

    1) Partnering with religion. That worked for gays because most gay people were already “insiders” in their religions and had built networks with sympathetic clergy (many of whom were also gay). The churches didn’t want to lose members, so as gays became more visible they started talking about “loving the sinner” and decided it was better to have gays in church (where they could be “saved”) than let them become godless. None of this works for atheists. Churches aren’t worried about losing our membership, but they’re worried that others may quit due to our example. They’re never going to accept atheism the way they accepted homosexuality.

    2) Censoring our community. Gays couldn’t stop men in G-strings from showing off in front of TV cameras during pride marches, or militant AIDS activists from blocking bridges, though many cried that this was hurting our image. In retrospect, it didn’t matter. I think that people open-minded enough to accept gays at all were also able to understand that a few of us could be offensive at times. It’s all part of “diversity”.

    3) The angry and outrageous people are usually the best activists, and the movement needs their energy. The quiet, patient ones know how to work within the system and that’s invaluable, but they are unable to inspire a popular movement because they’re boring and slow. We need both types.

    Joshua argues we should speak more carefully: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” But the “first impression” of atheists was made a long time ago. I doubt there are *any* adults in the USA who don’t already have a strong impression of what atheism is, and most of them got that from their religion, not from atheists. Nothing we can say today is a first impression about atheism.

  108. #109 J. J. Ramsey
    April 25, 2011

    julian: “But many gnus aren’t ‘rude.’ Many are downright friendly”

    Yet one major leader in the movement likens those who ally with the religious to fight evolution in schools as enablers to Nazis. I shouldn’t have to tell you who that is. And another de facto leader, PZ Myers has gone unhinged and engaged in character assassination that has little to do with the facts. As far as I know, recent leaders in the feminist movement have not engaged in similar excesses.

  109. #110 Bill Thacker
    April 25, 2011

    I had to chuckle at the sub-thread about being “dickish”. Reading dickish books in public, or doing so in a dickish manner, etc.

    If I may make a modest proposal, atheism needs an official body to ascertain the dickishness (Dickitude? Dickiosity? Dickundity? D-state?) of the various tomes authored by our fellows, and to publish a Dicklist of the worst offenders. We could call it the Dickquisition. And I know a guy who’d be perfect to run it, a fellow named Coquemada.

    :-)

  110. #111 Chris Schoen
    April 25, 2011

    Julian @104,

    I don’t totally understand your argument in your second paragraph, but it seems to me you’re conflating several factors. I never argued there were no impediments to running as an atheist. I’m just saying you can’t cite the existence of religious test laws, since they are null and void, just as pre-Roe anti-abortion laws are null and void.

    The reason it’s hard to get an abortion in a number of states is largely because of the (thus far) legally binding statutes regarding, for example, parental notification, and waiting periods. The fact that such states may also have laws outlawing abortion on the books have no bearing.

    You simply cannot argue that abortion is illegal in any state in the US, no matter what the state code says. Likewise, you cannot argue, as AE did, that atheists are legally prohibited, in any state or territory in the US, from running for office.

    If you or AE want to cite any specific Jim Crow type “stumbling blocks” that make it difficult for an atheist run for office, I won’t object. I’m not saying there is no discrimination against atheists. But the idea that running for office is prohibited by law in any state is patently false.

  111. #112 truthspeaker.dea
    April 25, 2011

    But increased outspokenness is the entirety of the definition of “New Atheism”. I really don’t understand what you’re saying. There are other ways of increasing visibility than becoming more visible?

  112. #113 julian
    April 25, 2011

    @ J J Ramsey

    I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that if there were more feminists who allowed themselves the excesses of gnu atheism people would be right in holding onto their biased views against them?

    “Yet one major leader in the movement likens those who ally with the religious to fig evolution in schools as enablers to Nazi”

    Could I get the name and where this happened?

    “Z Myers has gone unhinged and engaged in character assassination that has little to do with the facts”

    The first thing that jumps out at me is that this happened a year ago. The second is that it wasn’t a link to PZ himself. I understand you may not think much of my intelligence or impartiality but at least allow me to evaluate what someone has said myself. Still reading thru all the links.

  113. #114 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    If you or AE want to cite any specific Jim Crow type “stumbling blocks” that make it difficult for an atheist run for office, I won’t object.

    Chris: I understand your point. In practice, such laws (on the books as they may be) would form no major hurdle in obtaining office. I would have supposed that this is true, but that such a law could be a “stumbling block” or minor hurdle. But, I am not a lawyer, so I’ll have to concede the point.

    However, this really was part of a larger argument that religious claims are often used as a basis for public policy. I find such practices absurd. If it rude for me to say so, than I will be rude rather than lie.

