A small town guy »« How dare you rebel against the tyrant

Part deux

More on O’Neill. (Don’t ask ‘why.’ I’m interested in this kind of thing – the blithe indifference to facts, the perversity, the malice, the lack of responsibility, the should-know-better quality; the smugness, the preening, the bullying on behalf of the already powerful.)

on 31 March, atheists in the US military had their first-ever get-together on a military base, under the banner ‘Rock Beyond Belief’. ‘All of us want to come out of the closet and demand equality’, said one sergeant, no doubt pissing off gay military servicemen who, not unreasonably, probably think that such phrases are best used by them rather than by their godless colleagues.

Note that “no doubt.” Note the “probably.” He doesn’t in the least know that gay military women and men think that such phrases are best used by them rather than by their godless colleagues. (Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t know they can’t be both. He doesn’t know that all gay military women and men are theists. Gay people in general have good reasons to be wary of theism.) He doesn’t know that, and he gives no reason to think so. That could be because it’s so hard to think of one.

O’Neill’s point seems to be that atheists are not in fact closeted – which if you know anything at all about how atheists are viewed in the US is completely ludicrous. Of course there are closeted atheists! Lots of them, all over the country.

Let’s pretend for a second that you’re O’Neill, and you need this explained to you. It’s like this, O’Neill: atheism is hated in many parts of the US, and so are atheists. In many places atheists don’t know if there are any other atheists in their school or workplace or town, and they feel isolated and weird and afraid.

Think about that simple little statement of facts. What do you suppose the upshot is? It’s that many atheists don’t tell anyone they are atheists. Others tell a trusted few but no one else. That is what it is to be closeted.

So why would gay soldiers be pissed off because atheists talk about being closeted? Why would they think the word is for them and not for anyone else?

We can stop pretending that you’re O’Neill now. I don’t know how he would answer my questions. I don’t think there is any reasonable answer.

Then there’s this:

although there is certainly cultural hostility towards atheists in parts of America, elsewhere, particularly in academia, publishing and throughout the political and media worlds of Western Europe, they enjoy untouchable ‘darling’ status these days, being fawned over like never before.

One, untouchable ‘darling’ status? Are you kidding?

Did he miss the outburst of vituperation at Richard Dawkins in the wake of the Ipsos Mori poll, complete with the Telegraph’s shock-horror story about a distant ancestor of his owning slaves…two centuries ago? Has O’Neill missed the whole backlash? (That would be odd, given how much he’s contributed to it himself.)

Two, even if that were true, what difference would it make to people in Creeping Jesus, Alabama? One might as well say that because there are some rich people named Jones, all people named Jones are rich.

It is their creation of a movement based on negatives rather than positives which explains why the New Atheists are so screechy. Because bereft of anything substantial or ideological to cohere themselves around, they instead spend the whole time attacking their opposite number – those who do believe in what New Atheists do not: religious people, the thick, the unenlightened. Like electrons in an atom, the ‘negatives’ of the New Atheist clique are forever whizzing around the ‘positives’ of the God lobby. The hole at the heart of modern atheism was best summed up in what Time magazine last month described as ‘The Rise of the Nones’ – that is, the speedily growing group of Americans who now list their religious affiliation as ‘none’. That is fine, of course, but then to cultivate an entire identity, a whole life’s outlook, on the basis of that ‘none’? That is sad. Who wants to be a ‘none’? I’d rather be a nun. At least they still believe in something.

Yes, they believe in something – they believe in a male god who founded a church run exclusively by men; they believe in their own subordination; they believe women should die rather than have an emergency abortion; they believe the Catholic church deserves their loyalty and subordination despite its lurid history of cruelty and brutality. What a strange thing for O’Neill to boast of.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself says

    Having read O’Neill’s screed, it appears to me that he’s never spoken to an atheist. He’s arguing against the straw atheist which lives solely in his head.

  2. iknklast says

    I’m in academia. There is NO ‘darling’ status. In fact, I’ve been threatened with loss of my job 3 times – twice for being the faculty advisor of the Secular Student group, and once threatened with losing my job for actually doing my job (I teach environmental science – I venture into the actual science, rather than have long winded discussions about recycling, and I dared to mention that agriculture has some environmental impacts).

    Most people at work don’t know I’m an atheist, and very few people in the town. I live in a small town, and while not being actively closeted, I am also not able to actively express my non-belief because of the hostility in this town to anyone who believes in contraception, let alone who doesn’t believe in the god they think forbids contraception!

