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“New atheists” are privileged racist homophobic imperialists

Be Scofield tweeted me about a new article of his at Tikkun, apparently hoping I would dislike it enough to give it publicity by saying why I dislike it. Ok, sure, why not. I do dislike it. Why do I dislike it? Well because it quite unbashfully calls “the New Atheists” racist.

It also claims that “New Atheists” see everything from a privileged point of view.

Racism In the New Atheist Movement

When Greta Christina says that religious people should be actively converted to atheism or Dawkins likens religion to a virus that infects the mind they are effectively saying “we know what’s best for you.” This is the crux of the problem with the New Atheists. They’ve identified belief in God or religion as the single most oppressive factor in people’s lives and feel justified in liberating people from it because they have “reason” on their side. However, as Reinhold Niebuhr warned, reason is always tainted with the prejudices of the privileged groups in society. He called this the historicity of reason. Thus, the way the New Atheists understand the designation “harmful” or “poisonous” is largely shaped by what they view as most harmful from their own social location.

Oh yes? But who says Greta Christina (since she’s the example Scofield chose to illustrate that claim) belongs to a privileged group? Who, in particular, says she does so more than Be Scofield? He has some forms of privilege that she doesn’t have. Why does he get to italicize from their own social location by way of rebuking Greta, as if she loomed over him like the lord of the manor? Why is her reason more tainted by privilege than his? I don’t know; I suspect he’s just posturing.

He quotes Sikivu Hutchinson and then adds

If you are in a privileged position, as many of the white New Atheists are you may think that it’s easy to just give up your religion. But this of course ignores the complexities of how religion operates in the lives of people everyday. For African Americans, Christianity and Islam have played a central role in the process of humanization – both in the eyes of the dominant culture and in building up the community, personal identity and psychological resilience to resist white supremacy, slavery and segregation. “Reason” as articulated by the new atheists makes no room for marginalized populations need to resist these forms of oppression, nor recognizes the important role that religion has played in this process. Rather, the simplistic labels of harmful, poisonous or virus are carelessly used to discredit it.

Lots of typos and mistakes in there, but more to the point – Christianity and Islam also played a central role in white or Arab supremacy, slavery and segregation. Without that central role maybe African Americans wouldn’t need them now, because they wouldn’t have been so disadvantaged by racial supremacy, slavery and segregation. Does Scofield recognize the important role that religion has played in that process? No; he’s too busy telling us he’s better than the New Atheists.

As citizens of the U.S. we of course live on occupied land. Over the course of hundreds of years we systematically wiped out Native American cultures that were indigenous to the area. The arrogance of “we know what’s best for them” dominated. Their religious and cultural traditions were prohibited. It was the height of cultural imperialism. Of course Native Americans are extremely marginalized and face numerous pressing social issues today. Rest assured, their oppression has nothing to do with their beliefs in God or their traditional religious practices and ceremonies. Unfortunately, when Greta Christina says we’d be better off without religion and insists that we convert believers to atheism she is reproducing cultural imperialism against Native Americans. She knows best because she has reason on her side.

I think I’ll just leave that there on its own, for pure contemplation. Be Scofield is comparing Greta Christina to imperialists obliterating Native Americans.

If many of the New Atheists want to hold to an absolutist position that religion is harmful (despite not being based on any scientific evidence) then they inherently sweep into their critique Native Americans, the gay men who benefited so immensely from MCCSF during the Aids crisis and the Dinka tradition of Africa. Any benefit that the Nation of Islam or the Black Church had for African Americans is negated by the insistence upon religion or belief in God as the single most oppressive issue. If they make qualifications and recognize that yes, there is something wrong with waving a finger at Native Americans and scolding them for their childish ways, then they must abandon generalized sweeping notions like “religion is harmful.” They can’t have it both ways. Either they lecture every culture in the world about their religious traditions (after all you’ve discovered the TRUTH) and as a result reproduce cultural imperialism or make room for a more complex analysis.

Many of these New Atheists claim that holding onto the belief in supernatural entities is absurd or irrational. However, there is nothing more absurd than whiteness, class oppression and patriarchy.

There’s really nothing they won’t stoop to, is there.

Comments

  1. Brownian says

    You’re welcome, accommodationists.

    Because as soon as we stop existing, you’ll have to come up with your own material.

    Until then, enjoy the privilege of phoning it in.

  2. Brownian says

    To be fair, Greta, I don’t see where Be Scofield says we’re homophobic.

    I’ll cop to racist and sexist (not all of us, but it can’t be denied), but homophobic?

  3. says

    In the article itself (as opposed to the post) – he implies it, at least, in the passage about the church that “played a central role” during the AIDS crisis. It’s a bit rich that he singled out Greta for so much scolding.

  4. timberwoof says

    I smirk at how Be Scofield praises MCCSF when the Metropolitan Community Church, although they subscribe to the Nicene Creed and meet all the requirements for membership, are denied membership in the National Council of Churches. The MCC minister to gay people, deaf people, and anyone else the mainstream churches kicked out. So Scofield, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back for using them as an example of how great churches are!

  5. says

    Lovely.

    I swear, it seems almost by-the-numbers doesn’t it? Pick Gnu Atheist from Column A, find Random Social Problem from Column B, pretend that Gnu Atheist is an example of Random Social Problem, choose 2-3 religions from Column C and claim that they are/have been/could be solution to Random Social Problem. Insult Dawkins/Hitchens for flavor.

  6. says

    I think he has a grain of a point there, though. I think that as a whole, the atheist movement / community as it currently exists does have some significant blind spots, and understand that not everyone is as easily able to give up their community or cultural identity in favour of joining up with an impersonal internet culture is exactly one of them. And I am rather put off by the “we know what’s best for you” aspect to a lot of the rhetoric within our movement, and would like to see us sort of adapt our strategies a bit.

  7. Brownian says

    If many of the New Atheists want to hold to an absolutist position that religion is harmful (despite not being based on any scientific evidence) then they inherently sweep into their critique Native Americans, the gay men who benefited so immensely from MCCSF during the Aids crisis and the Dinka tradition of Africa. Any benefit that the Nation of Islam or the Black Church had for African Americans is negated by the insistence upon religion or belief in God as the single most oppressive issue.

    I don’t mean to patriarch all over Be, but it’s pretty clear he’s not so good at math.

    One can say that X is harmful, even if X contains component Y which is beneficial, if it also contains component Z which is more harmful than Y is beneficial.

    Unless I’m misreading, by his reasoning, we cannot say that the taking of First Nations land is harmful, since it also sweeps into its critique the San Franciscan MCCSF, and the Nation of Islam or the Black Church, since those only exist due to North American imperialism and colonialism. (And fuck him for making me make out this distasteful argument.)

    Really, Be, let’s not pretend that there’s no attempt at a cost-benefit analysis in claims like ‘religion is harmful’.

  8. says

    Oh, and what a fucking putz.

    “Reason” as articulated by the new atheists makes no room for marginalized populations need to resist these forms of oppression, nor recognizes the important role that religion has played in this process. Rather, the simplistic labels of harmful, poisonous or virus are carelessly used to discredit it.

    No, hipster doofus. Reason makes no room for allowing oppression to stand… at least I hope it doesn’t. Religion IS a disease, and once it’s done great harm it also sells itself as a painkiller for the suffering that it causes!

  9. says

    Agreed, he does have a grain of a point, and even more than a grain – but he makes it in such a scattershot hostile way that it’s all but worthless. And frankly it’s just absurd for him to lecture Greta for being too privileged. He could at least have paused to notice that he’s privileged in some ways that she isn’t.

  10. says

    Yeah, setting up Greta as the “privileged imperialist” is completely absurd. I mean, yes, she does have privilege along a few axes (able-bodied, white, cis, etc.) but so do we all, and certainly so does he.

  11. Tim Groc says

    Be Scofield seems to be stereotyping all “non-white” people as having a need for religion. That is itself racist!

    I also enjoy his use of the term “white supremacy” in relation to atheism. Did he have the Ku Klux Klan in mind? Or 19th century Southern slave traders? You know, those pioneers of “New Atheism”!!!

    Then, of course, we only need to study history to see how religion is behind many sources of racism.

    I think Scofield can be dismissed as a pathetic troll.

  12. Brownian says

    Be Scofield seems to be stereotyping all “non-white” people as having a need for religion. That is itself racist!

    It is a reality that religion helps some marginalized groups assert their identity in the face of assimilation that would be tantamount to genocide. I don’t think he’s a racist as much as some sort of idiot.

  13. says

    I always find it annoying when people get upset at those who say religion does more harm than good but give a free pass to people who say religion does more good than harm. If the rule should be that claims require evidence, that should be the rule for both sides.

    Scofield has a point, as was said above. The part where he points out that there are so many other issues and sources of discrimination in the world is a good point. That doesn’t mean that religion can’t be another source of discrimination in addition to all of the other ones. This is one of the things I get frustrated by as well — people who care about equal rights and criticize all other sources of discrimination, but have a blind spot for discrimination caused by religion.

    I don’t like the sort of implied idea that the only way religion can be a major source of harm in a person’s life is if they’re part of a privileged majority, whereas people in minority groups have other things that they are harmed by and/or have actually been helped by religion. In a way, he does what he accuses others of doing. He’s telling people whose lives have been hurt by religion that, no, it actually wasn’t such a big deal.

    The fact that he includes Greta Christina in all this is absurd; she’s one of the people I’ve actually seen who wants to address discrimination within the atheist movement and I’m really grateful to her for that. The moving back and forth between giving examples of people criticizing religion and then using examples of genocide just serves to cause exasperation.

    For African Americans, Christianity and Islam have played a central role in the process of humanization – both in the eyes of the dominant culture and in building up the community, personal identity and psychological resilience to resist white supremacy, slavery and segregation.

    That part about “humanization […] in the eyes of the dominant culture” seems to me like something that should result in a condemnation of the dominant culture (for not seeing people as equally human until they converted to Christianity) rather than a defense of Christianity.

    Also, I’m curious about his quote by Sikivu Hutchinson. I haven’t yet read her book “Moral Combat” yet. As far as I know, though, she has criticized the “new atheists” and also criticized religion.

  14. says

    White supremacy is a system that places white people at the apex or as the default of humanity. Yes, the KKK is an egregious example of that, but North America is still a white supremacist system.

  15. Be Scofield says

    “Why is her reason more tainted by privilege than his?”

    Because I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics. I’ve learned that historically religion has played a significant role for people of color in resisting white supremacy, slavery and segregation. Greta is dead-set on her position that religion is harmful and dangerous. She’s not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color. Otherwise she couldn’t launch these broad and sweeping attacks on religion.

    “Christianity and Islam also played a central role in white or Arab supremacy, slavery and segregation”

    Absolutely. But this would only be a valid response if I were saying that one shouldn’t criticize the harmful effects of some religious behaviors. Religion has certainly been used by people to do all sorts of bad things. But me saying this is different than saying “religion is harmful.” It’s different than me saying that because religious people have done bad things in one context that Native Americans should be converted to atheism. Political leaders have done awful things, but I’m not going to say that “government is harmful” and convert people to anarchism.

  16. Tim Groc says

    Brownian,

    I agree, but to clarify, I didn’t say he was a racist, but it might be seen as racist to put up such a lazy stereotype.

  17. karmakin says

    I largely agree with Natalie. It definitely is a blind spot, however the way I would put it is that when we do that, it’s no better/worse than standard religious exceptionalism (leaving aside questions of truth), and as religious exceptionalism is an accepted part of our culture, more or less, we shouldn’t be shocked when atheists/non-believers do the same thing.

    Not that it makes it correct, of course. But people should realize is that it’s the privileged and the powerful that by and large create the social rules and mores in society, and as such you really should keep said mores in mind when looking at something that an outgroup is doing.

  18. says

    Oh look… the condescension is staggering.

    Religion is harmful because it isn’t true, and it teaches people to accept things without evidence. One of the things it has taught people to accept is that oppression in this life will be made up for in the “next” life. In that sense, the religion that you find so helpful has been PART OF THE SYSTEM OF OPPRESSION. Telling the slaves that their proper place in God’s plan is in chains, and then telling them that they will be free and happy in Heaven when they’re dead… that’s not a good thing, that’s just more slavery.

  19. says

    I completely agree with Schofield’s broader point but the implication of racism is disgraceful. It’s crowbarred in! I mean, look at this…

    For African Americans, Christianity and Islam have played a central role in the process of humanization – both in the eyes of the dominant culture and in building up the community, personal identity and psychological resilience to resist white supremacy, slavery and segregation.

    The inference I draw is that “new atheists” are blind to the struggles of African Americans. Curse them! But, wait – doesn’t religion play just as important a crucial in the lives of white Americans and Europeans? Yes. From a proud Texan belting out worship songs of a Sunday morning to an ageing Dubliner tottering off to Mass, their identity, in many cases, is just as dependent on their faith, and the “religion poisons everything” school of thought is just as blind to their existence. Schofield is, in other words, cherry-picking so that he can target his critique at “privilege”, “whiteness” and so on, and, by implication, suggest that his rhetorical opponents are bigoted. And while I’m no “new atheist” – or, indeed, any atheist – that’s not on.

  20. Tim Groc says

    Be Scofield

    I’ve learned that historically religion has played a significant role for people of color in resisting white supremacy, slavery and segregation

    So has secularism. So has liberalism. Much of the atheist community is made up of secularists and liberals, but they are not mutally exclusive, of course.

    She’s [Greta] not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color.

    And how would you know what Greta is, and is not, informed about?

    Otherwise she couldn’t launch these broad and sweeping attacks on religion.

    Attacking religion, or more usually, aspects of religion, is not attacking the person. Logical fallacy alert!!! You, however, have launched a broad and sweeping (as well as nonsensical) attack on “New Atheism”.