    And also, all of this boils down to “rude” outspoken atheists are. But how rude are we? A milquetoast moderate methodist lives next to me. She converses with me easily, feels comfortable borrowing my spade, and talking to my kid. She doesn’t know that I am an atheist. However, I know that she believes that those who haven’t accepted Christ as their Savior will spend an eternity in Hell, and what’s more, they deserve to. However, if I were to tell her that I find her concept of hell to be unfounded, ridiculous, and repugnant…well, that would be rude, wouldn’t it?

  114. #115 J. J. Ramsey
    April 25, 2011

    julian:

    I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that if there were more feminists who allowed themselves the excesses of gnu atheism people would be right in holding onto their biased views against them?

    No, I’m saying that your analogy with feminism in #106 falls apart because the supposed excesses of feminism are largely imaginary, especially nowadays, while the supposed excesses of “gnu atheists” unfortunately aren’t.

    Could I get the name and where this happened?

    Don’t tell me that you don’t remember the Neville Chamberlain gambit that Dawkins pulled, especially Dawkins’ misleading framing of the debate persists to this day, even as the term “accommodationist” has largely replaced “Neville Chamberlain appeasers.”

  115. #116 J. J. Ramsey
    April 25, 2011

    Antiochus Epiphanes:

    A milquetoast moderate methodist lives next to me. She converses with me easily, feels comfortable borrowing my spade, and talking to my kid. She doesn’t know that I am an atheist. However, I know that she believes that those who haven’t accepted Christ as their Savior will spend an eternity in Hell, and what’s more, they deserve to. However, if I were to tell her that I find her concept of hell to be unfounded, ridiculous, and repugnant…well, that would be rude, wouldn’t it?

    Not necessarily. Depends on how you tell her. If you stay matter-of-fact in pointing out the logical and moral problems, and refrain from name-calling, badgering, etc., that’s not rude. Once you’ve removed all the good reasons for her to be offended, then all she’s left with are the bad reasons, and if she’s still offended, then the problem is at her end.

    (Now I would be careful in presuming that someone from a mainline Protestant denomination really believes in Hell or that all non-Christians will go there, but that’s another story.)

  116. #117 Anna
    April 25, 2011

    Antiochus,

    A “milquetoast moderate Methodist” believes you’ll go to hell and you know this? Did she tell you outright that she thought you were going to hell? That surprises me; universalism has become more and more popular even with a fair number of evangelicals, and Methodists tend to be on the liberal end of the Christian spectrum. That’s interesting if she thinks nonChristians are all automatically bound for hell.

    Though I must say, if she’s told you she thinks you are going to hell, I don’t see anything rude in your responding that you find that absurd and repugnant.

    What would be rude is that you assume that someone, just because they are Christian — without ever discussing it with them — thinks you must be going to hell. That is by no means a given.

  117. #118 Anna
    April 25, 2011

    Ah, I see I cross-posted with J. J. Ramsey. I agree with JJR that if you are matter-of-fact and courteous in pointing out your objections, that disagreement in and of itself is not rude. If you are disagreeing without being disagreeable, then the problem is at her end.

    Actually, I am more concerned that she borrows your spade. Does she return it promptly and in good condition . . . ? And she isn’t telling your KID he/she is going to hell, is she?!

  118. #119 julian
    April 25, 2011

    @ J J Ramsey

    So the reason the analogy falls apart is because the excesses of feminism is largely in the minds of their adversaries? (I’d argue this is the case for gnu atheism too) doesn’t that, like I was trying to object to, make the issue the behavior of the group everyone admits is on the receiving end of prejudice?

    And yes I’ll probably need links to the Chamberlain fiasco too. If you haven’t guessed, I am rather new to these ‘wars.’

    Regarding AE’s story

    It resonants with my personal experiences pretty strongly. My mother is a ‘liberal Catholic’ (she’ll vote democrat but that’s where it ends. Abortion? Secular gov’t? HA!) And has made it explicitly clear she believes atheists, none Christians and pagans are agents of Satan. The only thing keeping her from drowning is the money I send ever month and I’m afraid of coming out to her because of where her pride might take her.

  119. #120 julian
    April 25, 2011

    I think the problem would always be at the end of the person who believes eternal damnnation is fitting punishment for blasphemy.

    Just inteolerant, bigoted me though.

  120. #121 Chris Schoen
    April 25, 2011

    That’s fine, AE. Just wanted to correct the record on that score.

    I should add that I don’t have a problem with religious ideas influencing public policy in a general sense, as long as they are democratically arrived at and don’t conflict with the foundational principles of pluralism and tolerance. It would be a shame if we couldn’t make stealing a crime because it was one of the ten commandments.