    For many of us, academia is merely an extension of the vitriol we get elsewhere, and if we are close enough to retirement, we keep our mouths shut. That’s a closet, and it’s dark in here.

  3. screechy monkey says

    “the New Atheists are so screechy”

    Only the great ones, O’Neill. Only the greats.

  4. says

    (Warning – Rhetorical question alert)

    Is O’Neill really so stupid as to think atheists have no positive values because the only box they are allowed to tick in a multiple choice census survey is “none”?

    Dear Mr O’Neill, atheists do not get to craft the census questions that assume that some religious affiliation is the human norm and then, as someone realises this is not true, add a catch all “none” box at the end.

    I suspect no-one would scream more loudly that Mr O’Neill is the next survey replaced the existing questions by:

    How do you approach reality and the universe:
    a) I use reason and logic (atheist)
    b) I use mostly reason but am willing to believe things exist beyond the available data (agnostic)
    c) I forsake all reason and choose magical thinking (religious)

    What form of magical thinking do you prefer?
    a)catholic
    b)protestant etc..

  5. says

    Having read O’Neill’s screed, it appears to me that he’s never spoken to an atheist.

    I think he actually is and atheist. However, he’s one preening idiots, like Julian Baggini or Andrew Brown, who’s so desperately convinced of his own savviness, that things like fact-checking are beneath him.

  6. says

    O’Neill, of course, has nothing but the most tender concern for GLBT people, as displayed by his previous columns.

    “Screechy” is quite the dogwhistle there. It’s typically flung at “uppity” women, and also at gender-nonconforming people in general who stand up for their own rights. Here, it’s inviting the reader to liken atheists to a misogynist stereotype of women, especially feminists.

  7. says

    Remember that scene in Life of Brian where Brian says, “We are all individuals”, and the crowd monotonously repeats, “We are all individuals” (and then one pipes up and says “I’m not!”)

    The folks at Spiked are the people in the crowd, monotonously intoning “We are all contrarians” over and over. As soon as I see the subject, and spiked in the link, I know what the opinion will be, how it will expressed (lots of snark, damn little in the way of sound argumentation), and it really doesn’t matter which one of them is writing it. They’re just another herd following a well worn path. O’Neill could be replaced with a chip.

  8. says

    So, what he’s saying is that he’d rather believe in the false, the harmful, and the depraved than believe in nothing at all? That’s not only sad, it’s pretty sick.

    Also, I’m more worried about the Church’s lurid present of cruelty and brutality.

  9. says

    Mark Fournier says:

    As soon as I see the subject, and spiked in the link, I know what the opinion will be

    To be fair, they have more than one theme. They have six:

    1. [Subject] reveals a contempt for the working classes.
    2. [Subject] is thinly disguised misanthropy.
    3. [Subject] is merely an exercise in liberal self-congratulation.
    4. [Subject] encourages a culture of victimhood.
    5. [Subject] shows we’re governed by alarmist scaremongers.
    6. [Subject] is an attempt to censor dissent.

    This article was an example of the fourth category.

  10. says

    Dammit. I was typing in a rush, and I really managed to screw up post 5. What I meant to say was:

    I think he actually is an atheist. However, he’s one of those preening idiots, like Julian Baggini or Andrew Brown, who’s so desperately convinced of his own savviness, that he thinks that things like fact-checking are beneath him.

  11. eric says

    to cultivate an entire identity, a whole life’s outlook, on the basis of that ‘none’? That is sad.

    I’m a lot of things. Non-believer is just one of them. Pick any other survey box and make your same argument about that other box, and you may begin to understand why your comment is stupid.

  12. says

    @Hyperdeath – that’s a good summing up of the Spiked method. On your point 6 “censor dissent” I’m often in sympathy with them, after various idiotic cases where people making stupid Facebook comments were chucked into chokey. But as you say, predictable. And always with the air that they are the only smart ones in a global village of idiots.

  13. says

    @Hyperdeath – that’s a good summing up of the Spiked method.

    Thanks

    On your point 6 “censor dissent” I’m often in sympathy with them, after various idiotic cases where people making stupid Facebook comments were chucked into chokey.

    That’s true. However, they often use the word “censorship” to sling mud at anyone who harshly criticises their opinions.

  14. Sili says

    Having read O’Neill’s screed, it appears to me that he’s never spoken to an atheist.

    I think he actually is and atheist.

    Those need not be mutually exclusive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>