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Oct 30 2012

Guest post: Why atheists don’t respect faitheists – and you shouldn’t either

A guest post by Bruce Gorton.

A faitheist is essentially an atheist who argues for “politeness”in atheist/ religious discourse, in which the polite path is essentially the atheists shut up.

In the civil rights movement these were the “Uncle Toms” and the exact same crew are present in the gay rights movement right now. Ever hear a woman proclaim how much of a feminist she isn’t? It is the same basic deal. If you watch politics, this is the reason why “bipartisan support” has such an ominous ring to it.

It is people who strive to appear reasonable by appealing to what you want to believe, rather than actual reason. We want to believe sexism is a thing of the past, so we are inclined to favour women authors who make that claim.

We want to believe racism is a thing of the past, so we are inclined to favour black intellectuals who talk about the need for the youth to pull themselves up by their boot straps. We want to believe that homophobia isn’t the serious problem it was in the past, so gay people who point out that isn’t the case get silenced.

So long as religious injustice exists, there will be a market for atheists prepared to claim the problem is those who speak up against it.

Now the thing of this is that the “New Atheist”community does have some problems, and being the same species from roughly the same culture atheists are not that much better than the religious and there are serious concerns within the atheist movement.

Concerns such as sexism, or racism, or incredibly inept economic views such as libertarianism exist right now. There is such a thing as an atheist right wing.

But that is never the focus of a faitheist, because if it was it would require acknowledging that sexism is wrong in and of itself, and that includes sexism in the holy teachings of various religions.

Racism, being wrong in and of itself, means we cannot in good conscience not oppose the teachings of the book of Mormon in which the following is said (2 Nephi 5:21-23);

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

Instead the faitheist position is one of constantly complaining about how atheists are being quite upfront in criticising religious ideas.

Take a child who has been abused, would you tell that child that feeling anger at his abuser makes him a murderer? The character Jesus would. To Jesus the rapist who begs forgiveness could get into heaven, but the victim?

Luke 6:37; “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”

Christianity includes the instruction to forgive not as a step in the process of healing from past wrongs, but a commandment. You do not get forgiven unless you forgive, Jesus does nothing more than add insult to injury.

In the battle between the wrongdoer and the wronged, the figure of Jesus is against those amongst the wronged who would actually do anything about it. The slave must obey his masters (Collassians 3:22), the slapped must turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and there is no authority except that established by God (Romans 13).

And by expressing this I am sure the likes of Chris Stedman see me as being “divisive” – yet I am not criticising the religious but the teachings of religion so long held to be good, that their apparent evil can go undetected.

Now I bring up Stedman for a simple reason – the man holds a degree of the basic unconscious racism that I find common in a lot of these arguments over religion.

“But how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”

Why do I say this is unconsciously racist? Gandhi and MLK Jnr were both fighting against social injustices they personally suffered – and they were fighting shoulder to shoulder with atheists to achieve it.

Religion, it appears, only motivates against oppression suffered by the specific religious group that is being oppressed.

History is full of religious figures that have used their religion to maintain oppression (such that Frederick Douglass remarked; “We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen, all for the glory of God and the good of souls. The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the relgious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand.”)

And what of figures like A Phillip Randolf or Jawaharlal Nehru? What of those who were not religious, yet still stood up?

I do not think religion was the motivating factor behind Martin Luther King Jnr, I think not wanting an America where the colour of his skin relegated him to third class status had a lot more to do with it. I do not think religion motivated Mahatma Gandhi, I think desiring an India free from colonial rule had a lot more to do with it.

Mr Stedman as an atheist, by definition believes religion to be factually incorrect. His question thus reveals that he also believes that in order for non-whites to stand up to injustice, they need to be fed factual inaccuracies.

But Stedman caters to that seeks order instead of justice, in which it is better to maintain the status quo than risk the “divisiveness”involved in thwarting it. He would talk of online snark, while ignoring the death threats received by the likes of Damon Fowler or Jessica Ahlquist, he would speak of being treated dismissively while ignoring the plight of Fasil Say.

Stedman supports the common myth, and there are many who are willing to do that along with him. Heck there are many atheists who believe they are doing the right thing by doing so – yet there is a reason they are treated as being irrelevant.