    And to chime in with J.J. and Anna, disagreement with a neighbor need not be rude. But I find that very little productive dialogue begins with telling someone you find their ideas “absurd and repugnant.” (Consider how inclined you would be to converse with someone if they took that approach with you.) You have every right to speak your mind, but the right to be trusted and taken seriously has to be earned. It’s up to each of us which is more important. If you want your neighbor to know that atheists are decent people (and perhaps tell her church friends), you could do worse than to let her know, amiably, that you don’t believe in God or hell, offer her your spade, and leave the part about how absurd and repugnant it all is for another day, because being a good neighbor (1) is more important than being right, and (2) opens people up to consider how right you may be.

  121. #122 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    A “milquetoast moderate Methodist” believes you’ll go to hell and you know this? Did she tell you outright that she thought you were going to hell?

    No. Not me. She doesn’t know that I have not accepted Christ as my savior. She sort of assumes that everyone in the neighborhood has. It’s those people who haven’t that she worries about…hence the support for various missions, etc. which is what got her started on the topic in the first place.

    However, I guess I haven’t made my point clear.

    The very belief that eternal torment = justice is infinitely (in the literal sense) more offensive than if I had called her a pig, an antisemite*, a fundagelical cretin, or I guess a bazillion other words that wouldn’t make it through moderation. I can’t think of anything that I could say that could possibly cause more offense. What’s worse than saying that a person is so abysmal that only the lake of fire is good enough for them?

    Let me put it this way…if I were to say that Josh deserved to be beaten with a tire iron for his religious belief, any sane person would find that so offensive as to constitute an actual threat of violence. But if someone said to me that I deserved an eternity of punishment for my belief, as long as that “eternity of punishment” is a point of religious doctrine, they are just speaking what they feel is the truth. Heck. They may even want to save me from damnation. How could I possibly find that offensive? It’s just their belief.

    The religious seem to get a free pass on the outrageously offensive concepts that they espouse. But an atheist hurls a little invective and they are “rude” and hurting the cause?

    The worst damage that any of the “New Atheists” have done is hurt feelings.

    Also, I would point out that R. Dawkins and PZ Myers alone have done more to popularize secular thinking than anyone in the last decade. If this is hurting the cause, I’m not sure what your cause is.

    *Eye on you, Anthony.

  122. #123 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    Bill Thacker, being gay, myself you distort quite a bit in your comment

    1. Many religions around the world, a number of Christian and Jewish religious bodies, fully accept gay people. If another man proposed to me, we could walk into the office of the United Church of Christ office in the next town (in New Hampshire) and ask to be married by the minister, in the church and the only question would be if the church was available that day. It’s not the only church in the few states that allow gay marriage we could walk into and find full acceptance. I’ve attended a gay wedding at one of the Quaker Meetings in New Hampshire. So, your first claim is false. It’s certainly not true of the Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire, who elected a gay man to be Bishop. You might have heard of that.

    2. In the history of psychological address of gay orientations, there have been many atheists who have diagnosed being gay as being a pathology. It’s not peculiarly a religious practice to stigmatize being gay that way.

    3. There are plenty of religious congregations in which I don’t have to worry about being merely tolerated because I’d be accepted. Some of the places I’ve felt most unconscious of being merely tolerated have been among Quakers and Congregationalists and other religious groups.

    Of course, being obnoxious will pretty much guarantee that you’ll find less of a welcome in many places. I don’t care if you identify yourself as an atheist if you act like a jerk, but I don’t want it to come off on me as a gay man.

    Lynxreign, since you think that bunch is an embodiment of wisdom I’ll gladly accept your insults.

  123. #124 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    And she isn’t telling your KID he/she is going to hell, is she?!

    How the hell does this matter?

  124. #125 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    Chris:

    It would be a shame if we couldn’t make stealing a crime because it was one of the ten commandments.

    I’m pretty sure that we could find other reasons. Stealing is a crime in places that don’t worship the Abrahamic god.

    But I find that very little productive dialogue begins with telling someone you find their ideas “absurd and repugnant.” (Consider how inclined you would be to converse with someone if they took that approach with you.)

    So the burden of courtesy is entirely on atheists? Telling someone their ideas are absurd and repugnant isn’t anywhere as insulting as telling them that you believe that god’s cruelty is just. Ideas can be absurd and repugnant. Those who have them should be told that their ideas are absurd and repugnant. They are just ideas after all. Ideas aren’t people. Some should be destroyed.

    In fact, it’s kind of funny that you don’t see the irony of your own suggestion. Seems like you would like me to turn the other cheek, right? Act like a true Christian?

    Anthony:

    Many religions around the world, a number of Christian and Jewish religious bodies, fully accept gay people.

    And the only reason that not all of them do is religious belief. But “around the world” only applies to the college educated liberals of the North East. Hey. Don’t worry about gays in Uganda or Saudi Arabia, or Texas, or Utah, because everything is all ecumenical and sweet in the North East. If your friends are liberal.

    It’s not peculiarly a religious practice to stigmatize being gay that way.

    Nope. They have other ways of making you ashamed and dead.