    Go away and work on your logical fallacies.

  21. says

    Ophelia said:

    Agreed, he does have a grain of a point, and even more than a grain – but he makes it in such a scattershot hostile way that it’s all but worthless.

    Oh, I really hate to say this, but that’s probably a criticism that could be lobbied at many of us Gnu Atheists, and in fact sounds a lot like the comments I’ve seen from accommodationists.

    And frankly it’s just absurd for him to lecture Greta for being too privileged. He could at least have paused to notice that he’s privileged in some ways that she isn’t.

    In agreement here, no doubt.

    Scofield said:

    If they make qualifications and recognize that yes, there is something wrong with waving a finger at Native Americans and scolding them for their childish ways, then they must abandon generalized sweeping notions like “religion is harmful.”

    Not really buying that. The problem with how the whites treated Native Americans wasn’t in telling them their religion was wrong, it was the scamming them out of land, the forced marches, the violence, the lying, the cheating, the pillaging, etc. It was the forcing Native children into white schools and not allowing them to experience their native culture. Letting them experience both and attempting to convince them on the merits would have been fine, so long as no coercion was involved. In other words, there is simply no comparison between that, and what the New Atheists are doing (regardless of how much we overestimate the ease of leaving behind religion).

  22. Tony says

    Natalie:

    And I am rather put off by the “we know what’s best for you” aspect to a lot of the rhetoric within our movement, and would like to see us sort of adapt our strategies a bit.

    -Serious question…do you have any examples of this ‘we know what’s best for you’ attitude? I haven’t read enough or heard enough (I’m still a newbie to a great many things) to weigh in either way. I’m just asking for a general direction to start in.
    I don’t feel like I know what’s better for others. I do feel that when deciding what’s best for oneself, taking actual reality into account should be more important than indulging in superstitious wishful thinking. I have no issue with people wanting superstitious beliefs to be their worldview, but since that worldview too often tramples on the rights of others (thus, it isn’t the private belief many theists like to say), I claim the right to use reason and logic to help people ditch belief in gods or woo.

  23. DSimon says

    Greta is dead-set on her position that religion is harmful and dangerous. She’s not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color.

    Greta describes in detail exactly why she is arguing that religion is harmful: because it is based on belief in the unobservable, it is resistant to reality checks.

    This is not contradicted by “Look at good things X and Y and Z that religious groups have done!” We can get all the good parts of religion, the communities, the charity, the art, without any unverifiable and potentially harmful beliefs in the supernatural.

    It’s different than me saying that because religious people have done bad things in one context that Native Americans should be converted to atheism.

    Phrases like “X should be converted to Y” imply that we want to change peoples’ beliefs by force, but that’s not the case. We can think that Y is true, and that people should believe Y, while also being firmly against coercive tactics being used to force belief in anything, whether Y or not-Y.

    Coercing people to change their views is not only not a part of the atheist and skeptical movements, it sharply contradicts humanist philosophies at their core. We’re all about fair and open discussion of all ideas, religious and otherwise.

  24. karmakin says

    @Nathan: I think the real danger with this sort of thing is that because the Native Americans (or Canadians, to be honest) had the “wrong” religion they were automatically dehumanized to the point where doing all those bad things automatically became not really bad.

  25. Stacy says

    They’ve identified belief in God or religion as the single most oppressive factor in people’s lives

    Wait–who says that? We believe belief in god or religion is harmful to individuals and society in many ways–but “the single most oppressive factor in people’s lives”? Which people? Everyone, everywhere? What New Atheist says that? Citation seriously fucking needed.

    I call strawman.

  26. karmakin says

    @Tony: To be honest, when we make any sort of public statement about atheism, we are, in effect saying that we know better than you, and yes, we know what’s best for you.

    The main point isn’t that we do it and we shouldn’t do it, it’s that we should be aware that we are doing it and try to act accordingly. It’s probably something that’s entirely unavoidable. Theoretically, we could have a society where any public mention of religious topics was a social no-no, but that’s very unlikely. So until then, we simply don’t cross the line that the privileged religions draw, regardless of if they think we do or not. (Hint: They always will think we blew up said line)

  27. Pierce R. Butler says

    Last I heard, Scofield was a seminary student (a “talib” in some languages).

    Considering the above mishmash of distortions, cherry-picking, name-calling, non-sequiturs and sanctimony, he has a great future ahead of him in the organized-superstition industry.

  28. says

    @Nathan: I think the real danger with this sort of thing is that because the Native Americans (or Canadians, to be honest) had the “wrong” religion they were automatically dehumanized to the point where doing all those bad things automatically became not really bad.

    Good point. Dehumanizing in general is a bad thing, and prone to allowing unethical behavior.

    So until then, we simply don’t cross the line that the privileged religions draw, regardless of if they think we do or not.

    What line is that, exactly?

  29. karmakin says

    @Nathan Well, for example saying that all religious people should be shot is obviously way over the line. However, religious people often say that non-believers are by definition evil, and that’s socially accepted so the reverse should be accepted as well, right?

    Honestly, I personally think that even where religious groups draw the line is WAY too far. But I think that saying that yes, we do not think that there is a god is anywhere close to that line, even with everything that it implies.

  30. karmakin says

    I do not think, I mean. Generally speaking I think that all things considered Gnu’s are puppies and kittens compared to privileged religious groups.

  31. says

    @karmakin:

    Honestly, I personally think that even where religious groups draw the line is WAY too far.

    Do you mean in terms of what theists say to us, or in terms of what theists say we can say to them?

  32. says

    That should have been Scofield. Sorry.

    DSimon

    This is not contradicted by “Look at good things X and Y and Z that religious groups have done!” We can get all the good parts of religion, the communities, the charity, the art, without any unverifiable and potentially harmful beliefs in the supernatural.

    Even if this is true I’m not sure it encompasses all that’s good about religion. Even assuming that religious beliefs have no value as truth claims, I think that it’s undeniable that mistaken ideas can be “good” in the sense that they improve one’s emotional wellbeing. For example, I’m sure we’ve all had friends and family members who’ve lost dear ones and yet been consoled by the notion that they’ll see them again in Heaven. The secular alternative is that – in fact – they won’t. Because they’re gone. Forever. Or, to take a radical example, think of a poor African whose beliefs lead them to think that they’ll experience a life free from pain and deprivation. Pure rationalism would lead them to the conclusion that, in fact, they’re destined to work hard for next to nothing and there’s nigh-on bugger all to do about it. Which isn’t very consoling.

    One could argue that religion is bad enough that it should be opposed regardless of the good it does. But it does do good.

  33. thephilosophicalprimate says

    Be Scofield: Your response above fails to respond to the real substance of the criticism being made of your position. Greta has VERY CLEAR AND DETAILED ARGUMENTS in support of her conclusion that religion is harmful. She doesn’t take the harm done by religion as an assumption or premise or starting point — the harmfulness of religion is the conclusion of an argument. Since you do not address her argument (or anyone else’s argument) about the harmfulness of religion, your dismissal of the conclusion on the basis of one deeply flawed objection of your own is not only unconvincing, it’s embarrassingly bad reasoning.

    I call your objection flawed and embarrassing — and this has been pointed out above by several people including Ophelia, and this is the key thing you are ignoring — because it consists in no more than a transparent straw man fallacy. Your objection as stated would only hold water if in fact Greta (or any other outspoken atheist) had claimed that religion is ALWAYS AND ONLY harmful — which, of course, neither she nor anyone else has ever argued. Instead, we argue (here’s one of my arguments, and here’s one of Greta’s — there are hundreds more out there) that there are some features of religion which are basic and intrinsic to religious faith as such, and that those features are always and only harmful — and that those harmful features outweigh the good religion can sometimes do and has sometimes done. This last point is especially important, because I have never heard anyone make a convincing case that there are some good consequences that can be attributed to religion which could not have been achieved without religion. As Tim Groc points out above (comment 23), the good consequences you cite are certainly possible (and have frequently been realized!) without religion.

    You don’t have a logical leg to stand on here. Please pause and re-assess.

  34. Sastra says

    Scofield is defending religion by making a Little People Argument.

    The Little People Argument sidesteps the question of truth and the process of truth-seeking by claiming that many Little People can’t handle what atheists can handle. They can’t take the truth. Little People are more concerned about community and identity and soothing their fears than they are about thinking things through carefully. Religion is so useful, and familiar. People who depend on it therefore don’t have a lot of mental capacity to spare; they can’t adapt; they shouldn’t be asked to change their minds. It hurts them. They get confused … and they fall apart.

    Atheists therefore need to tip-toe gently around Little People. It’s mean to think Little People are like them. They’re not. They’re little, and in need of special consideration and protection from the bullying atheist habit of trying to engage them on equal ground.

    I don’t know. It seems kind of ironic to me that someone who is making a Little People Argument should be accusing anyone else of racism or expressing privilege. The Little People Argument has always sounded sort of condescending.

    I’ve got an idea, Be. What if we actually ask the poor marginalized Believers if they care about whether their beliefs are true, or only whether or not they’re useful?

    Bottom line, if you build on lies you can justify anything. I think the oppressed of all races and nationalities are safer in the long run by ultimately resting their equality on rational appeals to science, humanity, and the common ground of the world — as opposed to arguing over who just happens to have the right way of knowing things by “faith.”

    Changing someone’s viewpoint is only going to be “forcing them to be like you” if truth is only a matter of how you want to view yourself. The fact that Scofield apparently thinks this way tells us a lot. And it makes me wonder why his trying to make a compelling case for gnu atheists being racists doesn’t risk changing our minds — and then HE has compelled us to be just like HIM! OH NO!

  35. says

    @karmakin,
    Ok, got it. I’d have to see examples of where you think they draw the line to agree or not, but at least I got a better idea of what you’re saying now. Thanks.

  36. says

    @Tony

    I have come across it here and there, yeah. I don’t have any immediate examples on hand, but that’s largely because it isn’t nearly as common as accomodationists claim it is.

    By the way, I’m interacting with Scofield a bit on twitter, and apparently Scofield is transitioning? So… that apparently tilts the issue of relative privilege a bit and puts it in a new light. Scofield also seems aware of their own privilege in terms of intersectionality, but apparently failed to acknowledge this in the article. So to me it’s starting to seem more like Scofield had a good point, and was drawing on the very, very good points of Hutchinson, but just sort of mangled it in the translation and conveyed hir own position rather poorly.

  37. Josh "To Have Been" Slocum says

    Because I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics.

    Folks, notice this. The patronizing (and surprising!) assertion that Greta Christina makes no effort to listen to those people. And the burnishing of his Sensitive Affirming Gentle-ified Inclusivitiness with the use of the jargon word “intentional.” That’s a smug New Age tell every time.

    What do we know, though. Making positive statements that we think our own opinions on the rectitude of religious thought are actually correct is an act of intellectual and cultural imperialism. On a par with forcible confinement of indigenous people to reservations and forced conversion to Christianity. Remember that the next time you think it’s “normal” to have an opinion about public policy, political parties, or the treatment of women and children. You’re committing discursive violence.

  38. thephilosophicalprimate says

    Sastra, I am thankful to have a label for the pernicious fallacy Scofield is promoting here. Variations on the “Little People Argument” you describe seem also to be at work in arguing that “they” (the little people of the moment) can’t handle the responsibility of voting rights, can’t handle the risks of appearing in public wearing anything less modest than a pup tent, or…

  39. says

    Scofield also seems aware of their own privilege in terms of intersectionality, but apparently failed to acknowledge this in the article. So to me it’s starting to seem more like Scofield had a good point, and was drawing on the very, very good points of Hutchinson, but just sort of mangled it in the translation and conveyed hir own position rather poorly.

    And will xe be correcting that translation?

    And I’m not familiar with Hutchinson, can you point me to something?

  40. Josh Slocum says

    Natalie,

    Just in case you’re not aware of the backstory ’round these parts—we’ve gone round with Scofield again and again. Scofield’s (if you’ll tell me which pronoun you prefer, S, I’ll gladly use it) made ridiculous, unjustified attacks on outspoken atheists and does so by means of distorting their views. The whole thing is wrapped up in the most god-awful preening, self-admiring “I’m a good and gentle soul” brand of New Age narcissism. It’s intellectually dishonest and it’s shitty, unethical very much not-nice behavior. Scofield has earned a reputation; we have more than just this isolated piece of writing to know exactly how the axe is being ground.

    Examples:

    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2011/06/20/23128/

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/comments-on-comments-on-comments/

  41. Josh Slocum says

    Irritating and necessary to point out- there is a real problem of sexism and racism and (from my vantage point a bit less) homophobia in the atheist/skeptic/whatever blogosphere. Lots of us have been fighting those fights almost as a full-time job. The amount of unexamined privilege among “us”, mostly but not exclusively displayed by straight white men who think Skepticism Iz ‘Bouts Bigfoot, has shocked and angered me.

    The problem is real, but Be Scofield’s distortions are not.

  42. steve oberski says

    Has Greta Christina actually ever said that religious people should be actively converted to atheism ?

    I’ve read a fair number of her articles and I don’t recall that. And I mean active in the sense of handing out tracts on the street, haranguing people with a loud speaker in a public place, bursting into a meeting and taking pictures of those in attendance and threatening to kill them. That sort of active.

    I’ve also read and listened to a lot of what Richard Dawkins has to say and while I agree with the virus comment (both that Dawkins has said this and I personally agree with him), he has never said he knows what’s best for you and in fact one of his main tropes is to examine the evidence for yourself and don’t be afraid to go where it leads you.

  43. DSimon says

    For example, I’m sure we’ve all had friends and family members who’ve lost dear ones and yet been consoled by the notion that they’ll see them again in Heaven. The secular alternative is that – in fact – they won’t. Because they’re gone. Forever.

    I don’t doubt that some people genuinely believe in an afterlife, but even so it doesn’t seem to be a very effective source of comfort, or any kind of real barrier against grief.