There are many who deal with ideas, and many more who deal with people. Those who deal with ideas will tackle the rightness or wrongness of the holy books, and you can argue with them. Those who deal with people will tackle the abuses of the holy groups, and you can rally with or against them.

Both those groups have their merits, because both seek to bring humanity forward in their own ways. There is however a third group  – those who seek to maintain a status quo with which they are comfortable, for whom tone matters more than argument, and for whom people matter not at all.

And those in this third group will be forgotten as irrelevant, because they contribute nothing but hand wringing over tone and how uncomfortable they find the argument.

260 comments

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  1. 1
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I think you’re wrong on one point, which is that Stedman and his ilk won’t ignore abuse towards Damon Fowler or Jessica Ahlquist. On the other hand, they will absolutely avoid assigning blame to Christianity for that abuse, and will stretch the truth and even outright lie in order to claim that this sort of abuse is the fault of some tiny fringe rather than the rank and file members of the majority religious groups in America.

    Stedman and his kind are… well, they seem to be narcissistic politicians who are exploiting a niche to accrue personal power to themselves. I could be wrong, but that’s my read on it. The majority ALWAYS makes room for someone to be the “minority who attacks their own kind, and by doing so makes the majority feel better about their discriminatory biases.” As I recall, one of the things Stedman has always been proud of and has bragged about, is that he is invited to all the big and important theistic events as the token atheist.

  2. 2
    Jay

    I say we kill Stedman.

    Unacceptable. Not deleted because of many responses. OB

  3. 3
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    Great post, Bruce Gordon.

    ***

    I say Jay stops talking for a while.

  4. 4
    Lavvie

    In response to 2: http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/250×250/29259016.jpg

    But seriously though, let’s not talk about killing Stedman.

  5. 5
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  6. 6
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Jay @2:
    I say you shut the hell up.
    No fantasizing about killing anyone.
    Ever.
    The hell is wrong with you?

  7. 7
    Hamilton Jacobi

    But how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?

    Bruce, I think you may be misinterpreting Stedman’s point here. He is not saying religion motivated them to fight against oppression; rather, he is saying it motivated them to do so nonviolently.

  8. 8
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    rather, he is saying it motivated them to do so nonviolently.

    Which isn’t anything of a point to make. Religion has motivated other people to accomplish things violently. At best it’s a complete wash. Just what is it Stedman thinks he’s illustrating? Does heknow?

  9. 9
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    I was expecting you to start talking about S.E. Cupp, Bruce.

    *shudders*

    Stedman is annoying, but he doesn’t make me want to gouge my brain out through my ears with a spoon like S.E. does. She is infuriating. I really don’t get her at all.

    Also… I say we don’t kill anyone… ever…

  10. 10
    Hamilton Jacobi

    Josh, yes, I’m not saying that I agree with Stedman’s overall message (far from it), just that it is not worthwhile criticizing him for saying MLK Jr. would have been unaware oppression is a bad thing were it not for his religion.

  11. 11
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    #2, I assume you are attempting to make the idiotic point that this post amounts to some type of persecution of Stedman (like, ZOMG witch hunt!11!!1!, or something like that)?

    god bless you.

    ***
    Anyways, more on topic…

    To me, the excessive emphasis on politeness is annoying. But that, in and of itself, would not make me vocally critical of fatheism/faitheists.

    I am critical of faitheism, not because it emphasizes politeness, but because it calls for others to be polite as well. In my opinion, politeness is effective at reaching some people but completely ineffective at reaching others. And if you are arguing AGAINST rude, in your face*, sometimes emotional, gnu atheism, then you are you are arguing FOR removing a valuable tool in the toolbox of social activism. We need those firebrands out there.

    The antagonistic atheists out there have done far more to raise consciousness of the abuses of religion, of the blatant stupidity and blatant depravity of it**, and of the bigotry against atheists that occurs daily around the world, than have the make-nice, milquetoast, faitheists. And I think that is FINE. Like I said, I think polite is effective in some cases, I wouldn’t want to take away the tool of politeness either.