    There are plenty of religious congregations in which I don’t have to worry about being merely tolerated because I’d be accepted.

    I know. Gays have it great. What are they always whining about? Anthony is accepted in a few churches, right? Everyone celebrate by putting your outrage away and shutting the fsck up about it.

    Once again, Anthony, you are risibly parochial.

    Bill Thacker: Word.

  125. #126 julian
    April 25, 2011

    So… you don’t want any gay men to be gay gnu atheists because they’ll be acting as the supreme embassadors for queerness and therefor reflect poorly on you as a good gay?

    That’s actually exactly what i’d expect from someone like you, Mr. McCarthy.

  126. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers have done as much as anyone to confirm peoples negative views of atheists. Dawkins has been thanked by creationists for being such a successful foil for them.

    Lynxreign @103

    That athiests aren’t what they’re made out to be.

    Atheists are the I know people who most want it understood that the new atheists don’t have anything to do with them. I know two people now who have stopped identifying themselves as atheists because they don’t want to be identified with new atheists. One of my brothers made that change after reading The God Delusion and was appalled at its dishonesty and lapses in scholarship.

    At this point, I still acknowledge the difference between new atheists and most atheists as a courtesy to those atheists who want that distinction made. But doing that, in the absence of reciprocation by those atheists, is beginning to wear thin. If new atheists are going to be allowed to lie freely about all religious people, without making distinctions among different individuals and groups, it’s the absence of objection by other atheists which will determine the extent to which other people will continue to return the favor of acknowledging that distinction among atheists. I seldom see atheists objecting to atheist bigotry on the blogs, though I see it very occasionally. Given the volume of lies that come from new atheists on the blogs I visit, it’s increasingly a distraction for the political left, which I care about, and for atheists in general who can do their own worrying about it, if they choose to.

  127. #128 Anthony McCarthy
    April 25, 2011

    I don’t want anyone acting like a jerk to give people the impression that they are typical of gay men. As you are among those advocating that atheists act like jerks, you can have him.

  128. #129 julian
    April 25, 2011

    “If new atheists are going to be allowed to lie freely about all religious people, without making distinctions among different individuals and groups, it’s the absence of objection by other atheists which will determine the extent to which other people will continue to return the favor of acknowledging that distinction among atheists. I seldom see atheists objecting to atheist bigotry on the blogs, though I see it very occasionally”

    I sincerly hope this isn’t you trying to parody gnu atheism.

    You have, in the very brief time I’ve been posting here been reminded half a dozen times, most atheists (gnu or otherwise) don’t paint all believers with the same brush (even if some of us feel, as is the case with Catholiciscm, they are in part responsible for the actions of the Church. They are afterall still members and this is supposedly the theology that resonates strongest with them.)

    Are you honestly trying to play a tit for tat game with how people are treated?

  129. #130 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    Anthony McCartney: Your experience of the world has already been demonstrated to be highly limited. Your brother was turned off by Dawkins so stopped identifying himself as an atheist? Did he suddenly begin to believe, or would he rather just be a liar? What intellectual courage does that exhibit?

    Besides being hysterically myopic, I think I have identified your other problem. You think “New Atheism” is a thing. There are deep disagreements among outspoken atheists. The only thing that atheists have in common (that religionists don’t share) is a complete lack of shared sacred ideas. Ideas are targets. They are things to be challenged, picked apart, harassed, and harried. Ideas that survive the barrage are good ideas. Ideas that don’t should be discarded. I admire Myers, Dawkins, Coyne, Dennett, Harris, Krauss, Stenger, Grayling, and the inimitable Chris Hitchens for their ability to savage ideas, to shred through the nonsense to the core. I don’t admire them because they are right. They can’t all be right. They disagree about far too much.

    I don’t want anyone acting like a jerk to give people the impression that they are typical of gay men.

    People who develop the impression that all gay people are like anything based on the behavior of one are bigots. Rather than recognize this, you would chastise the guy under the yoke next to you than seem rude to the guy cracking the whip. Piece of work.

  130. #131 Chris Schoen
    April 25, 2011

    So the burden of courtesy is entirely on atheists?

    The burden of courtesy is on the person who wants to have a courteous conversation. If you don’t, you don’t. But there are a number of people who count themselves among the New Atheists who claim to be interested in improving the social capital of atheism, or of particular scientific theories like evolution. That requires dialogue, not excoriation. To believe you could have both, given what we know about human nature, would just not be rational.

  131. #132 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    The burden of courtesy is on the person who wants to have a courteous conversation.