    I haven’t yet met somebody who acts as though they actually don’t mind that someone has died on the grounds that they’re not really dead, just on a spiritual vacation. In my experience, people who’ve lost a loved one respond in the same way whether religious or not: by feeling miserable and angry and awful.

    Also, I personally am in favor of being more concerned that people are dying, rather than falsely reassuring ourselves that it’s not as big a deal as it feels like (or even trying vainly to do so). We ought to be busting our asses to figure out ways to solve the problem of death, not letting it fly past as though treating it as a practical (albeit terrifyingly dangerous and difficult) problem would be somehow disrespectful or mysteriously unnecessary.

  44. Josh Slocum says

    Has Greta Christina actually ever said that religious people should be actively converted to atheism ?

    Of course not, and even implying that she or any other well-known gnu atheist has is a brazen and shocking misrepresentation.

  45. michaeld says

    Does help religion does comforting someone when a loved one has died make religion ok when its been a driving force behind (not all but some) wars, racism and atrocities?

    That’s the crux I think of a lot of the atheist view. I don’t think anyone is honestly saying that religion has never done a single good thing for anyone. That’s an absurd notion. If anyone wants to point out “how religion poisons everything” I’d say that’s more marketing then actual opinion.

    I’m also not really on board with the comparison to imperialists since I don’t think any atheists are talking about forceing anyone to do anything. Even when Dawkins talks about religious indoctrination as child abuse he’s not saying you should take their kids away to stop it.

    On the whole the piece seems more then a little disingenuous and straw manish.

  46. Tony says

    Be Scofield:

    Because I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics.

    –That sounds massively condescending. How exactly do you know that she doesn’t do the same thing?

    Otherwise she couldn’t launch these broad and sweeping attacks on religion.

    -Are you speaking of the broad and sweeping attacks on religion that involve using logic, reason and evidence as the starting point for forming beliefs, rather than unscientific superstition? As long as religious beliefs are untestable and unverifiable, broad attacks on religious beliefs are quite justifiable. There’s no need to analyze every religion. If it’s got superstitious elements to it, it’s already divorced from reality.

    If you are in a privileged position, as many of the white New Atheists are you may think that it’s easy to just give up your religion.

    -Privilege?? Are you kidding me? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Greta part of the LGBT community? Where are the privileges there? I know I haven’t found any since coming out of the closet and it’s been 15 years. Add being a man of color to being gay, and you’re pretty far from having privilege; all the more since I live in the South.
    Also, though I’m still new here, I’ve read several coming out stories (I love PZ Myer’s “Why I Am an Atheist” posts), and many of them are not stories of people “easily giving up their religion”. For many people, overcoming religious indoctrination that teaches you the world works one way when it doesn’t work that way _at all_, is massively difficult. Comments like that smack of insensitivity and fly in the face of someone who purports to listen to what others say (sorry, I forgot you listen to ‘people of color who are religious, atheist, or agnostic’).

    I’ve learned that historically religion has played a significant role for people of color in resisting white supremacy, slavery and segregation.

    -I’ve learned that historically religion has played a significant role in oppressing people of color and promoting white supremacy, slavery and segregation. Sure religion has had some positive effect for some people, but given the arbitrary nature of religious ethics and morality and the fact that they aren’t based on reality, ultimately the suffering religion has caused make it a societal ill (with mild, occasional benefits), IMHO. Keep the good. Toss the bad. Perhaps a one page bible/koran/torah.

    It’s different than me saying that because religious people have done bad things in one context that Native Americans should be converted to atheism.

    -I’ve yet to see any atheist advocate forcibly converting anyone. You seem to think that using facts, reason, and logic to *persuade* someone out of religious beliefs is somehow bad.
    Persuading people out of catholicism to atheism (though I wouldn’t stop there; naturalism and humanism are great world views) could serve to change access to contraceptives for the better. The stupid view that condoms make baby jesus cry is the only justification used to oppose birth control. It’s a belief that’s untrue, and there’s no benefit to it. Far too many people are harmed or killed because the catholic church condemns birth control.
    Remove Islam from the equation, and where is the justification for misogyny claimed by many Islamic adherents? As Islam is a claim about the world that isn’t true, it can and should be discounted. Doing so benefits countless women around the world. Trying to persuade others to view the world without their rose colored glasses has massive benefits for anyone who believes in universal human rights.

  47. says

    Yeah, he seems mostly wrong and is following an agenda. But natalie is right. For instance, I once wrote a Facebook status asking if anyone was going to the newly opened Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. I got responses like “why would I want to see the ramblings of ignorant bronze age goat herders”. So everyone in the bronze age not atheist is ignorant? Never mind that the dss are iron age.

    As an anthropologist interested in race, I may be over sensitive but it seems to me that the atheisticoskeptical community includes people quite capable of cultural insensitivity and racism. This is based on ignorance but proffered as rational thinking.

    And it is the tree of ignorance that bears the low hanging fruit on which our detractors feed.

  48. says

    Here’s the question I have…

    Is Be Scofield listening to any of us here? Or is that “listening” reserved for people who share the preferred outlook and confirm everything Scofield already believes?

  49. says

    It couldn’t possibly be that some Gnu Atheists are Native, could it?

    And you know what steams me? Just look at the destruction Christianity has caused to Native cultures. Just look at it.

    Native religions have been nearly annihilated because of Christianity. One of Christianity’s worst moral failures is how it bulldozes over every little thing in its path. It’s basically a strip-mine operation on people’s cultures.

    This is one of the primary reasons I want nothing to do with Christianity–because it doesn’t respect what’s there. It wants to be ruler over all. It meddles and interferes and steals and vanishes entire cultural practices whenever it can.

    Wake me when Gnu Atheism starts rending cultural practices asunder, Be Scofield, then you can talk about the damage being done to Native culture by Gnu Atheism. FFS.

  50. thephilosophicalprimate says

    Tsk, tsk, Improbable Joe: You know your questions are purely rhetorical, since Be Scofield has already commented here, and in that comment demonstrated quite clearly a refusal to listen and absorb any of the substantial arguments made above.

  51. Tim Groc says

    Looks like Be Scofield’s clumsily constructed house of logical fallacies has quickly fallen apart.

    He’s also scarpered somewhere else.

  52. says

    Since Sikivu Hutchinson and Greta Christina were two of the people mentioned in the article, I thought I’d provide some links.

    Hutchinson’s ‘Out of the Closet’ – Black Atheists (http://www.lawattstimes.com/opinion/opinion/773-out-of-the-closet–black-atheists.html)

    blackfemlens: http://www.blackfemlens.org/

    An interview with Sikivu (by Christina): http://www.alternet.org/story/140685/atheism%3A_living_life_unfettered_by_supernaturalism_and_groupthink_–_interview_with_sikivu_hutchinson/

    @thephilosophicalprimate (#37) and Josh Slocum (#45):
    Thanks for the links! I think I remember that one by Scofield about “5 Myths Atheists Believe About Religion” and Greta’s response to it, but I hadn’t read “Matters of Faith” by Felis.

    I didn’t know Scofield was transitioning (Natalie at #41) and am sorry if I used the wrong pronoun.

    @Greg Laden (53): I never understand it when people dismiss learning about religious history (like the Dead Sea Scrolls) by saying things like that. (I’ve read similar dismissive comments about reading the Bible or learning about some minority religion.) It just sounds ignorant and contradicts the claim that their beliefs are based on knowledge about the religion.

  53. says

    Phrases like “X should be converted to Y” imply that we want to change peoples’ beliefs by force, but that’s not the case. –DSimon #27

    Great point. Gnu Atheism seeks to educate believers, not convert them to some new religion. Religion is in our faces so much that we get numerous opportunities to do so. We also want to normalize godlessness so that people don’t freak out when we bring it up, which calls for speaking up about it at times when others would bring up their religious beliefs or religious identity. Religions spread ignorance and disastrously low quality thinking methods and they actively attempt to brainwash people and often succeed with children–we don’t.

  54. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Be Scofield really dislikes “New Atheists”. He dislikes them so much there’s no logical fallacy he won’t use to show his disdain for them. For instance, he uses the non sequitur claim that we insist people, specifically Native Americans, be forcefully converted to atheism. He throws in a strawman by claiming we see no good coming out of religion. He does a bit of special pleading by using a non-mainstream church’s actions towards gays and other marginalized people (and ignores Fred Phelps, Ted Haggard [who we all know is completely heterosexual] and Benny Ratzi, who actually are homophobic.

    Hidden here and there among Scofield’s scolds and whines are a few nuggets of truth. Some “New Atheists” are arrogant and some are too dismissive of the good religion does. But his screed is so poorly put together that finding those nuggets is more of a chore than it’s worth.

  55. kosk11348 says

    Atheists may think we know what’s best for society, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find any group working for social change that doesn’t.

    But being compared to the Christians who paved over Native American cultures is really beyond the pale. That travesty was what religion wrought, enabled by the surety that comes with believing oneself to be an agent of the Lord. In stark contrast to the bellicose faithful, atheists aren’t seeking to *impose* our lack of faith on anyone, and no theist has ever been pressured to renounce their faith. To suggest that the new atheists have done anything other than engage in fair debate is grossly dishonest.

  56. piero says

    Josh SlocumÑ

    Irritating and necessary to point out- there is a real problem of sexism and racism and (from my vantage point a bit less) homophobia in the atheist/skeptic/whatever blogosphere. Lots of us have been fighting those fights almost as a full-time job. The amount of unexamined privilege among “us”, mostly but not exclusively displayed by straight white men who think Skepticism Iz ‘Bouts Bigfoot, has shocked and angered me.

    The problem is real, but Be Scofield’s distortions are not.

    I disagree. None of the most popular “atheist/skeptic/whatever” blogs or websites has, as far as I know, been guilty of promoting sexism/racism/homophobia/whatever. I regularly read FTB, The Richard Dawkins Foundatio site, Why Evolution is True, Friendly Atheist, Skepchicks, Commonsenseatheism, AtheistEthicist, Godless Bitches, The Atheist Experience and several others, and never have come across a blatantly sexist, racist or homophobic remark. Yes, sometimes a post has generated a bit of debate, sometimes a lot of debate, but never have I come across a recalcitrantly censurable stance.

    Of course, I’m not claiming that every single atheist/skeptic/freethinker/whatever has always shown an irreproachable behaviour. I’ve seen some revoltingly misogynistic comments concerning Elevatorgate, for example. But I would not so readily dismiss the atheist blogosphere as the realm of privileged white men. I’m not one of them, for a start.

  57. says

    I once wrote a Facebook status asking if anyone was going to the newly opened Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. I got responses like “why would I want to see the ramblings of ignorant bronze age goat herders”. So everyone in the bronze age not atheist is ignorant? Never mind that the dss are iron age. –Greg Laden

    Yes but it isn’t the same as with religions even so. We don’t fear what is written on the Dead Sea Scrolls or hope to hide them from the light of day, nor do we hope to find some confirmation of our beliefs about deities or the church because we have neither. The Dead Sea Scrolls aren’t competing with our religious dogma because we have none.

    What you experienced was a few people who could care less about those scrolls letting you know about their opinion. You can’t take the opinions of a few atheists like that and say that this is what atheism stands for with regard to culture or race, whereas with religions, a statement like that from an official in the religion could be a sign of racist motives or cultural imperialism.

    On the other hand, some religions and therefore some religious people have a vested interest in learning what the Dead Sea Scrolls say. You’re naturally going to find greater interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls among people in religious groups who want to have their faith supported by historical texts. For atheists, though, there will be less vital reasons for getting excited about the Dead Sea Scrolls. It’s not racism or cultural insensitivity; it’s that the Dead Sea Scrolls are likely to have little importance in the lives of most atheists.

  58. Josh Slocum says

    I disagree. None of the most popular “atheist/skeptic/whatever” blogs or websites has, as far as I know, been guilty of promoting sexism/racism/homophobia/whatever.

    Then either you are not reading the same sites I am or you don’t consider the examples I do to be relevant. Edwin Kagin, for example, has been a real peach on FtB recently. Abbie’s ERV at SciBlogs has the longest threads devoted to disgusting, rampant misogyny.

    But I would not so readily dismiss the atheist blogosphere as the realm of privileged white men. I’m not one of them, for a start.

    Please understand I’m not trying to insult you, but it’s very important to me that you understand what you just inadvertently did. This is an example of a reader “hearing” something that the speaker (me) didn’t say and immediately exaggerating it because he feels personally hurt when there’s no reason to feel that way because what you think was said was not actually said.

    1. I did not—emphatically not!— “readily dismiss the atheist blogosphere as the realm of privileged white men.” Really. Please go back and read my comment. If I had said that, you’d be right to call me out. But it’s immensely frustrating that you, well, wrote something in your mind that I didn’t say. Please acknowledge that.

    2. “I’m not, for a start,” is telling. Again, I’m trying to illustrate, not insu, lt or accuse you of acting in bad faith. I don’t think you are. But you got unnecessarily defensive when there was nothing at all in what I wrote to indicate that I thought the whole atheist blogosphere was a problem, nor that you were a member of any part of that problem. I think you’ll have to concede that when you re-read my comment.

    Because you were feeling defensive (I get it, I feel that way sometimes too!) you retroactively re-wrote what I said and turned it into an exaggerated and inaccurate statement. Then you knocked it down. This is really, really frustrating. Please try to not to do that. I know it’s difficult and that I’ve been guilty of it too. But it’s not cool.

    The atheist blogosphere that I frequent is one of the best places to find camaraderie in thought and politics. It’s a wonderful place. But some spots (stop, don’t pass go — did you see that I differentiated between “some” and “all”?) certainly have some deeply rooted problems with sexism and hostile resistance to acknowledging it.