    However, what really boils my fucking blood and completely and utterly lodges my valve firmly closed, is when some faitheists spend their time NOT by working to effectively reach those who may be reached by politeness but rather by chiding the rude atheists for being rude. If we all listened to you and shut up (for some people, the alternative to being passionate and antagonistic, is not speaking up at all), we would be worse for it.

    Go, and be polite all you fucking want, but don’t expect others to all enjoy/prefer your style of discourse, or to agree that always being polite, and emphasizing commonalities over the injustices, is the only appropriate way.

    *When I typed this sentence the first time, I typo-ed and wrote, “in your faith”, which is actually a decent description of unapologetic, firebrand atheism.

    **Talking mostly about the big three here. Of course, some religions, and particular religious beliefs that individuals have, are much less harmful than others. And those generally receive far less vituperative criticism.

  12. 12
    dshetty

    Minor nitpicks – Nehru was a vedic monotheist and Gandhi’s religion is a complicated topic.

    Stedman is behaving hypocritically of course – be nice and non divisive – except when it comes to those darned gnu atheists.

    One thing I find funny is that we can for e.g. look at a creationist and think that he’s a product of religion and a tradition that tells him the Bible is divinely inspired and has timeless truths and so on. i.e. we explicitly look at a construct “religion” and assign it some of the blame for why a creationist is as he is.
    Stedman would rather we not blame the religion (oh look there’s a Christian who accepts evolution , problem solved!) but he doesn’t follow through with the implications of that. Why cant the creationist accept what the liberal Christian? is he just dumb? They are after all reading the same-ish bible. Oh wait it must be the fault of the gnus.

  13. 13
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    And it all has the faint* whiff of blaming those who speak out against oppression and bigotry for the oppression and bigotry itself.

    *sometimes not so faint

  14. 14
    Rowan vet-tech

    It was the outspoken, in-your-face type of atheists that finally made me let go of the tattered remains of the personal mythos I had built up to continue believing in a soul and afterlife. They made me realise that truth was more important than false comfort.

  15. 15
    Kylie Sturgess

    WTF?

    How would you respond if I said that we should kill any member of this network? Wouldn’t that be a laugh off the cuff? Especially when I know that there are members of this network who do have legitimate fears in such a fashion – ever heard of Taslima Nasrin?

    Or, say, another member of a different network, just add to the threats they already get? Oh, hey – let’s suggest killing one of the key figures in atheism, one of the surviving horse-people or whatever-they’re-called-now – wouldn’t that be amusing until you actually sit down and realise what hideous thing you’ve said? Or until you get barred from turning up to an atheist convention as a potential threat?

    Personally, I wasn’t going to comment, just post a link to an interview with Stedman I’ve conducted before and to mention that I have a new one I’ll post in a few days time where we actually address the kinds of abuse he gets and how hypocritical people can be…

    …But to be frank, if this is the kind of unreferenced strawman opinions with additional misguided and quite frankly disgusting attitudes towards those who make measurable, quantifiable differences to the world in a positive sense… well, feel free to ignore the evidence about Stedman and continue NOT challenging those sick people who say that killing someone is some kind of option.

    I’d rather be a faithiest than be another one of those “hey, let’s suggest physically attacking fellow atheists – won’t that be FUNNY”.

  16. 16
    Ysanne

    Improbable Joe in #1,

    they will absolutely avoid assigning blame to Christianity for that abuse

    Seeing how non-religious communities have proved themselves capable of hurling abuse on people (well, especially women) with whose positions they disagree, it’s quite fair to say that Christianity is not the important factor here. It’s about people seeing their comfortable privilege threatened and being hateful assholes about it.

  17. 17
    Rowan vet-tech

    @Kylie-

    Did you somehow manage to NOT see all the people who called #2 out on saying that? Because that’s a fairly impressive feat of selective blindness on your part.

    I’m also impressed by the fact that you seem to think Jay in reply #2 is the same person as the OP.

  18. 18
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Kylie, whom are you addressing, Ophelia or a commenter?

  19. 19
    Kylie Sturgess

    I don’t see people making MORE of a damned fuss about it quite frankly. And I sincerely hope that it gets removed from the comments, as completely unacceptable.