    I prefer an honest one. I’m not interested in social capital built on dissembling. What does that achieve? I have been involved in many panel discussions regarding the role of religion in scoiety, and have never insulted a person. However, I call absurd ideas absurd. Many find this alone to be insulting. How do you converse with a person about ideas that they find immoral to question?

    and this:

    …in improving the social capital of atheism, or of particular scientific theories like evolution. That requires dialogue, not excoriation…

    Both dialogue and excoriation may be required. What we are doing now is dialogue. What I would be doing if Fred Phelps showed up would be excoriation. These are different rhetorical tools. If I think that I can learn from you (even if your ideas are wrong), dialog is appropriate. However, if that can’t happen, ridicule (especially with an audience) is a fantastic tool for making others think twice about the validity of your ideas.

    If you really want to achieve something, a diversity of approaches could work.

  132. #133 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 25, 2011

    “However, if that can’t happen, ridicule (especially with an audience) is a fantastic tool for making others think twice about the validity of your ridiculous ideas.”

    Drat…I’m doing too much at once.

  133. #134 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2011

    Your experience of the world has already been demonstrated to be highly limited. A.E.

    It’s broad enough so I knew you were identifying yourself with an early figure in antisemitism who was responsible for one of the early, recorded genocide attempts against them. I doubt you knew that or you’d have spared yourself the embarrassing possibility that someone might bring it up. Though, maybe you figured the wider world was as ignorant of history as your typical new atheist.

    Did he suddenly begin to believe, or would he rather just be a liar? A.E.

    No, he just stopped identifying himself as an “atheist” because he could see how the new atheism was changing the meaning of that word to mean someone who practiced dishonest bigotry and lousy scholarship. Dawkins is considered one of its Bright lights, afterall. I mean, who would want to be identified with something like that except dishonest bigots? It wasn’t as if it was an important thing to identify with a group which was already covered by civil rights laws and was obviously no bar to economic or educational resources. Atheists are always bragging about how educated and successful they are, after all.

    I think I have identified your other problem. You think “New Atheism” is a thing. A.E.

    Well, your hero Coyne seems to have the same problem because he’s used the term to identify new atheists in published articles, as have others on your list and more you haven’t included. Unless they’ve altered their archives, I’ll bet the term could be found in more of them. And I really don’t care if new atheists want the distinction made because a number of atheists who have progressed past acting like unpleasant 2-year-olds make that distinction, as I said, I observe the difference out of courtesy to them.

    I’m quite able to decide that a gay man who insists on being a loudmouthed bigoted jerk is a gay man I don’t want to be identified with. I came to that conclusion back in the 70s when there was a fad among a certain group of gay men, especially in New York City, who decided it was all right to be loudmouthed bigots, especially targeting racial and ethnic minorities and Jews. I always objected then, I will continue to now. Being gay isn’t a carte blanche giving permission to be to be a bigoted jerk.

    Christopher Hitchens, well, he’ll probably not live long enough to get to it but you might want to look at how he turned on the folks at The Nation after he decided to turn neo-con, support George W. Bush and figured there were greater possibilities if he left all that behind. He’s got a record of betraying those he decided he had no further use for. Look at how he turned on Sidney Blumenthal even as he claimed he was a close friend. I mean, how many people could resist the friendship of someone who lied about them in a way that could have resulted in an indictment for perjury?

  134. #135 Ender
    April 26, 2011

    “”However, if that can’t happen, ridicule (especially with an audience) is a fantastic tool for making others think twice about the validity of your ridiculous ideas.”

    No. You had it right the first time. When people already agree with you they tend to appreciate ridicule of the other side.
    When they are neutral, interested in discovering the truth or faintly against you they will tend to see ridicule as dodging the question/childish/slightly desperate/illogical/irrational/hateful or any one of a hundred different negative reactions to abuse masquerading as argument.

    It’s worse when some ape the intellectual, claim “rationality” as a quality only posessed by their side, then proceed to ridicule and demonise like the lowest of emotional demagogues.

    “Rationality is the only way to approach the world and questions of importance – those who oppose us are irrational and evil – and if you don’t agree we will use every tactic, rational and irrational to abuse, shame or argue you into agreeing with us. We are the best at rationality. You could even say we are the only rational ones.”

  135. #136 julian
    April 26, 2011

    “Atheists are always bragging about how educated and successful they are, after all”

    Psst.

    I think your prejudice is showing.

  136. #137 julian
    April 26, 2011

    @Ender

    Is that really true though?

    not exactly the samething but quite recently I used my standard sarcastic and dismissive style to convince a ‘friend’ (an apathetic agnostic who boasts about the ‘no prefrence’ on his dog tags) that his feminism has hurt men buddy from back home is full of shit.

  137. #138 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2011

    Julian, you mean atheists aren’t more educated and successful on average? In a quick google search, it would appear that many atheists believe that’s the case.

  138. #139 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 26, 2011

    Anthony: You are a veritable generator of irony. You loudly proclaim that the new atheists are unnecessarily rude. Yet, it only took a single glimpse of my ‘nym to level charges of anti-semitism at me (in your own snarky passive aggressive way). I explained it, but you keep harping on it as if I hadn’t. Hilariously, you think that your recognition of the name of a rather famous biblical figure is a sign of erudition. You’ll be glad to know that this bit of arcana is available on Wikipedia.