  59. Josh Slocum says

    Further to Piero – Yes, I could have written in my post, “I am not, of course, saying that every single atheist blog has a rampant problem, and I know that not all of them are run by privileged straight white men, and I certainly don’t mean to insult any innocent bystander.” Frankly, though, I think that’s kind of implicit. It’s wearying to have to list so many disclaimers because someone will immediately and reflexively say “I’m not one of the bad apples!” Sigh. Sigh. Of course not. Why ever do you feel so personally targeted?

  60. says

    Aratina Cage: What you experienced was a few people who could care less about those scrolls letting you know about their opinion.

    I experienced people who could care less about an amazing thing that they chose to close their minds to because it seemed better to denigration some people who were linked to a religion they were annoyed with, and they did it in a non-tolerant way, mostly unknowingly and innocently (I’m not trying to make people sound evil) but this is what we see when we look. In the post I wrote partly as a response to this, I compared it to me finding a fragment of a decades old newspaper in a wall up at the cabin. It was the sports page. I read and relished every word of it precisely because it was decades old and reflected a time when things really were different (back when the Twin Cities had not been diluted by all these recent immigrants from the coastal regions, like me). I;ve pretty much never read the sports page before or since.

    One could say that some folks just don’t happen to be interested in a particular topic. That is not, however, what was happening, I’m quite sure. The dismissal of all humans living in all cultures for thousands of years as ignorant isn’t really just something that you do because you are not interested in old scrolls. It is something you do because of received knowledge about how to act.

    You can’t take the opinions of a few atheists like that and say that this is what atheism stands for with regard to culture or race, whereas with religions, a statement like that from an official in the religion could be a sign of racist motives or cultural imperialism.

    You are absolutely correct! And this is why whathisnamne is wrong. But, I still insist that our subculture needs some self correcting and the biggness vs. smallness of the wrongness does not obviate a little adjustment here and there .

  61. piero says

    Josh Slocum:

    OK, I see your point.

    I’m not being defensive: I never felt you were accusing me personally. I just put my case as an example of an (almost) non-white, non-privileged atheist who has so far found mostly reasonable and cogent arguments in the atheist/skeptic/whatever blogossphere.

    But I’ve read neither Edwin Kagin nor Abbie’s ERV. Maybe my stance will change when I do.

    By the way, no hard feelings. I just related my experience, which was probably limited to the sites I found congenial, thus probably wrong.

  62. says

    The only part that I would agree with is that religion may not be the dominating oppressive factor in someone’s life. On a societal level, though, the leaders of religions speak with a conservative voice. For individual communities, religion may work, but once you start growing a movement, the leaders and what religion represents and does on a larger scale is the problem. So yes, people could have more direct experience with racism, sexism, or homophobia, but that doesn’t mean the problems religion causes and helps maintain aren’t real.

  63. says

    Odd how he never mentions the thousands of sermons from the pulpit that argue that black are inferior, as late as the present day; Edgar Ray “Preacher” Killen was sentenced just five years ago. Odd how he never mentions that the Nation of Islam was a cult that called a hit on Malcom X. Odd how he never noticed that the Baptists originally created a separate church for blacks to keep them separate from whites, and to keep them complacent. Odd how he never mentions the Islamic slave trade of black people.

    Yeah, that’s all probably an oversight. So he’s probably just stupid.

  64. says

    Be Scofield (in comment #18), said: “Because [unlike Greta Christina] I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics.”

    Apparently Scofield is unaware of the post Greta made back in March, 2011 titled: “Atheists of Color – A List (linked in her list of Favorite Atheism posts in her sidebar) It is exactly what it sounds like: a list of over 60 atheists of color, with descriptions, and links to their blogs or home pages. The atheists listed include numerous individuals who previously identified as agnostic or religious. And it’s not the only time she’s written about how important it is to “listen to people of color”. In her commentary on the list, she links to two other essays of hers on the topic.

    Scofield might retreat to the claim that he listens to more non-white religious people than Greta Christina does — which may be true, considering the degree to which he appears to prefer to talk to religious people rather than secularists. However, such a retreat undermines his point — one cannot learn about changing from religion to atheism by talking to people who are still religious adherents. Unless one has done so themselves, one cannot learn how easy or difficult it is to leave religion as a person of color, or how tragic or liberating the loss of the “role” that religion has played in their lives, without talking to people who have made that transition. And it is precisely those questions, those experiences, that Scofield claims privileged, superior knowledge of.

    For Scofield to claim that Greta Christina’s “reason [is] more tainted by privilege than his” because she doesn’t “make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color” is laughable and an example of blatant ignorance and mis-representation.

    I’ve tweeted him a copy of this comment, with a link; we’ll see if he responds.

  65. Stacy says

    @H.D. Lynn

    The only part that I would agree with is that religion may not be the dominating oppressive factor in someone’s life.

    Sure, but the thing is, no New Atheist has made that claim.

    Scofield is strawmanning us.

  66. Greta Christina says

    Be Scofield @ #18:

    She’s not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color. Otherwise she couldn’t launch these broad and sweeping attacks on religion.

    Translation: “She’s not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color. Otherwise she would agree with me.”

    I am, in fact, aware of the role religion has played in the lives of people of color — both for good and for ill. I understand that people of color have used religion for community, identity, resistance organizing, comfort in the face of oppression, and more. I also understand that white people have used religion as a tool for the oppression of people of color, and as a rationalization for it.

    As I have said, and as so many others in this discussion have said: I do not, in fact, argue that no benefit has ever been gained from religion by anyone ever in all of human history. I argue that, on the whole, on balance, for more people than not, in more instances than not, religion does more harm than good. I argue that the benefits conferred by religion can be achieved without it. And much more importantly, I argue that religion is, you know, not true. A question which Scofield seems mightily unconcerned with.

    Scofielfd, if you’re going to argue with me and other so-called “New Atheists,” can you please argue with what I/ we are actually saying? (Oh, right. No, you can’t. Because what we’re saying is actually reasonable and accurate, and you don’t have a leg to stand on.)

  67. Greta Christina says

    Oh — and what Sastra said @ #38. This idea that religion makes some people feel good and therefore it’s a terrible oppressive evil to try to persuade them out of it… it’s unbelievably patronizing. I do people the respect of treating them as adults, who won’t wilt like daisies if they hear their ideas questioned and criticized, who are capable of defending their ideas when they’re correct and changing them when they’re mistaken, and who give a damn about what is and is not true.

  68. Stacy says

    She’s not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color.

    Oh, ffs. In the U.S.A., people of color–specifically, African Americans–often were denied forums in which to gather together. The one exception being places of worship (which were presumably perceived by whites as “safe”, since churches were seen as supportive of the status quo. Hmm. Wonder why that was.)

    No wonder churches became a locus for African American activism.

    Greta Christina knows this; so do most New Atheists. Does “Be”?

  69. Rieux says

    Okay, here’s my (seriously overlong, but, er, thorough?) comment over there, in case “Be” or Tikkun decides to get rid of it:

    Mr. Scofield:

    The dishonesty and cowardice of this piece are impressive. It’s telling that, amid the constant barrage of attacks on Greta Christina (of all people) there is not a *single* link to the source texts you are attacking. It would appear that you have demurred from linking to Christina’s work because doing so would reveal to your readers that your characterizations of her positions are a farrago of lies, a disgusting attempt to smear an advocate by brutally misrepresenting what she believes and has argued. Shame on you.

    The second notable point is the irony of your emphasis on *privilege*, of all things, in this essay–in light of the suffocating *religious* privilege that your piece exists nearly entirely to enforce. You, an employee of and ceaseless advocate for the religion industry, think that you can lecture a bisexual female atheist about the *privilege* inherent in her attacks on the overwhelmingly powerful institution of religion? Your utter cluelessness about the massive privilege beam in your own eye, as you whine mightily about the mote in Greta’s (the magnitude of which you ridiculously overstate), is little short of obscene.

    To your specific allegations:
    “Greta Christina claims that the belief in supernatural entities makes people ‘more vulnerable to oppression, fraud and abuse.'”

    It’s hardly the most consequential falsehood in your piece, but the above is a lie. Greta has made no such claim–and by failing to provide a link to the work from which you lifted that quotation, you’ve made it harder for readers to check your assertion.

    Here is the paragraph from Christina’s “The Top One Reason Religion Is Harmful” [ http://bit.ly/8qPTM9 ] you lifted that phrase from:

    “But moderate religion still does harm. It still encourages people to believe in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die. And therefore, it still disables reality checks… making people more vulnerable to oppression, fraud, and abuse.”

    Neither in that paragraph, in any other portion of “The Top One Reason,” nor in any other work of hers I am familiar with (as noted, you have conveniently failed to cite any at all) does Christina “claim[] that [it is] the belief in supernatural entities [that] makes people ‘more vulnerable to oppression, fraud and abuse.'” Your assertion that she made that claim is false; you have dishonestly misrepresented her position. Why?

    “Claims of this nature should also be scrutinized amongst a community of experts to try and reach a consensus before drawing conclusions.”

    What nonsense. Shockingly enough, people are allowed to “draw conclusions,” state them in public, and defend them, without submitting them to “a community of experts” first. Your Argument from (imagined) Authority is a fallacy, and your attempt to apply prior restraint to atheist advocacy (I’m sure you’d *love* to pick the “community of experts” to whom all atheistic claims must be submitted before publication) is risible.

    “Unfortunately, the New Atheists fail tremendously in this regard.”

    Whereas everything you assert has been vetted by experts aplenty? (If so, it would appear–ahem–that none of those experts were English-composition teachers.) As if.

    One shining symptom of unexamined privilege, as I’m sure you know, is horrendous double standards. The hoops that you demand Gnu Atheists jump through merely to *state what we think about the world* are flatly absurd.

    “The idea that religion is ‘harmful’ or ‘poisonous’ should of course be a hypothesis first and a conclusion second.”

    It is. You simply refuse to address the supporting logic and evidence that Christina and the rest of your targets have supplied for the contentions they offer. Apparently you prefer silly histrionics directed at the fact that they dare to state those contentions in the first place.

    Dawkins, for example, spent several hundred words–more than *twenty years ago*–explaining the numerous points of analogy between religious belief and viruses. You are evidently too important (*cough*privileged*cough*) to bother to address his *argument*; instead, you merely waggle your rhetorical fist at the fact that he even made one. In Christina’s terms, all you’re offering is a “Shut up, that’s why” argument–by all appearances, you yourself have decided that you’ve got nothing to present on the merits.

    “Has Christina looked at how religion is expressed in cultures throughout the world, both indigenous and not and found data that supports her assertion?”

    Yes, she has. She, like several other Gnus you take aim at here, has provided profuse evidence for her claims. Meanwhile, your brutal misrepresentations of “her assertion,” and very likely your silly misconceptions about what constitutes relevant and probative “data,” are neither here nor there. Lobbing out ridiculous red herrings (Dinka? Tenrikyo? Wonbulgyo? AYFKM–you seriously think gesticulating at random “traditions” is responsive to anything Christina has ever written?) may work to divert *your* attention from the blood your industry has on its hands, but some of us have an easier time seeing through the Chewbacca Defense.

    “Wouldn’t information need to be gathered from each of them before reaching scientific conclusions about whether or not the entire category of religion is harmful or poisonous?”

    No, it wouldn’t. You are simply refusing to deal honestly with the actual “conclusion,” and indeed argument, in question. Christina, like numerous other prominent Gnus, has made it quite clear *what it is* that she is asserting is “harmful or poisonous.” (Hint: it isn’t the Dinka “tradition.”) Your total disregard for her actual points is regrettable.

    Most relevantly here, Christina is not attacking a “category” of “traditions”–that’s just you imposing your (PRIVILEGED) religiolatrous preconceptions on her position. Evidently you just don’t care enough about honest dialogue to figure out what Christina is calling “harmful.” How sad.

    “Christina also states, ‘If people believe they’ll be rewarded with infinite bliss in the afterlife … people will let themselves be martyrs to their faith, to an appalling degree.'”

    Indeed. Do you seriously dispute that? Or are you just determined to pretend that she is arguing something that’s contained nowhere in the passage you quoted from her?

    “First of all, one could easily point out that there were many ‘martyrs’ for Stalinism.”

    Yes–and? How does that point do anything to rebut Christina’s assertion? You are aware that tu quoque is a fallacy, aren’t you?

    “Second, Christina’s claim is another hypothesis. But this one seems disproved on even the most cursory examining of the facts. What percentage of the billions of people on this earth who believe in an after life become ‘martyrs for their faith?'”

    An *appalling* percentage, presumably. Again, *do you seriously disagree*?

    In 2001, nineteen faithful Muslims attempted to crash airliners into buildings containing enormous numbers of people, and they succeeded in killing nearly three thousand. Fervently religious suicide bombers have killed many thousands more in the past handful of decades. How contemptuous of reality does one need to be to pretend that that does not constitute “an appalling degree”?

    Apparently you’ve decided to mangle Christina’s claim beyond recognition–but where in her claim does she state that “martyrs to their faith” constitute a *high percentage, in absolute terms*, of afterlife believers? Where does she allege that more Muslims (or Christians or observant Jews or…) than Hindu Tamils are suicide bombers?

    She says nothing of the kind. But you pretend she does. That’s your absurd dishonesty–and you pull that kind of stunt over and over and over again in this piece.

    “When Greta Christina says that religious people should be actively converted to atheism….”

    That is a lie. Christina says nothing of the kind.

    One also notes the sly attempt to paint Christina’s mere position regarding *the utility of an IDEA* as an advocacy of *forcible* (“active”) conversion. How dare you so blatantly misrepresent her?

    “…or Dawkins likens religion to a virus that infects the mind they are effectively saying ‘we know what’s best for you.'”

    No, in fact, they’re not.