  20. 20
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    @Kylie Sturgess

    WTF right back at you. What the hell are you scolding people here for? At the time of writing this, 14 people have commented since Jay’s vile remark, 6 of them FUCKING CALLED OUT hir comment.

  21. 21
    Kylie Sturgess

    The OP is unimpressive and unreferenced opinion. Interview with Stedman pending where we address such views on the Token Skeptic podcast. For the second time.

    I suggest people read his whole book (which I’ve done) before dismissing Stedman’s work altogether.

    The comment by Jay is completely unacceptable and I hope that one day the likes of Jessica Ahlquist, Rhys Morgan, Jack Scanlan or Jason Ball any other number of young people you might like to mention who are active in the skeptical or atheist or freethinking communities started thinking about doing interfaith outreach… because clearly being supportive and advocates for their work is so dependent on their being on *not* being Faitheists. Great.

  22. 22
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    1)Kylie, whom are you addressing?

    2)You may not be aware of this, but Jay at #2 is playing a very old game. The Slymepitters show up to say something outrageous under a false flag. If everyone doesn’t jump high enough they go GOTCHA. If the commenters don’t indulge, they go to the Pit and accuse us of not caring. My #5 is a weary refusal to play the game. If I thought for a moment that anyone would not recognize the baiting nature of that comment my response would have been different.

  23. 23
    Kylie Sturgess

    6 out of 14. Impressive. As you were.

  24. 24
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Kylie, whom are you addressing? You’re start to elide and conflate your complaints. Honestly. Are you angry at Ophelia for what she wrote, or are you angry at Jay, or are you angry at the commenters? And for what, specifically?

  25. 25
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Kylie, why was your first comment in this thread directed at Ophelia? What would lead you to believe she’d condone death threats? Why wouldn’t you assume she hadn’t seen it yet, and might be having a late dinner?

  26. 26
    Shripathi Kamath

    Great article! Stedman can go fuck himself.

  27. 27
    Rowan vet-tech

    Oh yeah. Jessica should go do interfaith outreach with the people who called her an evil little thing. And who threatened her with death.

    Do you also think I should also be polite and do outreach to my evangelical aunt who called me the spawn of satan and evil when I was 11 YEARS OLD because I wouldn’t play with her homeschooled son for a 4th day in a row?

  28. 28
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    @asshole,

    6 out of 14. Impressive. As you were.

    Much more impressive than your only contribution here being to scold us for not making “MORE of a damned fuss”.

  29. 29
    Stacy

    Kylie,

    What the fuck are you on about?

  30. 30
    Stacy

    6 out of 14. Impressive. As you were.

    Did you not notice that some people made more than one comment? By my count it’s 6 out of 9. Only three people commented without addressing Jay’s idiocy, presumably because they took for granted that anybody reading would recognize it for trolling and they wanted to address something else.

    Jay’s comment is prima facie trolling. Yours are incoherent.

    P.S. For the record: People’s objection to Stedman is not that he does interfaith work. It’s that he attacks gnus.

    Also for the record: Jay, go fuck yourself.

  31. 31
    Rowan vet-tech

    I had originally figured that that early in the thread the “fuck yourself, Jay” contingent was pretty well represented.

    Just so that she has less to whine about, I’ll add this in as well:

    Jay, you are a bad person, you are advocating bad things, and you should feel bad about it.

  32. 32
    xmaseveeve

    I just thought it was a joke by someone with a warped sense of humour. It was an agent provocateur? Then in jumps the arbiter of morality, full of overblown, Mary Whitehouse outrage? How stupidly childish. Don’t let them derail.

    OP was excellent. How can religion motivate you to be non-violent? Yes, I can see why it’s racist, and patronising.

  33. 33
    dshetty

    Kylie Sturgess
    I didnt say anything about #2 is because as Josh said obvious troll is obvious and I expect #2 to get deleted.
    but if it pleases you – jay go fuck yourself.
    also Josh’s comment applies to your comments as well – obvious troll is obvious.

    The OP is unimpressive and unreferenced opinion.
    Oh great – we can reject Stedman, his opinons and his book with this line.

  34. 34
    Neil Rickert

    I saw this post on the Friendly Atheist blog:

    PBS’ Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly on the Rise of the Nones, Part 3: Religious Implications.