    And you have never addressed this, although I have brought it up time and again: What role should special, revealed knowledge have in determining public policy? Why should I recognize your delusion as a justification for rules that I have to follow.

    And it is obvious that you are completely blinkered to the reality faced by atheists around the world. Maybe this is because you have no sympathy for a group that you are not part of, which is forgivable (or at least I’m willing to dismiss it as an element of your parochial world-view). Strangely enough, you are also blinkered to the struggle of gay men and women around the world to obtain basic freedoms. Uganda and New England don’t have so much in common on those grounds.

    I’m quite able to decide that a gay man who insists on being a loudmouthed bigoted jerk is a gay man I don’t want to be identified with.

    The problem here isn’t the gay man who insists on being a loudmouthed bigoted jerk. The problem is that someone would judge you by the behavior of another who shares your sexual orientation. Such a person is an asshole and needs to be told as much in no uncertain terms. Your strategy seems to be to please bigots by stifling those who are rude. This is self-defeating.

    When they are neutral, interested in discovering the truth or faintly against you they will tend to see ridicule as dodging the question/childish/slightly desperate/illogical/irrational/hateful or any one of a hundred different negative reactions to abuse masquerading as argument.

    What a ridiculous generalization. The fact is that many who agree with you may be afraid to say as much aloud. As an advisor of the Student Secular Alliance at a university deep within the bible-belt, I have come to realize that much of religious oppression is communal rather than legal. The student body seems to find it largely acceptable for itinerant preachers to loudly persecute unbelievers, gays, those who practice birth control, fornication, who drink alcohol, etc. The purpose of such hate-speech is to shame those in the minority*. No amount of discussion is going to change Brother Jed’s mind. He is an ignorant bigot, and likely will die in that particular state of grace. However, by demeaning him publicly, boldly, and publicly, our SSA students empower those who are afraid to speak for themselves. Rather than driving away the mealy-mouth appeasers, this behavior has resulted in a swell of membership, and has been instrumental in resurrecting the GLBT student alliance, as well as a new student group dedicated to discussing sexuality openly and without the ridiculous stigma of sin that many would pin on it.

    But as I said. You choose your rhetorical tool to fit the situation. It takes all kinds.

    *A false minority, I think: many of the students that I know are from strict religious backgrounds, and yet partake in these activities in secret, but would never admit it to their peers.

  139. #140 julian
    April 26, 2011

    You’re not even bothering to distinguish between the kinds of atheists you hate the most, Mr. McCarthy. Just one big blob for you to project everything you don’t like onto.

  140. #141 Lynxreign
    April 26, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy

    Lynxreign, since you think that bunch is an embodiment of wisdom I’ll gladly accept your insults.

    Not insults, facts. You post incoherant, innuendo-laden, tone-troll drivel.

    Atheists are the I know people who most want it understood that the new atheists don’t have anything to do with them. I know two people now who have stopped identifying themselves as atheists because they don’t want to be identified with new atheists.

    You know some awfully prissy athiests. I’ll counter that. I know quite a few athiests who only started identifying in public because of those authors. Your anecdote has been matched an nullified.

    After the Stonewall riots, ActUp demonstrations, etc… I’m surprised you’d publicly identify as a gay man! After all, those people were quite rude! Why in the world would you want to be identified with them?

    One of my brothers made that change after reading The God Delusion and was appalled at its dishonesty and lapses in scholarship.

    Then your brother would be well served in going (back) to college and learning how to do research and to read for comprehension. Perhaps there he’ll learn what scholarship means!

    If new atheists are going to be allowed to lie freely about all religious people

    Allowed to? What do you propose, fines? In a world where Fox News won in court that it is allowed to lie you complaing that private individuals are “allowed to” lie! HA! And this without providing any evidence that they have.

    And how about requiring it of the chronic liars first? Tell you what, you make sure that no religious people lie about athiests first and then I’ll consider your suggestion.

    Hell, I’ll settle for you not lying any more, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

    Given the volume of lies that come from new atheists on the blogs I visit, it’s increasingly a distraction for the political left

    Bullshit. No-one on the political left is concerned about this. We’re concerned that we have almost no voice in American politics. Atheism is but a distant echo and the behavior of part of that group is not even a consideration.

  141. #142 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 26, 2011

    Awaiting moderation…

  142. #143 Chris Schoen
    April 26, 2011

    What I would be doing if Fred Phelps showed up would be excoriation.

    This pushes back the goalposts just a smidge. We were talking about possible ways to interact with your “milquetoast moderate” neighbor, who I would presume is not a flaming asshole–or you wouldn’t be loaning her your tools and letting her talk to your kid.

    ridicule (especially with an audience) is a fantastic tool for making others think twice about the validity of your ideas.