    First, Dawkins was making an utterly banal point about the manner in which religion (like other kinds of memes, including many he approves of) propagates itself; I doubt you’ve even read “Viruses of the Mind,” but if you did, clearly your overwhelming religious privilege prevented you from retaining a single point Dawkins made in it beyond the eponymous (and offensive!!eleventy!) analogy.

    Second, as Christina herself has responded to this particular smear of yours:

    “I am not saying that I know what’s best for you.

    “I am saying that, on this particular question, I think I’m correct, and you’re mistaken.”

    Which is of course obvious; it’s the same posture you are taking up in this very post (are you “effectively saying ‘I know what’s best for Gnus,'” in that you clearly think we’d be better off accepting your superior notions about the nature and value of religion?), and indeed the same posture *every author of a work of advocacy in the history of the world* has taken up.

    Christina has particular thoughts about a particular set of ideas. She thinks other people should agree with those thoughts of hers, and she believes that advocating them is a worthwhile pursuit. Your position is precisely functionally the same. So’s mine. We are all arguing, advocating our conceptions, trying to make a persuasive case for our positions. We–including you–are trying to change minds, not least because we think other people are wrong.

    There is nothing objectionable about any element of that–*until* your overwhelming religious privilege whispers in your ear that *Christina’s* attempts at persuasion are critical of particular ideas that *cannot* morally be challenged. And so the double standards, the misrepresentations, and the slime come thick and heavy from you. Those of us who attack your Precious Privileged Notions must needs be silenced, scorned, cut off from acceptable society. The above post is the (latest) result.

    “[T]he way the New Atheists understand the designation ‘harmful’ or ‘poisonous’ is largely shaped by what they view as most harmful from their own social location.”

    Of course. And the same goes for you, with your overwhelmingly religiolatrous preconceptions and willful blindnesses. Your social location is in fact far more loaded with arrogant privilege than Greta Christina’s is, but you conveniently permit yourself to ignore that.

    “If you are in a privileged position, as many of the white New Atheists are you may think that it’s easy to just give up your religion.”

    Maybe so. So what? How does that rebut any assertion any Gnu Atheist (of any color–care to respond to Hemant Mehta? Hector Avalos? Maryam Namazie? Jamila Bey? Salman Rushdie? Ian “Crommunist” Cromwell?) has publicly made? For that matter, when have you ever shown us a single white Gnu declaring “that it’s easy to just give up your religion”? Or are invisible strawmen all you’ve got?

    Actually I suspect that Hutchinson, for one, *can* offer things that various Gnus have said that are legitimately dubious and wrong on white-privilege grounds, but that hardly supports your attempts to mindlessly appropriate her (vastly more relevant, material, and intelligently directed) points for your own gnubashing ends. That Christina benefits from white privilege–a fact she would never deny–does nothing to rebut any actual assertion of hers that you have pointed to… or that I’ve ever read.

    “I don’t think that belief in God or religion was the thing these people needed to be liberated from.”

    Wow. You write a disgustingly paternalistic sentence like that and then accuse Greta Christina–a *bisexual woman in a lesbian marriage who lived in San Francisco during the peak of the AIDS pandemic*–of *privilege*? How offensive can you get?

    Neither Christina nor any other Gnu you have offered has asserted “that belief in God or religion was the thing these people needed to be liberated from.” You’ve simply fabricated that notion from your tumid imagination. It’s outrageous.

    “Rest assured, [Native Americans’] oppression has nothing to do with their beliefs in God or their traditional religious practices and ceremonies.”

    Oh, really? *Nothing?*

    Care to enlighten us with the “data, cross-cultural research and empirical evidence” that you’ve amassed to support that conclusion? The process by which your hypothesis was “scrutinized amongst a community of experts [who] tr[ied] and reach[ed] a consensus” first? When did that happen? Who were your experts? Show us, please!

    Of course, you’ve done no such work at all. You cannot possibly support your laughable overstatement that Native Americans’ “oppression has nothing”–*nothing*!–“to do with their beliefs in God.” But you’ll impose the above-quoted ridiculous double standards on Gnus anyway. What a joke.

    “[W]hen Greta Christina says we’d be better off without religion and insists that we convert believers to atheism….”

    Another blatant lie. Greta Christina has never “insist[ed] that we convert believers to atheism.” You simply made that up. Why are you so disinterested in arguing honestly?

    “Whether we like it or not, religious organizations are often the first to provide the much needed spiritual, material and social services to this sick society.”

    Sure. So what? How does the fact that religious organizations provide services to needy people demonstrate that religion is not harmful? As Marx pointed out:

    “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

    Evidently the obvious retort to your notion–that it is anything but clear that relieving the “vale of tears” in question by providing empty illusions is, on balance, a *good* approach–has never, ever penetrated your consciousness. Such are the wages of religious privilege, I guess.

    “As long as these social ills go unaddressed religious organizations will continue to play central roles in combating them.”

    Indeed. Modern social science bears that–and Marx–out: religion is in large part a symptom of societal dysfunction, a need that we have in large part because we’re beset with fear, ignorance, and material want. Thankfully, it’s also a symptom that humanity is gradually growing out of, as we leave several of our more major communal dysfunctions behind. Again, how is this a rebuttal to Gnus’ arguments at all?

    “The broad and sweeping attacks against ‘religion’ by the New Atheists do little to advance any sort of helpful conversation about what communities or people really need.”

    That is your overwhelmingly partisan and privileged opinion. That an inveterate apologist for religion finds criticism of religion less than “helpful” means very little. We won’t shut up just because our advocacy bruises your privileged sensibilities.

    “Any benefit that the Nation of Islam or the Black Church had for African Americans is negated by the insistence upon religion or belief in God as the single most oppressive issue.”

    Again, you have presented no Gnu “insist[ing] upon religion or belief in God as the single most oppressive issue.” Again, you’ve just made that up. Again, you feel the need to propound absurd lies about your opponents. Why?

    “If they make qualifications and recognize that yes, there is something wrong with waving a finger at Native Americans and scolding them for their childish ways….”

    That’s ridiculous. You have shown no one at all “waving a finger at” *any person* “and scolding them for their childish ways”; the mere position that religion is harmful does nothing of the kind. Blind as your privilege makes you to the obvious fact, *ideas are not people.* Arguing that Idea X is wrong or destructive is *not* an attack on people who hold Idea X, no matter how fervently you insist on pretending otherwise.

    “Either they lecture every culture in the world about their religious traditions….”

    The concept of “traditions” is one you have arbitrarily, absurdly, and dishonestly shoved into this entire dialogue. You have presented no Gnu–not Christina, not Dawkins, not Harris, not anyone–attacking religious “traditions.” In fact all of the above have occasionally taken issue with *specific* religious practices, but you haven’t even shown us that–instead, you once again misrepresent all of us, pretending that we’ve debased “religious traditions” writ large. Again, you’re lying.

    Gnu Atheists attack religious *ideas*, not “traditions” writ large.

    As you constantly make clear, it would appear that your critique of Gnu Atheism cannot survive an honest appraisal of its contents. You are a distressingly poor representative of Gnus’ critics.

  70. Rieux says

    I think my response to Scofield takes the prize thus far for length–but at this point I think PZ’s is the best.

  71. Tony says

    Improbable Joe:

    Is Be Scofield listening to any of us here? Or is that “listening” reserved for people who share the preferred outlook and confirm everything Scofield already believes?

    -I’m going with a hearty heck naw (to be voiced in your best ‘W’ voice). You’d think he/she would listen to us long enough to find out how many individuals are ‘people of color’ (I guess white people don’t have any color…), since according to he/she:

    I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics

    Hey, Be Scofield! Pick me. Pick me. I’m a person of color. Gay too. That wasn’t on the approved list though, drat.

  72. says

    Yeah, I’m a person of color, and poor too. I’ve got the feeling that when you’ve spent your life in hugely expensive private colleges, the privilege of wealth flattens out the range of viewpoints that you hear, even when you are Be Scofield and have your multicultural checklist of “People to Listen To, in order to confirm my opinion.”

    That, and anyone investing that much time in trying to get a degree in “divinity”, which is study without a subject once you get down to it, you must really hate people who reject your academic pursuit. Scofield’s degree is the equivalent of a degree in Design of the Emperor’s New Clothes, or Comparative Spider-Man.

  73. karmakin says

    @Rieux To be fair, I think that Be’s statement of “Greta Christina claims that the belief in supernatural entities makes people ‘more vulnerable to oppression, fraud and abuse.’” is probably a fair paraphrasing of the link that you put just below.

    That said, there’s nothing at all wrong with having that opinion, even if you think the opinion is wrong. Is she saying that all people who believe in supernatural entities are being oppressed, defrauded and abused? Of course not. But does it make people more vulnerable to those things? Sure.

    Mind you, I agree with everything else that you said. This really is a textbook case of religious privilege run amok.

    That said, I think that all the positive things that Be puts forward as necessary for other outgroups that stems from religion can be achieved via other non-monotheistic means. Personally, I’m actually perfectly fine with deistic, pantheistic or other styles of religious or even spiritual belief, as I think that monotheistic interventionist belief is leaps and bounds worse than those other things. But I’m only speaking for myself.

  74. SAWells says

    Another fact of Scofield’s error: just because someone Has Privilege doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong about everything. Euclid was a male free citizen in a slave-owning and effectively women-owning society; Euclid Had Privilege. He was still provably right about certain propositions in geometry. Even if all the Gnus were in fact old rich white European males, which of course they are not, it would still not mean that the proposition “gods are fictional” is untrue.

  75. says

    Another fact of Scofield’s error: just because someone Has Privilege doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong about everything. Euclid was a male free citizen in a slave-owning and effectively women-owning society; Euclid Had Privilege. He was still provably right about certain propositions in geometry. Even if all the Gnus were in fact old rich white European males, which of course they are not, it would still not mean that the proposition “gods are fictional” is untrue.

    Exactly right, especially since the single most privileged human being on the entire planet is probably the Pope.

  76. sailor1031 says

    curses – fooled again! after struggling to read Scofield’s nonsensical article I realized it’s just another very extended courtier’s reply. A clear violation of Lampard’s third postulate. Ignore it I say!

  77. platyhelminthe says

    Wow, the “atheism = racism” meme started by those fools at LSE didn’t take long to catch on, did it?

  78. bescofield says

    UPDATE: I just posted this as an update on my post. There have been lots of interesting questions raised so far. I hope to write a separate post on them later.

    I wanted to comment on an important point. As someone who has experienced white, male, heterosexual and class privilege I’m most likely far more privileged than Greta Christina. This privilege is assigned to me by the dominant society whether I like it or not. As a white American I’m no less capable of reproducing racism or cultural Imperialism than Christina is. My article is not meant as an attack or a “gotcha.” I don’t address these sorts of issues like that – rather I try to uncover ways that we all might be reproducing forms of oppression. Despite my best intentions I unwillingly think and say things that are racist, sexist and that may reproduce cultural Imperialism. Thus, by me highlighting how some of the effects of the New Atheists or Christina’s ideas/actions may reproduce this, I’m not saying that I’m better, more holy, or less racist. I’m fully implicated in this process as well. People like Tim Wise have written entire books about their white privilege, I could do that as well. But here I’m talking about a few specific areas related to religion, atheism and oppression.

    I chose to highlight a few of Christina’s statements because she has publicly advocated converting believers into atheists as well as written passionate and sweeping claims about why she believes religion is harmful and wrong (the subject of my article). When I hear someone advocating the conversion of believers into atheism without any sort of qualifications or context it concerns me. Because I do think of African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church. I do think of Native Americans. I think of queer people who find strength and solace in religious communities. I’m concerned that this statement can be viewed as a sort of panacea and is made without any real relationships to the people or communities that could be affected by it. I’m concerned that people will see this and believe that throwing off superstition is the most pressing issue, when I think it is a non-issue when compared with whiteness or class oppression. Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from. Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted). It’s because the religions reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression. Dr. King and Malcolm X believed in God but also fought staunchly against white supremacy. Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    I do know that Christina has written lists of atheists of color and is perhaps one of the more concerned people when it comes to these issues. But she still makes sweeping denunciations of religion and publicly advocates converting believers from their beliefs. What is the context here? What sort of relationships are formed before doing this?

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven. Of course, as atheists are marginalized in a Christian and hegemonic culture there is a need to resist this persecution. As I’ve said before I think those who are affiliated with religion have a direct responsibility to aid in ending this misguided attack upon atheism.

  79. says

    My article is not meant as an attack or a “gotcha.”

    Really? REALLY?

    Given what it says and the way it says it, I find that exceedingly hard to believe. I think it was meant as exactly an attack. I find it exceedingly hard to believe that its startling resemblance to an attack and a gotcha was sheer accident.

  80. Rieux says

    Karmakin: I take the fact that you made it (no?) through that interminable comment of mine as an implicit compliment, so no worries on the “Mind you, I agree with everything else” assurances.

    But I do disagree with, er, your disagreement with me:

    To be fair, I think that Be’s statement of “Greta Christina claims that the belief in supernatural entities makes people ‘more vulnerable to oppression, fraud and abuse.’” is probably a fair paraphrasing of the link that you put just below.

    I don’t think it is. As I pointed out, the subject (in the grammatical sense–as in subject/verb/object) of the Christina sentence from which Scofield lifted that phrase was (a pronoun whose antecedent was) moderate religion, not “the belief in supernatural entities”:

    But moderate religion still does harm. It still encourages people to believe in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die. And therefore, it still disables reality checks… making people more vulnerable to oppression, fraud, and abuse.

    Christina’s argument is much more nuanced than the brute thing Scofield chopped it into—it describes a process that moderate religion sets into motion, one that “therefore” creates the vulnerability she describes in the passage Scofield lifted.