    It includes a video from the PBS program, and Chris Stedman is interviewed in part of that video. I thought the video helped understand Stedman.

  35. 35
    Leo Tarvi

    @Kylie Sturgess

    Are you serious? You reply at length to a five word comment, a fairly obvious drive-by-troll one at that, as though it were the topic at hand, implicitly conflating this comment with the original post. You blame everyone commenting, not for not calling it out, but for not calling it out enough, and causally dismiss the entire original post with no explanation beyond what boils down to “You don’t know him like I do.” As you do all this, you have the audacity to complain that the OP was a strawman.

    But I will congratulate you on successfully changing the discussion.

    On topic, had I known this would be about Stedman, I wouldn’t have bothered reading it. While it’s true I haven’t read his entire book, I have read the excerpt and that was enough to convince me that his writing is not worth any more of my time.

  36. 36
    Hank_Says

    Fuck Stedman. His “poor little hipster martyr in ma po’ ol’ sneakers at a fancy atheist party where I really don’t understand these here can-a-pays” routine is more hackneyed than a pantomime heroine tied to a railroad track, and the vague (probably fabricated) caricatures of everyone that was featured in the excerpt at Slate/Salon (can’t recall which S it was!) and lengthy history of misrepresenting “new” atheists so as to scold them is as egregious as it is insulting. He’s an attention-seeking drama-fetishist who thinks his superior vantage point – high above the fucking fence – grants him super-vision which enables him to discern the faults and shortcomings of all who disagree with him. Frankly, I hope his career as an apologist for anachronism and damaging mythology dies in a fucking fire – at least until he’s willing to engage honestly. Then we can totes be pals.

    Finally, I honestly don’t know what you’re on about, Kylie. Would you have preferred every single comment here to be prefaced by a “fuck you, Jay”? The comment was clearly a drive-by troll. I’m also unsure what the fuck you’re so angry about here, in general. Be a champ, spell it out.

  37. 37
    Rutee Katreya

    Once again, the principles of non-violence are used as a cudgel against a minority* while the majority gets a pass. This is the shit that makes me hate pacificism, in general.

    *Not that atheists are a particularly disempowered minority, in toto, so the OP’s comparisons are way uncool, but it’s still an example of nonviolence being held far more for the little than the big folks.

  38. 38
    Theodore

    “A faitheist is essentially an atheist who argues for “politeness”in atheist/ religious discourse, in which the polite path is essentially the atheists shut up.”

    At what point does arguing for politeness equate to wanting one side, the atheist, to shut up? Being polite to someone does not mean one should shut up. If the religious, the kind, caring portion, decided not to be polite to atheist, I am certain many of you would be in an uproar if they did. Why not afford other HUMAN BEINGS some politeness?

    “So long as religious injustice exists, there will be a market for atheists prepared to claim the problem is those who speak up against it.”

    Yes, there probably will be. But at what point has any “faitheist” done this? Who has said you cannot speak out against religious injustices? So far as I know about “faitheist”, they work with the religious communities to accomplish a goal. Pretty sure none of them have said you can’t speak out against religious injustices.

    “Concerns such as sexism, or racism, or incredibly inept economic views such as libertarianism exist right now. There is such a thing as an atheist right wing.
    But that is never the focus of a faitheist, because if it was it would require acknowledging that sexism is wrong in and of itself, and that includes sexism in the holy teachings of various religions.
    Racism, being wrong in and of itself, means we cannot in good conscience not oppose the teachings of the book of Mormon”

    So because those things are not the focus of a “faitheist” it means they don’t acknowledge these issues? Has it occurred to you that maybe they do acknowledge these things? And them working with the religious does not mean they condone the sexism or the racism within those religious texts?

    “Instead the faitheist position is one of constantly complaining about how atheists are being quite upfront in criticising religious ideas.”

    So someone is not allowed to complain or voice their opinion in regards to what someone else does? How appalling that is exercising their rights like that. Furthermore you make it seem as if all atheist do this and is the behavior we should all follow. Maybe many of us feel no need to criticize religion, maybe we want to help the religious move away from religion using methods that don’t involve mocking them. Maybe we may even want to work with the religious to get the message out their that we are good people, despite what they have been told.