    Do you really find this to be true? It sounds like a rationalization. Ridicule feels good, and it would be nice to think it was also effective. But it’s successes are few and far between, wouldn’t you agree? And where we do see it succeed, it’s hardly the most noble way to persuade others of your rectitude, rooted as it is in fear and shame. If you have a good argument for the non-existence of damnation (which no doubt you do), why not let it rest on the merits? How does making other people feel socially inferior help the cause of rationality and thoughtfulness, exactly?

  143. #144 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 26, 2011

    This pushes back the goalposts just a smidge. We were talking about possible ways to interact with your “milquetoast moderate” neighbor, who I would presume is not a flaming asshole–or you wouldn’t be loaning her your tools and letting her talk to your kid.

    But her belief that hell = justice does make her an asshole, if an unreflective one. Such a belief is completely incongruous with any modern notion of justice or mercy. The “milquetoast moderate” holds views that are far from moderate. Perhaps on reflection she would see that. And also, I am not an asshole shunner. Everyone has a host of unexamined but dangerous beliefs floating around in their heads. I know that I do. In all honesty, I haven’t made the effort to explain to my neighbor precisely how offensive her views are. I admit that this is an act of moral cowardice driven by self-preservation. To remain happy and sane, I have to ignore that most of the people where I live share this same unexamined belief. I would never get a break if I challenged it wherever I encountered it.

    How does making other people feel socially inferior help the cause of rationality and thoughtfulness, exactly?

    That’s actually a very good question, and you may not have read my post above, as it was in moderation for some time. This isn’t about changing minds. This is about recognizing recalcitrant hatred that cannot be reversed through evidence or logic, and standing up to it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that ridicule should be directed at a person, but at their ideas. Frankly, it disgusts me when atheists attack Anne Coulter for her appearance; it is sexist and unproductive. However, her ideas are repugnant, and they should be called that. As loudly as possible.

    People who have their ideas ridiculed publicly may come to feel socially inferior. If this prevents them from sending their message of hate, awesome. If this empowers others to speak out against such nonsense, also awesome.

  144. #145 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2011

    Allowed to? What do you propose, fines? In a world where Fox News won in court that it is allowed to lie you complaing that private individuals are “allowed to” lie! HA! And this without providing any evidence that they have. Lynxreign

    Oh, I’ve been on record as being opposed to lies in the media, quite stridently so, quite in opposition to the real political correctness.

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2011_04_17_archive.html#2058361882491496073

    Oddly, or not, among the people who have most disagreed with me that FOX and other oligarchic lie machines should be regulated to prevent them from distorting our politics, are people who are new atheists.

    As for the rest of it, it’s not worth going over things endlessly.

  145. #146 Chris Schoen
    April 26, 2011

    In all honesty, I haven’t made the effort to explain to my neighbor precisely how offensive her views are. I admit that this is an act of moral cowardice driven by self-preservation. To remain happy and sane, I have to ignore that most of the people where I live share this same unexamined belief. I would never get a break if I challenged it wherever I encountered it.

    Actually I think “cowardice” is unnecessarily harsh, but it’s gracious of you to say this. This is, in fact, part of the point I am trying to make. There’s no shame in balancing one’s need or desire to express the truth as one sees it with the need to get along. We’re a social species. Truth and harmonious co-existence are both important, and not always compatible (as anyone in a marriage can attest).

    This is about recognizing recalcitrant hatred that cannot be reversed through evidence or logic, and standing up to it.

    You’ve said a few times that belief in damnation is uniquely offensive and tantamount to hate, but I don’t buy it. You’ve admitted here with your Ann Coulter example that it’s possible for an atheist to, forgive the expression, love the sinner but hate the sin. Why not extend the same principle to people you disagree with about metaphysical principles like god and the inferno? Why assume they want you to suffer? With Fred Phelps, the hate is palpable and vile. All I know of your neighbor (though perhaps there’s more that’s pertinent you haven’t yet shared) is that she borrows your tools and talks to your kid.

  146. #147 julian
    April 26, 2011

    @Chris Schoen

    I don’t think it has anything to do with them wanting or wishing for you to suffer. At least in my case it’s the fact that they feel you deserve it. Being told you were such a horrrible human (so evil) you deserve to suffer for all eternity is one of those things that get under my skin. I can accept that those believers in hell can honestly care and love those who they feel are damned (though I wonder how healthy it is or how sustainable that love can be. In my experiences the exceptions arealways for the guy next door and the group at large. ‘They’ are still treated with hate and then some)

  147. #148 Dan L.
    April 26, 2011

    A coworker said to me (over lunch, I forget the exact context) “I think all morality comes from God.” To someone who doesn’t believe in God, that sounds something like “there’s no possible way you could be moral.”