    Now, I agree with you that even the simpler claim in Scofield’s inaccurate paraphrase is a perfectly defensible idea, and it may even be one Christina holds. Which is why I started off my treatment of this textual issue with the caveat “It’s hardly the most consequential falsehood in your piece, but….” Hacking Christina’s actual statement up so that it appears to be a simpler, albeit still respectable, one is not as evil as a handful of other things Scofield does in this piece, but it’s still wrong.

    Scofield asserted that “Greta Christina claims that the belief in supernatural entities makes people ‘more vulnerable to oppression, fraud and abuse.’” But in fact Greta Christina has never “claim[ed]” that. Scofield’s assertion is simply indisputably false–even if his misrepresentation happens not to be all that far removed from (indeed, it could even be a randomly accurate statement of) Christina’s actual position, and as a result it registers fairly low on the offensiveness scale.

    If that were the worst thing Scofield did in his piece, I might ding him a little for inaccuracy (laziness?), but that’s all. But given that, to the contrary, his treatment of Christina’s work is continually disgustingly dishonest, I don’t think he deserves the benefit of any forbearance at all for this kind of thing. It seems to me worthwhile (says the guy who obviously has no interest in brevity, heh) to point out every one of the instances in which Scofield flat-out misrepresents his opponents, even the ones in which the misrepresentation might, by blind chance, not be all that far from the truth.

  81. says

    Declaring “this wasn’t an attack” doesn’t magically make it not an attack. Declaring your privilege doesn’t transform your privilege into a non-issue.

    Insisting that people conduct themselves according to your personal priorities is also pretty rude, Be. I think it would be nice if you’d take the energy you spend attacking good people who you disagree with on matters of taste and tone, and spend it focusing on bad people who are actively doing harm. But I otherwise don’t see the need for anyone to spend much time and effort on your attitudes and behaviors when you aren’t on the attack. I’ve never seen your name come up as a negative for any other reason than your Gnu Atheist bashing.

  82. bescofield says

    Update II: A comment on the Tikkun blog from RIEUX stated: **Another blatant lie. Greta Christina has never “insist[ed] that we convert believers to atheism.” You simply made that up. Why are you so disinterested in arguing honestly?**

    However:
    In 2009 Greta Christina wrote an article originally titled “Why I Want to Turn Religious People in to Atheists.” http://www.onepennysheet.com/2009/11/why-i-want-to-turn-religious-people-into-atheists/

    On Alternet the title was changed to “Atheism and Diversity: Is it Wrong for Atheists to Convert Believers?” But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

  83. Rieux says

    Goodness, this guy is insufferable.

    Scofield:

    As someone who has experienced white, male, heterosexual and class privilege I’m most likely far more privileged than Greta Christina.

    Indeed you are. More to the point, however, you have also “experienced” (i.e., benefited mightily from) religious privilege, and that privilege is overwhelmingly relevant to everything I’ve seen from you regarding Gnu Atheism, very much including this most recent post. Your entire attack on Gnus absolutely reeks of religious privilege, and your blindness to the extent to which you are drowning in it (funny how it didn’t make that little list of yours) is the most obviously correctable part of the problem here.

    But here I’m talking about a few specific areas related to religion, atheism and oppression.

    And you are utterly heedless of the manner in which your investment in, and preconceptions regarding, religion and atheism strengthens oppression of atheists. Again, blindness like yours simply screams “privilege.”

    My article is not meant as an attack or a “gotcha.”

    Utterly ludicrous. Your disingenuousness is unbelievable.

    I chose to highlight a few of Christina’s statements….

    As I have documented at length, you chose to misrepresent a few of Christina’s statements. I haven’t read your Update yet, but I have my doubts you’ve done anything in it to deal materially with those falsehoods of yours. It is hard to understand why you have such a difficult time addressing your opponents with simple honesty.

    …because she has publicly advocated converting believers into atheists….

    No, once again that is a lie. You are lying about Christina’s actions. I have never seen (and you have certainly never quoted) Christina “publicly advocat[ing] converting believers into atheists.” As with so much of your rhetoric, the very foundations of your point depend upon concocting utterly fictional opponents to debase. Stop it.

    When I hear someone advocating the conversion of believers into atheism without any sort of qualifications or context….

    Another lie. Christina’s work is some of the finest Gnu Atheists have to offer in large part because she provides profuse “qualifications” and “context”; wallowing in your privilege and presumed superiority, you simply deign to ignore all of that, because they aren’t the particular “qualifications” and “context” that you consider, for reasons that are dubious at best, to be mandatory. At base, you are declaring Christina evil for arguing a position that you happen to disagree with. And that happens to be an appalling response.

    I’m concerned that this statement can be viewed as a sort of panacea….

    “This statement”? As in, the imaginary “statements” that you have made up out of whole cloth and stuffed in Christina’s mouth?

    Your entire attack on Christina consists of lying about her position and then declaring the imaginary position you’ve invented a symptom of unjust privilege. I think I’ve adequately expressed the offensiveness of that first step, but the second is similarly mindless.

    As your opponents have made overwhelmingly clear, repeatedly, what we are opposed to, and what we think is “harmful,” is a certain set of ideas. Some of us (including Christina) would like to change people’s minds regarding those ideas. Your ridiculous strawmen notwithstanding, no Gnu I have ever seen has ever pretended that our attempts to change minds regarding certain overwhelmingly common religious ideas could possibly be a “panacea”; that’s just the straw-Gnu of your imagination, created by your pigheaded and atheophobic religious privilege. Instead, we’ve made the utterly banal and ordinary observation that beliefs have consequences, and we see considerable evidence that changing people’s minds about certain very consequential beliefs can have (is having) salutary effects in the world.

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from.

    Ah, yes: “The issues that you scummy minorities are complaining about are not as ‘urgent’ as other issues we superior folks are interested in.”

    No, no, your case couldn’t possibly be founded on blind privilege. Nuh-uh. No way.

    Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven….

    And the analysis, the evidence, the thinking you have performed to come to that conclusion is… what? What precisely is your analytical method? The way you (and a million other gnubashers) present points like those, they bear every sign of being impenetrable and baseless dogmas, not reasoned conclusions.

    ….(one can believe in those without having to be bigoted).

    You think that proves that religion is not responsible for any sexism, racism, or bigotry? How tight could your embrace of thoughtless illogic possibly get?

    “Can” one “believe” that Native Americans are an inferior people not fit to occupy this continent… without actually killing them? If one can, does that mean ugly racism bears no responsibility for the genocide of Native Americans?

    Which is to say: the fact that idea X does not always and inevitably lead to consequence Y does not imply, as you mindlessly declare, that idea X does not lead to consequence Y. Like wielders of privilege the world over, your declarations are riddled with logical errors.

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    First, it’s “precedence,” not “precedent.” Your writing is filled with screw-ups like that one. Perhaps Tikkun should consider affording you an editor.

    Second, neither Greta Christina nor any other Gnu atheist has advocating “liberating Dr. King from his theism.” That’s simply the straw-Gnu of your imagination, emerging fully grown, Aphrodite-style, from your thick streak of atheophobia and religious privilege.

    And third, your language-challenged whine about “precedent” is yet another declaration by a possessor of privilege that the concerns and contentions of the despised out-group are inferior to and less worthy than his own. It is not your job to decide what matters “take preceden[ce]” over the concerns of a despised minority, or to moan and wail when our priorities don’t match yours.

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life.

    Given your utter refusal to address the actual arguments your opponents have posed regarding “people’s personal beliefs about heaven,” it’s hard to see why your wish should be taken seriously. You have no interest in dealing with the explanations you’ve been provided regarding why such “personal beliefs” are severely consequential in the world we live in, and you’ve demonstrated similar disinterest in the religious oppression that shapes, indeed deforms, millions of nonbelievers’ lives. So who cares about your blind, heedless, and self-serving “wish”es?

    Of course, as atheists are marginalized in a Christian and hegemonic culture there is a need to resist this persecution.

    Swell. Pity you don’t actually “resist” it at all; your entire marketing strategy is to engage in blockheaded attempts at just such “persecution” and then bask in the attention you get from the blowback. Clearly that gambit is working reasonably well for you.

    As I’ve said before I think those who are affiliated with religion have a direct responsibility to aid in ending this misguided attack upon atheism.

    Also swell. A useful first step to that end would be for such folks to denounce, marginalize, and heap social scorn on “misguided attack”ers such as you.

  84. says

    When Greta Christina says that religious people should be actively converted to atheism or Dawkins likens religion to a virus that infects the mind they are effectively saying “we know what’s best for you.”

    As opposed to Christians and Muslims who try to get everyone to convert to their religions. They NEVER say anything like that, do they?

    For African Americans, Christianity and Islam have played a central role in the process of humanization – both in the eyes of the dominant culture and in building up the community…

    Yeah, because black people weren’t human until Christianity and Islam made them human. (Note carefully what this asshat says: Christianity and Islam made Africans human “in the eyes of the dominant culture.”)

    But remember, it’s the atheists who are racist.

  85. Rieux says

    Oh, boy–a material response!

    Moi, then Scofield:

    Greta Christina has never “insist[ed] that we convert believers to atheism.” You simply made that up. Why are you so disinterested in arguing honestly?

    However:
    In 2009 Greta Christina wrote an article originally titled “Why I Want to Turn Religious People in to
    [sic] Atheists.”

    Yes, she did. So what? Your earlier claim was not that Greta Christina wants to turn religious people into atheists. It was that Christina insists that we convert believers to atheism. Those are two vastly and fundamentally different notions. Are you really incapable of recognizing that?

    I begin to suspect that a major contributor to your atheophobic nastiness is simply horrendous language skills.

    On Alternet the title was changed to “Atheism and Diversity: Is it Wrong for Atheists to Convert Believers?” But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

    “Be turned into”? Cute backpedal: now you’re hiding your howling error in the shady subject-hole of the passive voice.

    Your apparent borderline functional illiteracy aside, being interested in Practice X, participating in Practice X, and defending the ethical legitimacy of Practice X are blatantly obviously not equivalent to an “insist[ence]” on Practice X, especially one directed at “we” people who are not the speaker herself. It’s also not advocacy that anyone else engage in Practice X. (Indeed, Christina has openly declared her support for atheists whose approach toward religion is wholly different than her evangelistic tack.)

    Once again, you are simply jumping to every absurd conclusion your thick religious privilege suggests to you—in total disregard of the text you are responding to.

    As a moderately precocious second grader could tell you, “I Want to Turn Religious People into Atheists” is a vastly different idea than “I Insist You Turn Religious People into Atheists.” And as a result, your “paraphrase” was a ridiculous lie.

    This newest development is interesting in itself: you yourself have provided all the evidence required to show the enormous gulf between what Christina wrote and your characterization of same. Shockingly, it appears that you might not even be capable of seeing the freakish distortion you have performed.

    The blindness wreaked by majority privilege is continually staggering.

  86. says

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from.

    Just for starters, read this link:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2012/01/27/atheism-saved-my-friends-life/

    It’s about a woman who was thinking of killing herself; but then, when she decided there was no God and no afterlife, she realized this was the only life she had, and decided to step up and make it better instead of ending it in the vague hope of something better after she was dead. According to this story, the woman’s idea of suicide was largely based on the possibility of a better afterlife.

    Also, remember all that hoo-hah about how Muslim suicide-bombers are promised an afterlife with lots of virgin nookie? You really think that’s not a harmful belief that people should be freed from?

    Ferfucksake, Scofield, you are one dumb desperate apologist.

  87. Bruce Gorton says

    Be Scofield

    By expecting greater spirituality on non-white people you end up excluding them from the skeptic community via stereotyping.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with arguing with someone you think is wrong. I personally have nothing against an evangelist who tries to convert me with honest argument. The fact that most fail either on the honest or presenting what actually amounts to an argument, is neither here nor there.

    I can say that without qualification, why can’t you?

    Because I do think of African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church.

    This is ignorant. Take A. Philip Randolph, the guy who organised the first black workers union. He was also an atheist.

    W.E.B. Du Bois described himself as an agnostic and free thinker, and had about as little truck with the black churches as he did the white.

    I would suggest you read Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby.

    http://www.amazon.com/Freethinkers-American-Secularism-Susan-Jacoby/dp/0805077766/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327688148&sr=1-1

    I’m concerned that people will see this and believe that throwing off superstition is the most pressing issue, when I think it is a non-issue when compared with whiteness or class oppression.

    Do you have any idea how much harm superstition actually does? I am a South African, out here every now and then we have someone getting burned to death because of a superstitious belief in witchcraft.

    And even ignoring the third world, you have superstition resulting in people trying prayer or alternative medicine instead of taking their kids to a doctor. Superstition is not harmless.

    Further, race and class often have deep roots in superstition. Consider the idea that rich=virtuous that dominates your Republican politics.

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    What are you smoking? Nobody has argued that turning Dr King atheist would have taken precedence over civil rights. However a refusal to argue with King over his religion because he was black or because of the cultural background you perceived him as coming from, would have been racist.

    You are still treating somebody differently, and as your inferior, because of their racial and cultural background. You don’t expect them to be able to take skepticism.

    Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    There is a very common argument levelled in defense of bigotry – and that is the bigger fish to fry.

    How it works is this: You have it easy, I mean, just look at this group that has it worse. You are selfish for standing up for yourself, why aren’t you standing up for these people. And of course in a population of about seven billion, there is almost always somebody who is worse off than you.

    And with nobody standing up for themselves, nothing changes.

    You are perpetuating what you claim to oppose. You divide people into various cultures, much as the Apartheid government did. You then restrict opportunity to move between cultures – because evangelism is out, nobody gets the chance to change their minds.

    You maintain the status quo. That does not end whiteness, it perpetuates it.

  88. says

    However, as Reinhold Niebuhr warned, reason is always tainted with the prejudices of the privileged groups in society.

    Ooooh, postmodernism! How…transparently fucking bogus.