    “Now I bring up Stedman for a simple reason – the man holds a degree of the basic unconscious racism that I find common in a lot of these arguments over religion.
    “But how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”

    Merely pointing out that religion played a role in MLK Jr. and Gandhi activism does not suggest unconscious racism.

    “Mr Stedman as an atheist, by definition believes religion to be factually incorrect. His question thus reveals that he also believes that in order for non-whites to stand up to injustice, they need to be fed factual inaccuracies.”

    I’m sorry, how does his statement lead to the conclusion that non-whites need factual inaccuracies in order to stand up for one’s self? Again, he stated that religion played a role in their activism, not that non-whites need religion in order to do so. You seem to make a habit of drawing conclusions from statements you may not have entirely understood.

    In regards to the rest of your post, you’ve made the claim that Stedman has ignored death threats issued to atheist, I would have to ask, where is you proof of such claim, and secondly, how does this relate to why I should not trust “faitheist”? Let’s say it is true that Stedman is guilty of doing so, he does not make up all “faitheist”, nor does it mean all “faitheist” do the same, You’ve made a gross generalization about a group of people named “faitheist” in doing so. Your entire post seems to lead up to your dislike of Chris Stedman, as you’ve not mentioned any other “faitheist” in this entire post.

    You’ve also gone out of your way to misrepresent “faitheist” since I didn’t see you mention that they do interfaith work. Why is working with the religious such a terrible idea to you? More so, why do you care if Stedman wants to foster a relationship with the religious? Surely him voicing an opinion in regards to how atheist treat believers shouldn’t be an issue. And speaking of issues, rather than sit there punching away at the keyboard to tell atheist who they should and should not trust, aren’t there more pressing issues in the world to worry about, and not the opinion of someone you disagree with?

    And one last thing, you do not speak for all atheist, as your title suggest that I, an atheist, does not trust a “faitheist”, and if I do, why I should not. Secondly your actions are remarkably in line with the religious, in telling others who they should not trust.

  39. 39
    Freodin

    Personally, I think that tone is very important. Possibly equally, maybe sometimes even more important than the argument.

    But this part from post #11 explains exactly why the faitheist’s position is so annoying that even a tone-troll like me could lose his temper:

    However, what really boils my fucking blood and completely and utterly lodges my valve firmly closed, is when some faitheists spend their time NOT by working to effectively reach those who may be reached by politeness but rather by chiding the rude atheists for being rude. If we all listened to you and shut up (for some people, the alternative to being passionate and antagonistic, is not speaking up at all), we would be worse for it.

    Faitheists don’t think that tone is important to promote conversation / debate / arguments. For them, tone is the goal itself. Don’t be divisive, don’t be obnoxious. Just keep your eyes, your ears and especially your mouth shut!

  40. 40
    Ruth

    A faithiest is someone who thinks that believing in lies is good for (other) people.

  41. 41
    John Morales

    [meta]

    I see Kylie either has been sucked in (or pretends to have been) by the agent provocateur posting #2, which clearly seeks to discredit gnus.

    (Neither is an appealing thought)

  42. 42
    Hamilton Jacobi

    6 out of 14. Impressive. As you were.

    Back in the day, I never bothered to call out Mabus either, yet nobody berated me for it. Ah, the good old days.

  43. 43
    Bruce Gorton

    Jay

    I recognise you probably meant that as a joke – or at least I hope you did – but we don’t threaten to kill other people for disagreeing with us.

    Theodore

    “Merely pointing out that religion played a role in MLK Jr. and Gandhi activism does not suggest unconscious racism.”

    Pointing out that you are incapable of considering how religion wasn’t the motivating factor in their fight against injustice however, is.

    By asking how one can discount the role religion played in motivating these figures (not in their ability to organise, but their motivation to do so) Stedman assumes that without religion those figures would not have been motivated to oppose the evils they faced on an individual level – in other words assuming that the oppressed would simply remain oppressed without the help of religion.

    Stedman, as an atheist, by definition thinks religion is factually incorrect.

    And that is not an assumption that is made in other instances of oppression. The history of the union movement includes figures both religious and non-religious, yet there is no underlying assumption that the union movement was particularly motivated by religion. The gay rights movement also, has figures both religious and non with no assumption that their fight for justice is particularly religiously motivated.

