Eric MacDonald has a very good piece on Julian’s humanist manifesto. He makes the same point I kept making (and really, it’s hard not to – it’s so obvious):
Julian Baggini has now published his Heathen’s Manifesto, which he begs atheists to read. I wish I could understand the motivation behind it. It seems to be based on the premise that atheists, and new atheists in particular — an unidentified assemblage of nonbelievers who are, it seems, strident, obtuse, impolite, and seek to banish religion from the world — need to grow up, be sensible and kind, and ally themselves with their allies amongst religious believers, something that, so far, they seem disinclined to do. I sometimes simply despair when I read Baggini, because he never really identifies any of these supposedly rude, self-centred, self-praising atheists, nor does he provide an example of the kind of thing that he seems to object to so much. In order to say that we need a change in attitude, he has to show who is exhibiting the attitude he so much deplores, and the entire series on Heathen’s progress over the last six months or so never identifies any particular person as the kind of unbeliever who needs to change his or her attitude. What Baggini seems to have done is to accept that the strident responses of religious believers to the so-called “new” atheism are unquestionably justified. However, in my own reading on both sides of this divide, I have to say that the most caustic voices, the shrillest and most strident condemnations have come from the religious side of this particular divide, and Baggini has yet to show that this is not so.
What Baggini seems to have done is to accept that the strident responses of religious believers to the so-called “new” atheism are unquestionably justified.
Exactly. His way of talking about the so-called “new” atheism simply assumed that everybody knows what it is and what is so terrible about it. That’s a very odd thing for a philosopher to do. Philosophers are generally very familiar with the idea that what “everybody knows” may well be wrong. Things that “everybody knows” can be drastic simplifications, or empty banalities, or uninformed prejudice, or based on misunderstanding, or confused, or incoherent, or propped up by nothing but long habit, or gut-level hatreds dressed up as knowledge.
The much-circulated hatred of outspoken atheists relies on a huge amount of dressing up mindless loathing as something more respectable, and once again it’s odd to see a philosopher playing along. It’s odd for a philosopher not to recognize the sheer banality of the hatred and thus avoid adding to it by producing more of the same.
There’s a lot of that kind of “everybody knows” floating around, after all. “Everybody knows” things about women, and immigrants, and poor people, and gays, and blacks, and Jews, and intellectuals, and liberals. The stuff that “everybody knows” about atheists is just more of the same old bigotry-masquerading-as-facts. It never fails to surprise me when even some atheists engage in it.