    Actually, moron, oppressed people somehow manage to use reason to ATTACK and DISCREDIT the prejudices of the privileged groups in society. That’s how people identify prejudice in the first place.

    Like most religious propagandists, this guy is trying to attack, not just atheism, but reason itself. He’s just another anti-rationalist liar.

  89. says

    Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    Um…have you seen how much energy atheists are recently devoting to attacking misogyny and drawing attention to issues of violence and discrimination against women? Why do you think so many women (both theist and atheist) are bashing Islam these days?

    Seriously, dude, atheists spend SHITLOADS of time talking about all the racism, sexism, and other injustices that religion is used to justify or enable. It’s one of the most central points they try to make. Were you really not apying attention to all that?

  90. says

    @Be Scofield (#91):

    Because I do think of African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church. I do think of Native Americans. I think of queer people who find strength and solace in religious communities.

    I do, too, and I also think about the people who experience hatred and discrimination, not solace, in their communities. Their experiences count as well. This is one of the problems I have with the argument from the comfort of religion; the experiences of people who’ve been helped by religion get listened to and promoted as evidence of why religion is good, but if people talk about how religion has been harmful to them, their experiences get considered less important and not evidence of the harm of religion.

    I especially don’t understand why trying to convince others of your religious/nonreligious beliefs (not through violence or force, but through persuasion) is a bad thing that deserves to be compared to genocide against the Native Americans.

    I think the way that Greta Christina is going about trying to convince others to leave religion is actually the right way to do it. She’s writing a blog, not passing legislation or using violence to enforce her beliefs. That means the option is there for those who want to leave their religion, but those who want to stay in their religion are not being forced to.

    Raging Bee (#97) pointed out something I was going to write as well: Christians and Muslims try to convince others of their beliefs all the time. Christianity and Islam wouldn’t have as many members as they do today if people hadn’t converted in the past; at least some of the people who are comforted by their religion today might not even be members of their religion if their ancestors hadn’t converted to that religion long ago.

    Couldn’t a person argue that changing from one faith to another could potentially take away solace as well? For example, if someone used to believe in one religion, and then they converted to a different religion and now believe that their family members (who didn’t convert) are going to to Hell, wouldn’t that make them upset? It’s not just leaving religion and becoming an atheist that could have potentially difficult experiences associated with it, and each person has to make the decision for themselves.

    And that’s not even going into the “Is there evidence for religion” topic.

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from. Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted). It’s because the religions reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression.

    Again, whether someone finds it liberating to leave religion and not believe in the afterlife anymore can depend on what their experience with religion was in the first place.

    Even though one need not believe in God to support discrimination, that doesn’t mean that there are some people who support discrimination precisely because they believe God mandates it. (Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains is well in “The Caged Virgin”. She writes about how, even though genital mutilation isn’t in the Qur’an, some Muslims had started using the practice as a way to ensure their daughters were virgins, something they wanted to do based on religious beliefs.)

    I agree that there are larger, institutional forces that cause discrimination and oppression. However, I don’t see why religion couldn’t be considered part of those larger forces — not the cause of all problems, but one of many causes.

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    I actually agree with your point about spending more time addressing all the different types of oppression that people face. It’s just that I would add religious oppression to that list, so I don’t consider it an either/or situation. When talking about the topic of sexism, for example, if I’m talking about women who actually agree that they should have to follow the discriminatory rules of their religion, how do I address that without talking about why their religion is wrong?

  91. says

    In response to my pointing out that it’s laughable, and irresponsible, for Scofield to claim that Greta Christina’s “reason [is] more tainted by privilege than his” because she doesn’t “make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color”, Scofield said the following:

    I do know that Christina has written lists of atheists of color and is perhaps one of the more concerned people when it comes to these issues

    I’m, um, stunned. Scofield is claiming that Greta is, at the same time, not “mak[ing] conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color” while being “perhaps one of the more concerned people when it comes to these issues”. Excuse me?

    The only remotely defensible explanation I can come up with for this is that Scofield thinks that Greta just made the list of atheists of color, but doesn’t actually read any of the people on it. This is obviously, and flagrantly, false, but it’s at least, barely, consistent.

    It’s also slimy, vicious, and, as I mentioned, false. Scofield, you are behaving terribly, and throughly refusing to address your critics honestly. It’s shameful. Shame on you.

  92. Rieux says

    A little off-topic, re Raging Bee:

    Um…have you seen how much energy atheists are recently devoting to attacking misogyny and drawing attention to issues of violence and discrimination against women?

    Which provides Grounds #8,455 why it is right and proper that we devote substantial energy and resources to just those issues: it allows us to rebut mindless garbage from gnubashers like Scofield to the effect that all we care about is attacking religion. In fact, we care about a wide range of other things, and the hard work of so many outspoken atheists (including a huge chunk of the FTB blogger roster and commentariat) combating injustice and privilege even when they’re not particularly connected to religion is prominent evidence of it.

    Mind you, this isn’t among the top several reasons to fight misogyny, homophobia, etc.—it’s well down the list. But it’s still on the list.

  93. says

    I compared it to me finding a fragment of a decades old newspaper in a wall up at the cabin. It was the sports page. I read and relished every word of it precisely because it was decades old and reflected a time when things really were different…

    Old newspaper wrapping old dishes or ornaments can be VERY interesting. Especially if it’s national or local news; but even the ads tell you something. Who knows, maybe one of our great-grandkids will find a fragile heirloom wrapped in random pages of Tikkun, and have a similar reaction to Scofield’s obscurantist bullshit.

  94. says

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness…

    I never knew “ending whiteness” was on anyone’s agenda. I certainly don’t remember hearing King demanding and end to whiteness. What the hell does that even mean?

  95. says

    Yes actually Scofield used the word that way three times just in the bits I quoted from the article and comments here –

    Many of these New Atheists claim that holding onto the belief in supernatural entities is absurd or irrational. However, there is nothing more absurd than whiteness, class oppression and patriarchy.

    I’m concerned that people will see this and believe that throwing off superstition is the most pressing issue, when I think it is a non-issue when compared with whiteness or class oppression.

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    There’s an academic item called “Whiteness studies” – but I don’t know if it considers “whiteness” something that can be ended.

    Obviously he means something like white privilege or white skin privilege or just plain old racism…but what the point is of leaving off the extra word that would make sense of the idea, I don’t know.

    Whatever it is, it’s idiotic. It’s like treating “maleness” as if it were identical with male supremacy or patriarchy or sexism; or “straightness” as if it were identical with homophobia; or “Swedishness” as if it were identical with oppression of, say, Italians.

  96. Rieux says

    RB@109:

    I’ve seen Black studies academics write about how the concept of whiteness—not the existence of melanin-poor skin, obviously, but the construction of a Thing called “white people”—is a pernicious and surprisingly recent societal invention. Think of it, perhaps, as the “white” necessary to create, conceptualize, and enforce white privilege. I’m betting that that’s what Scofield is (needlessly indirectly) getting at.

    A fair proportion of Scofield’s work traffics in those kinds of obscure and opaque academic terminology. See also the WTF-worthy sentence “Is [Christina] in relation to anthropologists and scholars who have reached similar conclusions?” (As in, does she have an anthropologist for a cousin? Honestly, who writes like that?) If it gets progressively worse, at some point we might have to sic Alan Sokal on him.

  97. says

    The dismissal of all humans living in all cultures for thousands of years as ignorant isn’t really just something that you do because you are not interested in old scrolls. It is something you do because of received knowledge about how to act. –Greg Laden

    In relative terms compared to today, though, it is mostly true that they were ignorant and certainly no place to turn to today for any kind of knowledge outside of historical knowledge. Yet, it is to these ancient stories that many people are told to turn for acquisition of wisdom and knowledge! I remember Dawkins saying as much, that the authors of the Abrahamic texts were ignorant in that way relative to today (which he forgot to clearly qualify), on the Big Think television show and getting lots of grief for it because they misinterpreted him as saying that the authors of the Biblical texts were idiots.

    Now, if one were speaking of the ignorance of the authors of Abrahamic religious texts in comparison with the general knowledge attained by humans at the time, then Hitchens would be an atheist who has often used the ignorance of the people writing the Biblical texts compared to the knowledge of the people running parts of China at the time as an argument for why the Abrahamic religions are silly from the get go because a real well-meaning god would be an idiot to commune with the people who authored the original Abrahamic stories instead of the much more organized and literate (especially going by how they represent themselves in the Biblical texts) societies in China if that god had wanted to make people aware of its presence.

    Still, what really bugs me about Be’s accusations is that even if some or many or most atheists aren’t the least bit interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the like, atheists (other than the truly racist ones, that is) are not out there trying to suppress or destroy cultural artifacts like religions have and continue to do to this day. Some of this anti-historical attitude even manifests itself in religions in a difficult to recognize form where we are not allowed to even begin to look at the buried past because of religious beliefs that the items that could be studied or the earth they are buried in are sacred. The pressing of ignorance onto the masses is a wholly religious tactic that they employ often and in big ways.

    Be’s piece on Gnu Atheists is largely using that religious tactic to foment ignorance about us and what we do and what we stand for. “Don’t go and read Greta Christina’s actual thoughts. Gnus are out to erase your existence! Take my word for it!” Gnu Atheists in reality want people to, you know, actually read the sacred texts and actually study the past and learn about reality. We love that kind of stuff even if the Dead Sea Scrolls aren’t of much concern to some. That isn’t to say that such knowledge doesn’t entail giving up certain aspects of culture–it does, but it does so in a good way that doesn’t ask that one obliviates the past out of existence.

  98. says

    This is the first time in a long time I’ve seen Rieux’s long comments and analyses. Perhaps I’ve been reading the wrong things, but regardless, hooray!

    Yes, I’m happy to see his commentary again.

  99. Rieux says

    No, Nathan, I’ve just been loaded down—first with a huge December trip to Asia and then with the revenge of my workload when I got back to the office. I really haven’t had much to say online in months.

    And the near future looks bad for my time online, too: Ms. Rieux is due with our first child in mid-July (shortly after SkepchickCon, urgh). Maybe the legendary Up All Night episodes I expect I’ve got coming, while I wait for Rieux Jr. to go back to sleep, will provide surfin’ time? I dunno; I’m clueless.

    Thanks for the kind words, though!

  100. tmaxPA says

    Be Scofield is engaging in the most direct and simple sophistry possible. If there were any amount of data which could support a contention such as “religion is bad”, then a million times that amount is already available. It is irrelevant, since if yet a billion times more were shown to him, Be Scofield could still blissfully dismiss it all as inconclusive by imagining the existence of an entirely hypothetical good thing that religion provides and then imagining a hypothetical reason it might counterbalance everything else.

    Acceptance of religious beliefs as a rational basis for making decisions poisons ones ability to honestly evaluate the truth of the claim “religion is poison”. Therefore, religion is poison. QED.

  101. SallyStrange (Bigger on the Inside), Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Hey Congratulations, Rieux. I was just reading your comments on Scofield’s article and thinking that you’d be far more appreciated over at FTB.

  102. Tony says

    Be Scofield:

    I’m concerned that this statement can be viewed as a sort of panacea and is made without any real relationships to the people or communities that could be affected by it.

    -I’m concerned that you don’t offer a rebuttal of any of Greta’s points. I’m also not certain you’ve read much of her writings. Or perhaps you’re not quite comprehending the words she utilizes.

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from

    -Misrepresenting the arguments of others must be a hobby of yours. Where are the posts by Gnu Atheists arguing the urgency of liberating people from belief in the afterlife?
    What I’ve read are many posts by Gnu Atheists that offer substantial evidence, reason, and logic in an attempt to persuade theists out of their beliefs.
    Also, because of your privilege, you fail to see why religious beliefs are harmful. A theist who is willing to argue honestly need only look through the archives of various bloggers here at FtB to find _many_ posts on the harm brought by religion. I’m not certain that you’re interested in honest discussion though. If your concern is eliminating whiteness (whatever that is), that’s wonderful.
    Why does that lead you to denigrate others who don’t share your concern?
    Why do you feel the efforts of Gnu Atheists would be better suited working on those issues _you_ deem important?
    Why do you come across so arrogant?
    Why do you denigrate others while simultaneously not addressing their arguments?
    Why do you misrepresent the arguments of others?
    The level of intellectual dishonesty you’ve displayed is appalling; all the more so given how intelligent and well read you _try_ to present yourself as.

  103. Aquaria says

    “Wouldn’t information need to be gathered from each of them before reaching scientific conclusions about whether or not the entire category of religion is harmful or poisonous?”

    Good grief, this is so fucking stupid as to beggar belief.

    No, we don’t need to gather the information. It’s not up to us to prove these crackpot delusions wrong, fuckface. It’s up to the crackpot delusions to provide evidence to us that they’re not full of shit.

    Welcome to fucking reality.

  104. Vicki says

    Be @91:

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into defending people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believer’s life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the religious community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that people, including believers. experience rather than attempts to convince them of the existence of God or heaven.

    See, it works at least as well with those substitutions. If you’re concerned with racial, class, and patriarchal oppression, there are many better ways to fight it than arguing with atheists. That’s not just about whether we’re correct about the nonexistence of gods. It’s that Gnu Atheism isn’t assaulting girls who dare to go to school. Gnu Atheism isn’t insisting it’s god’s will that only men can be leaders. Gnu Atheism isn’t claiming that classism and relatively fixed social roles are divinely ordained, and thus either either impossible or pointless to argue against.

  105. says

    Oh no… someone said “fuckface” and that means Scofield wins by default.

    …OK, it was Aquaria, again. AGAIN! From past experience, I expect we’ll soon hear that the entire history of religious violence from the genocides committed by the ancient Hebrews to the Holocaust, from the Crusades to 9/11, the human sacrifices of the Mayans and Incas, Catholic priests raping children, all of it disappears in a puff of smoke because Aquaria has a potty mouth.

