Richard Dawkins has a very amusing piece about the journalistic take on his discussion with the archishop the other day. One stupid cliché after another, most of them derogatory. Dawkins is a charismatic preacher haw haw; bust-up; ardent atheist – and so on. There was no bust-up, so the audience was in despair – in the imagination of one of the reporters. Dawkins “confessed” to being an agnostic shock-horror; never mind that he said that in the book that triggered all these stupid witticisms.
It’s hard to resist a feeling of “You can’t win”. On the one hand we ‘horsemen’ and ‘new atheists’ are attacked, often aggressively and stridently, for being aggressive and strident. On the other hand, when journalists or religious apologists actually meet us and we turn out to be courteous and civilised, they accuse us of climbing down, “admitting” or “confessing” that we have changed, when actually we are behaving exactly as we always have. They seem to feel let down when they discover that the real people aren’t anything like the way they so relentlessly portray us; as if, since they’ve gone to the trouble of inventing extravagant caricatures of us, we should at least have the decency to live up to them in real life.
Quite. And what is the outrage that prompts all this caricaturing? Atheism. Not child-rape; not human trafficking; not “honour” killing; not selling tainted drugs; not skimping on equipment maintenance such that the Gulf of Mexico turns into an oil dump. Atheism. Not believing in a magic fella in the sky.
Natalie has a post on the same subject (but suggested by a different instantiation of it).
We were chatting in our top secret and amazingly awesome backchannel, full of such incredible wit and delightful banter that you shall never ever know, about how some folks over at an intelligent design website called Uncommon Descent decided to do a bit of a breakdown of the whole Loftus thing, propping it up (in act of unconcealed schadenfreude) as indicative of some kind of big rift or infighting amongst atheists.
Which is a bit tedious and uninformed in that it hasn’t exactly been much of a conflict or controversy at all. No battle lines actually got drawn, nobody was attacking anybody (except in Loftus’ imagination), and there was no grand battle.
Quite. I made a related point the other day when I posted about snide comments on Twitter about this supposed Big Rift. People were drawing big conclusions on the basis of pretty much nothing.
Greta Christina made a really interesting point, though, that got my brain pieces to start doing brain stuff. She pointed out how whenever there’s a disagreement within our community, no matter how minor, people will exploit it to make up stories about “rifts” and “infighting” and “drama”, how we’re a bunch of angry little kids who endlessly squabble amongst ourselves. And then when we do agree with one another, suddenly we’re a “hive mind”, an “echo chamber”, “preaching to the choir”, a “circle jerk”, “silencing dissent”. We’re mocked and attacked for disagreeing with each other, and mocked and attacked for agreeing with one another. A catch-22, no-win, damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.
Sometimes in the space of one tweet.