    It is only really when the rights movement is non-white that this “spiritual” narrative comes to the fore, because the underlying assumption is that without God non-whites would just accept second-class status.

    And that, to be frank, is a racist assumption.

  44. 44
    sailor1031

    “I am critical of faitheism, not because it emphasizes politeness, but because it calls for others to be polite as well.” True. The faitheist wants all atheists to shut up.

    Well I’ll be polite to religionists when they start being polite to me and abandon their arrogance, insults and overwheening sense of entitlement.

  45. 45
    hyperdeath

    Stacy says:

    Kylie,

    What the fuck are you on about?

    I second that, except for the last word.

  46. 46
    hyperdeath

    Kylie Sturgess says:

    6 out of 14. Impressive. As you were.

    That’s right. Never admit a mistake. People will respect you more if you desperately try to defend your mistakes by jeering at those who correct you.

  47. 47
    Ariel

    Bruce OP and #47

    “Merely pointing out that religion played a role in MLK Jr. and Gandhi activism does not suggest unconscious racism.”

    Pointing out that you are incapable of considering how religion wasn’t the motivating factor in their fight against injustice however, is.

    Bruce, you don’t seem to me especially „capable” of doing it yourself. Why do you think that religion wasn’t a motivating factor for (say) Gandhi? After reading your OP, no clue. You just state „I do not think religion motivated Mahatma Gandhi”. You know, if someone came to such a conclusion after performing an in-depth analysis of Gandhi’s life and work, then it could mean something. But a mere statement doesn’t count as „capability to consider”, at least not in my books.

    By asking how one can discount the role religion played in motivating these figures (not in their ability to organise, but their motivation to do so) Stedman assumes that without religion those figures would not have been motivated to oppose the evils they faced on an individual level – in other words assuming that the oppressed would simply remain oppressed without the help of religion.

    Oh my. Oh my. Bruce, I’m very sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Saying that a factor X motivated someone to perform an action Y is not tantamount to saying that if it weren’t for X, the person in question wouldn’t perform Y. Claire kicked me, and this motivated me to push her. Does it follow that if she didn’t kick me, I wouldn’t have pushed her? The answer is plain: no. If she didn’t kick me, she would most certainly spill her porridge on my best friend’s head, and for that I would push her anyway! In general: I did this-and-this because of X. What would happen if X were absent? Who knows – I might still do the same for other reasons. Motivation can’t be translated that easily into counterfactuals.

    (I’m really sorry again but I this was one of the worst OP-s I read here on FTB. Your logic is poor and your argumentation almost nonexistent. I understand that it was written in anger, which explains it to some extent.)

    Cheers

  48. 48
    Chris Hchr

    What you call “faitheism” I call “don’t be a dick”.

    There’s a huge difference between wanting an atheist to shut up and be quiet and wanting them to present a sound and reasonable point without resorting to abuse and insults about people with faith.

    An atheist should be allowed to shout and swear and mock and insult? They shouldn’t be polite? They shouldn’t argue their point sensibly and back it up with a thought out reasoning? They shouldn’t politely debate? They should be allowed to call those with faith morons, or that religion causes all wars or other incorrect nonsense?

    Because godforbid anyone tell an atheist not to insult someone lest they be labelled an annoying and awful “faitheist”. What a truly ridiculous argument.

    I am in no way religious, in no way do I have any belief or faith. You know why I believe? Atheism. You know what tarnishes my atheism? People thinking we’re all the same. People thinking that I’m like all the rude and offensive atheists who can’t be polite. Those who can’t control themselves when discussing things. So you insult the “fatheist” people all you like. You’re just proving, once again, how utterly hateful atheists can be.

    “hate, ignore an forget those who say be polite! F**kk them! Be rude as you want to Christians! They deserve it!”

    Bravo. Congratulations.

  49. 49
    Nathaniel Frein

    @48

    I’m sorry, Chris, but I’d take your argument more seriously if it weren’t for the fact that you’re taking the exact same tone with us that you seem to object to when dealing with theists.