  106. Aquaria says

    I chose to highlight a few of Christina’s statements because she has publicly advocated converting believers into atheists

    So fucking what if she advocated for conversion of the deluded to reality? Your delusion advocates for converting non-believers to your delusion. Your genocidal scumbag manual even instructs sheep like you to do it.

    You hold us to a standard that you don’t hold yourself.

    So you’re not only a lying sack of shit, you’re a hypocrite, too.

    What a fucking surprise.

    as well as written passionate and sweeping claims about why she believes religion is harmful and wrong (the subject of my article).

    Distortion. She wrote specifically about the harm religion does. Provide evidence that the claims are wrong, or fuck off back to your cave of stupid.

    Welcome to reality.

    When I hear someone advocating the conversion of believers into atheism without any sort of qualifications or context it concerns me.

    You christers don’t have qualifications or context or–hell–fucking reality for your delusion, but you blather on about it and drag people into the abyss with you, anyway. Your own book instructs you to do it!

    Again, you’re holding us to a standard to which you don’t hold yourself, you hypocritical liar.

    Because I do think of African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church.

    While knowing nothing of why they could find advocacy only through churches. Ahistorical nitwittery seems to be your speciality.

    I’m concerned that this statement can be viewed as a sort of panacea

    Says a guy who practices one huge orgy of panacea. What do you think religion is, dumbass?

    and is made without any real relationships to the people or communities that could be affected by it.

    So you think adhering to reality is a bad affect, I take it.

    I’m concerned that people will see this and believe that throwing off superstition is the most pressing issuewhen I think it is a non-issue when compared with whiteness or class oppression.

    It’s a good fucking start. But that doesn’t mean it will solve every fucking problem on earth. Unlike what religion claims to be able to do.

    Again, your hypocrisy is hanging out for all to see. Put it away.

    And we can multi-task, dumbass. It’s not binary, where you can only do one of them, but not the other.

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from.

    Because it makes them not appreciate the here and now.

    Because there is zero fucking evidence that it exists.

    Because teaching people to believe in things for which there is exactly fuck all evidence for is dishonest.

    Because it’s emotional extortion when it’s not outright manipulation: “If you believe our delusion, we promise you’ll get to see your loved ones again.” Promising desperate people something for which you have zero evidence that you can even provide for them is appalling. Nay, it’s obscene.

    Because convincing people that it’s okay to base their ideas on things for which no evidence exists enables lying frauds like you to convince them to believe other things for which there is no evidence–like that slavery is good, or that women need to be covered up to keep men from turning into animals, or that Jews have committed blood libel and thus deserve to be executed en masse. Do you think witches would have been burned if people didn’t believe bullshit claims about magic powers?

    That is why belief in an afterlife is abhorrent.

    Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry.

    All of them promote various forms of bigotry, because all of them promote Us v Them binary thinking. People are part of your tribe. Or they’re not. With you. Or against you.

    Not exactly advanced thinking, dear.

    But this is not because they believe in God or heaven

    You’re really stupid, aren’t you?

    Do we need to point you to the passages in various holy books that condone slavery, rape, racism, homophobia and on and on and on, and then to the people who have used what their genocidal sky fairy thought to justify their behavior?

    (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted)

    Funny how so many of the people who do believe in fairy tale kingdoms are the most bigoted people out there. Or are you as illiterate about history as you seem to be about everything else and think the Klan or Nazi party were atheist organizations?

    It’s because the religions reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression.

    They are one of the institutional forces of oppression, dumbass. Or are you going to tell us about the equal employment opportunities practiced and espoused by the Vatican?

    I’ll wait.

    Dr. King and Malcolm X believed in God but also fought staunchly against white supremacy

    Wow. Look at that straw man? I think it can touch the moon!

    Nobody said that believing in God precluded being a decent human being. That’s your persecution complex talking, moron.

    BTW, you do know that Malcolm X was an unabashed sexist pig, and based those attitudes on religion to justify it–right?

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    1) What the stupid fucking fuck? Just when I thought my respect for you couldn’t get any lower, you went spelunking for a new bottom. Congratulations! You’re the stupidest person alive right now.

    Ending whiteness was never Dr. King’s intention, you illiterate, lying fraud.

    2) People can multitask, asshole. If we do one thing, we can do another as well!

    Do fucking keep up.

    3) Just who the fuck are you to tell anyone what priorities they can have in life, or what they can or can’t care about? If they don’t want to make what you care about their top priority, that’s their prerogative!

    Fuck off with your sniveling, passive-aggressive control freakery.

    4) The only negative affect of liberating MLK from theism would have been how deluded christers would have stopped listening to him–snap! Like that. That reflects badly on you lot, not on us.

    Go away. You’ve annoyed us all long enough.

  107. Taz says

    Be Scofield:

    Because I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics.

    Well, good for you. That’s very white of you.

  108. Rieux says

    Aquaria, to Scofield:

    So fucking what if [Christina] advocated for conversion of the deluded to reality? Your delusion advocates for converting non-believers to your delusion. Your genocidal scumbag manual even instructs sheep like you to do it.

    Not that this undermines much within your comment, but I suspect Scofield doesn’t suffer from the particular delusion—that is, Christianity—that I take it you have in mind. He’s currently studying at Starr King, the Unitarian Universalist seminary in Berkeley, with an eye toward the UU ministry; Christians are not quite rare in such places, but they’re not the majority theological demographic, either. And then, of course, UU Christianity’s credentials for being Christianity—(1) its support for the actual beliefs you’re (understandably) referring to as “delusions” and (2) its devotion to a certain bestselling “genocidal scumbag manual”—are extremely weak by general U.S. Christian standards. Most Christians, I think it’s clear, would conclude that nearly all “UU Christians,” in light of what the latter do and don’t believe, are not actually Christian at all.

    Actually, I have this spider-sense-tingly hunch that Scofield’s next move in this exchange will be the “Oh, yeah? You think I’m ‘religiously privileged,’ eh? Well, guess what—I’m an ATHEIST, sucka! PWNZORD!!!!!” gambit. It would change absolutely nothing about the problems with his hit pieces (Uncle Tom-ism is an ugly creation of privilege, too), but I can totally imagine a smug UU seminarian pulling that out, and I haven’t seen Scofield write anything yet that would block him from doing so. He could very well be a dyed-in-the-wool “Gnus Suck” faitheist.

    Again, this changes almost nothing from your comment; in fact, maybe you’ve seen Scofield state a personal identification with Christianity in some work or passage that I’ve missed. (In which case never mind; lemme know, and I’ll shut up.) But barring both that and faitheism, my guess is that he’s a non-Christian run-of-the-mill ambiguously-religiously-identified-mishmash UU. Of which there are many thousands.

    …Come to think of it, any of the above identities would still leave Scofield susceptible to criticisms of “his delusion” and perhaps even “his genocidal scumbag manual”; those shots would just have different referents than they would if they were directed at an ordinary Christian.

  109. footfac says

    I’m confident we can all agree that religions and religious people never act as though they “know best how others should live.”

  110. says

    Haven’t read the thread yet but I’ll comment anyway.

    I just can’t stand the bodycount argument, whichever side starts it, normally ends up losing from the peanut gallery POV, and I bet there’s a Godwin in here by 126 posts, or the attempted rating of Nietzsche’s ultimate motives vs Thomism.

    And if the ‘proposer’ of the motion puked up the Godwinesque “Genocide” from the off then you enter the territory of looking like some kind of mean privileged imperialist interlectual savaging a poor defenceless kitteh.

    We all owe our existence to the black death, the existence of religion/philosophy/superstition & the Amritsar massacre anyway so time paradox arguments hit fallow ground in that sense too.

  111. Arty Morty says

    Bescofied, #91:

    “Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted). It’s because the religions reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression.”

    Religions don’t just “reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression”, they often grow to become large institutional forces of oppression all on their own. Religions haven’t merely “reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry”, they have codified it and reinforced it with dogma. Doesn’t that obviously make religion just as powerful a force of oppression as any other? Perhaps even the most powerful force? So why should other forces of oppression be open to criticism, but religion given a pass?

    And how, exactly, do you think we can eliminate sexism, racism and bigotry without addressing the role religion plays in exacerbating it? You advocate leaving religion alone because it can empower/”humanize” minorities/disadvantaged groups? That strategy won’t work. It CAN’T work, because it’s impossible: you’re assuming that it’s always possible to separate out the “secular” sources of racism/sexism/homophobia from the religious doctrines that have built up around them. Often, you can’t. Whatever the other “institutional forces” you believe are the origin of sexism/racism/homophobia, there is no question that the institutional force of religion often cements and sustains it. How do you tackle homophobia in the South without disputing Evangelicals’ interpretation of Leviticus? How do you combat sexism in the Arab world without coming up against the doctrine of Qur’anic infallibility? You don’t; that’s how. It’s no wonder, then, why the New Atheists have so much ire for religious thinking in any form: it’s the keystone that supports so much irrational bigotry; without it, racism, homophobia and sexism won’t crumble and disappear, but I bet they’ll be much, much easier to take apart.

    It’s bad enough that you seem to be advocating a backwards and self-defeating method to combat oppression; it’s a whole new kind of stupid to actually accuse New Atheists of being bigots themselves merely because they won’t play along with your silly idea. For many “passionate” atheists, fighting racism/sexism/homophobia is the primary impetus behind our activism. I suspect that protecting religion at all costs is the true impetus behind yours (especially in the way you keep downplaying religion as little more than a harmless little belief in god).

  112. Svlad Cjelli says

    “Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.”

    And this is the point where your benefit of doubt crawled under a rock and died.

    Because you are an actual liar.

    A lying liar who lies.

    Your argument fails the reality check. Rocks Fall.

  113. says

    Because I make conscious and intentional efforts to listen to people of color who are religious, atheists and agnostics. I’ve learned that historically religion has played a significant role for people of color in resisting white supremacy, slavery and segregation. Greta is dead-set on her position that religion is harmful and dangerous. She’s not very informed by the way that religion has played a role in the lives of people of color. Otherwise she couldn’t launch these broad and sweeping attacks on religion.

    Hmm. Maybe I am just imagining things, but I seem to remember *some* black atheists around, and one of their reasons for leaving religion was that, “running to god every time a person has a problem doesn’t actually address, prevent, change, or stop oppression, but in fact, usually just functions as an anesthesia for the people being oppressed.” In other words, all too often, it doesn’t help them fight back, or change things, but merely accept them. And.. why the hell would any rational person, apposed to oppression, want people “accepting” the situation they are in?

    There is a reason why broad sweeping attacks get directed at the delusional idea that, if you wait long enough, god, or something, will fix everything for you. It allows you to outnumber the people oppressing you, in many cases, or denies any impact you might have on events, and rather than being merely afraid of the consequences of acting, it encourages the idea that you don’t need to do anything at all anyway, because someone else will magically fix it some way down the road.

    I can remember, in college, watching as a few hundred people tried to burn down part of LA, while 100 times that number huddled in churches, praying for god, or the police, to stop the rioters, and had the thought, if even half of these idiots stopped asking god to fix things, and took a stand against the madness outside… But, no, the “church” was the answer. It didn’t provide one for the bigotry that caused the riots, for the property costs, the inhumanity of some of the rioters, to anger and madness of people burning down their own neighborhoods, or anything else I could see, including the feeling of inadequacy and powerlessness, which sent all those people into a church, instead of standing up and saying, “This isn’t a solution to the problem, you are only hurting us, and yourselves.” But, apparently, it was some sort of answer, for something, right? Gah….!

  114. says

    I’m late to this, but I just wanted to say how impressed I’ve been with how commenters here, and Ophelia and Greta and others, have responded to Scofield’s piece. Not only the excellent and necessary takedown, but also (particularly) the repeated acknowledgement that there may be SOMETHING of a micro-point buried in the midden-heap, and that there are problems of unexamined privilege in the freethought movement. Reading these comments I’ve felt very proud to be a member of this movement.

  115. Rrr says

    Brownian @6: I doubt either Ophelia or Greta is ashamed for the other. Which reminds me, I really ought to contribute to our fair hostess, too. In lieu of reading these 100+ comments I’m sure I already agree with. Mostly. Well, hey, time is money!

    What, no Donate button?!

  116. im says

    “Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness…

    I never knew “ending whiteness” was on anyone’s agenda. I certainly don’t remember hearing King demanding and end to whiteness. What the hell does that even mean?”

    Sometimes it is used to attack race as something socially constructed. (talk of things being socially constructed and thus subject to destruction annoys me, esp. since it is always aimed at groups I am part of.)

    Some times it refers to how all the different light-skinned Europeans in America have in recent decades merged into a single “white” demographic that thinks it is much more cohesive than it really is, that has forgotton how some parts of it oppressed other parts (such as Italian, Jewish, and Eastern European immigrants) and tends to be racist.

  117. Meg says

    I think the parts about Native Americans are especially ill-researched on his part… racism and religious intolerance were major factors in US treatment of Native Americans; hell, the Wounded Knee Massacre stemmed from (white, Christian) panic over the (nonviolent) ghost shirt movement!

    Obviously, a blanket statement about religion is going to be argued over, no matter who is saying it or what exactly they’re proclaiming about it. I think it’s safe to say that religious intolerance, on the other hand, is innately harmful – what you believe is personal to you. If other people don’t agree with your beliefs, that’s their choice – and it shouldn’t be a reason to hate them – it shouldn’t matter if they’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, spiritualist, etc.

    Stupidity and purposefully spreading hateful misinformation, on the other hand, is a reasonable cause to dislike someone.

  118. Yasu says

    So it seems racism and sexism will never die as long as there is power play. As long as inferiority and superiority complexes exist in the social ways of the human dominance hierarchy. At least it sadly seems so.

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