    I don’t think anyone in the world would accuse him of being rude. I certainly didn’t. I almost responded very negatively, but I stopped myself because I realized it wasn’t his intent to offend me. But he did nonetheless. If it’s rude to tell religious folks that thinking nonbelievers should go to hell is a deplorable belief then I would think it’s rude to tell atheists that they can’t be moral without God.

    But here’s the thing, lots of religious believers don’t think that’s rude at all, that it’s just true. My coworker was just expressing an honest opinion. Honest opinions are sometimes offensive simply because the one who holds the opinion hasn’t (couldn’t possibly have) considered how it sounds to people of dramatically different worldview.

    So what I’m saying is that in many cases, “loud” is the same as “offensive” and will be perceived as “rude” even if it is not intended that way. This cuts both ways, but it’s more apparent when an atheist says something offensive because for a very long time it was socially acceptable to say things like what my coworker said (while expressing atheistic opinions was not). Just by virtue of honestly expressing what you believe, some people might very well be offended and call you rude.

    That’s what I think is happening. The honest opinions of many atheists are simply unsettling and possibly offensive to a large number of people, while the honest opinions of theists are unsettling and possible offensive to a relatively smaller number of people (secularists). As a result, the more partisan on each side leap to the barricades and start LOOKING for offense to take. In this sense, I think some of the folks in this thread are basically the religious mirror image of the types of “new atheists” they’re complaining about. Both sides can — and do — play this same game.

    That’s why I don’t buy your argument, Mr. Rosenau. Both sides engage in the exact same behaviors and for the same reasons, but the deck is already stacked in favor of the religious. If you expect that to change without proportional pushback from the smaller group with less popular opinions then you really don’t understand the concept of privilege.

  148. #149 Chris Schoen
    April 26, 2011

    @Julian,
    Being told you were such a horrrible human (so evil) you deserve to suffer for all eternity is one of those things that get under my skin.

    In other words, your feelings matter, which is as it should be. So he do we get from there to justifying saying hurtful things (like “your beliefs are absurd and repugnant”) in response? Isn’t that a bit of a double standard? If being “rude” is just the price other people have to pay for your right to call a spade a spade, then on what grounds can you take umbrage at someone else just calling it like they see it?

    It seems to me that hurt feelings are a poor foundation on which to build social norms. It encourages vendetta justice, payback, an eye for an eye, and all the rest. The satisfaction only lasts as long as the next retaliation. Wouldn’t the rational approach be to anticipate the futility of the infinite regress, and opt out?

  149. #150 TTT
    April 26, 2011

    @Dan L: Honest opinions are sometimes offensive simply because the one who holds the opinion hasn’t (couldn’t possibly have) considered how it sounds to people of dramatically different worldview… in many cases, “loud” is the same as “offensive” and will be perceived as “rude” even if it is not intended that way. This cuts both ways, but it’s more apparent when an atheist says something offensive because for a very long time it was socially acceptable to say things like what my coworker said (while expressing atheistic opinions was not).

    No, Dan, the whole point is that anything that offends a religious person is offensive, in and of itself, and could only possibly have been said by a rude person. That’s the whole “anti-Gnu” mentality in a nutshell. Get with the program!

    @Anthony McCarthy: It’s hilarious to see you try to read latent anti-Semitism into an atheist poster because of his screen name…. while you defend religion, which by definition must include Christianity and Islam, the two most virulent and successful sources of genocidal anti-Semitism in history.

  150. #151 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2011

    TTT, I’m never surprised to see a new atheist who is clueless. Which is my first guess as to why A.E. chose that name. Though it’s an open question as to whether or not that’s right.

    I’m also never surprised to see a new atheist defend depravity.

  151. #152 TTT
    April 26, 2011

    I was surprised by your monomaniacal bigotry at first, McCarthy, but you lower expectations very well and very quickly.

  152. #153 Anthony McCarthy
    April 26, 2011

    An atheist who chooses to identify himself with a genocidal antiSemite and someone who calls him on that is the bigot.

    The new atheists are really logical. They’ll tell you that if you couldn’t intuit it from what they say.

  153. #154 Antiochus Epiphanes
    April 26, 2011

    You’ve said a few times that belief in damnation is uniquely offensive and tantamount to hate, but I don’t buy it.

    Hmmm. Point well taken. There is a level of cognitive dissonance that afflicts many believers; they simultaneously believe that god is good and also torments those who fail to grovel appropriately. Both of these things can’t be true, without torturing the meaning of the word “good”.

    My mother is a devout Catholic, and firmly believes that my soul is destined for hell if I don’t return to the church. This causes her a great deal of pain. I’d imagine that holding conflicting ideas in one’s head would do that. I don’t ever attack her religious beliefs (absurd as I find them), but I refuse to lie about my lack thereof.

    Anthony McCarthy: Can you hear my eyes rolling around in my head?