I was asked what I think of the quotes from the NO God Blog and Al Stefanelli quoted in Chris Stedman’s most recent Letter to the Atheists. Ok; what I think.
The first one is from a post titled “A Point was missed” on what appears to be a blog on the website of American Atheists. It’s not signed. It’s short. It’s dated April 29, 2010. It seems about as random, as an “example” of anything, as one could get. The bit quoted is very badly and stupidly worded; no disagreement there; but so what? I don’t even know who wrote it. I certainly don’t take it as representative of anything. It’s nearly two years old. What on earth is the point of dredging up an old obscure anonymous blog post as part of what is called a “sampling of comments from prominent atheists about Islam and Muslims”? Yes of course you can find people of any point of view or faction or party or any other category, saying stupid things, but what of it?
The second is from Al Stefanelli here at FTB ten days ago – so much better on the recent, and representative, and non-anonymous score; but when you read it you find it’s much worse on the making the case score. In context the quoted bit is not shocking or (to use Stedman’s term) “hateful.” Al doesn’t just say “Islam sucks booya”; he makes a case. You’d never know it from Stedman’s article.
So that’s what I think. The first was a crappy comment but it’s obscure and far from recent so why bring it up, and the second was a forcefully argued comment and not “hateful.”
And for dessert I will say a little more about what I think.
As someone who is regularly targeted with false critiques by fellow atheist activists — most frequently that I believe that religious beliefs should be immune from criticism, a claim I countered in this post, or that I am an apologist for religion, for which no evidence has ever been provided — I can attest firsthand that the debate over how atheists should approach religion is perhaps the most contentious conversation in the atheist movement. It is a frequent cause of disagreement, and the disagreements it inspires are very often vitriolic and personal.
This is what I think. Stedman isn’t “targeted” by atheists. Atheists reply to things Stedman says about them (us) or publishes other people saying about them/us or both. That’s not “targeting.” To reply is not to target. Atheists don’t just hide behind trees and pounce on Stedman for no reason; atheists react when Stedman does some shit-stirring about them, as he does with dreary regularity, including in this very post.
Stedman gets quite a lot of attention and praise for this shit-stirring – this “targeting,” one might almost call it. I think that’s probably a major reason he keeps doing it – from his point of view it works. It’s self-pitying and disingenuous to complain about people responding to his endless accusations. I suspect that he actually wants the responses, and that that’s why he keeps stirring the shit. He gets attention and praise for stirring the shit, and then he gets attention and sympathy when we disagree with him; win-win.
Oh and one more thing – I don’t consider him a “fellow atheist.”
Update: and one more one more thing: more about this at