    Being “rude”, it seems, is pointing out logical fallacies inherent in religion. Or pointing out where religion has been used to support atrocities. Apparently, telling theists that their religion is wrong, and why it is wrong, is “rude”.

    So not only are you tone trolling, you’re striking the same tone you’re trolling over.

    Bravo. Congratulations.

  50. 50
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    It would be nice if faitheists didn’t pretend that the necessary alternative to their niceness is yelling at the grandma on her deathbed and tearing the rosary out of her hands.

  51. 51
    Bruce Gorton

    “Why do you think that religion wasn’t a motivating factor for (say) Gandhi?”

    Because Gandhi was part of a much larger movement for Indian independence, his allies included members of multiple faiths and none, and besides he opposed basing politics on religion.

    He was actually a religious secularist.

    “Oh my. Oh my. Bruce, I’m very sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Saying that a factor X motivated someone to perform an action Y is not tantamount to saying that if it weren’t for X, the person in question wouldn’t perform Y.”

    Yes it is, because it isn’t “doubtless” that Claire would have spilt her porridge, thus without that initial motive you would not have pushed Claire.

    There was plenty otherwise motivating MLK and Ghandi, quite aside from religion. MLK was a member of a race that was being actively targetted for hate crimes, and subjected to lesser treatment before the law. Ghandi was essentially fighting for national independence.

    Religion helped those figures organise, and even market themselves, but what motivated them was the injustices they personally faced, not their religion.

  52. 52
    Nathaniel Frein

    But Beatrice, if they admitted that then they’d have to admit that the moral to Stedman’s Salon story is “How dare those atheists be critical of religion when speaking amongst themselves!”

  53. 53
    khms

    If the religious, the kind, caring portion, decided not to be polite to atheist, I am certain many of you would be in an uproar if they did.

    They did, and we are.

    Oh, why bother? Nothing pierces the faitheist’s reality distortion field.

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    Good grief. I guess I shouldn’t have posted this last thing in the day.

  55. 55
    Bruce Gorton

    Chris Hchr

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/02/evil-in-one-of-its-purest-forms/

    Go click the links there.

    Greta Christina advocated for “evangelical” atheism, in which one seeks to change the minds of other people with regards to religion. This was called purest evil by an atheist.

    In a way our objection to fatheism is based on basic politeness.

    Politeness is supposed to facilitate communication, which is a good thing, but when the argument crosses over to “Don’t say that” or “Don’t mock people’s beliefs” then it is no longer useful, because it no longer serves its basic function.

  56. 56
    Ophelia Benson

    Kylie – to repeat the question Josh asked several times – were you talking to me? Or to someone else? Were you talking to Bruce Gorton, the author of the guest post? Or to Jay, who wrote that stupid comment, which I take to be not a threat but a sarcastic way of saying the post is excessively hostile (or something)?

  57. 57
    Bruce Gorton

    Ophelia Benson

    It is quite a fun thread though. I always feel like I am learning more when people disagree with me.

  58. 58
    Ophelia Benson

    And Kylie again, while you’re at it, could you explain what you’re so angry about? Is it the post itself, or the comment, or the non-removal of the comment? Is it really, as you strongly imply in 21 and 23, that other commenters didn’t reject the comment strongly enough?

    About the non-removal of the comment: I trust you did finally manage to figure out that I hadn’t seen it because I wasn’t online. I think you do realize that, like you, I don’t actually monitor my blog 24 hours a day. I’m puzzled that you apparently didn’t manage to figure that out until after you’d left a few ragey comments.

    Just in case you’re really in any doubt about it: no, I don’t encourage people to fantasize about killing anyone on my blog. Thank you for your confidence and collegiality. Hooray for the hivemind, eh.

  59. 59
    Ophelia Benson

    Bruce, yes – except for the troll comment and Kylie’s tantrum.

  60. 60
    Dairy

    The ‘fatheist’ position actually held by people who are regularly accused of fatheism is: “Don’t be a dick – make your criticisms without being a gigantic bigoted asshole in the ways the religious often are; Saying stuff is ‘Wrong’ is never a bad thing, all *accurate*, *fair*, *non-abusive* actualy **criticisms** are acceptable – but abusing people for being wrong or having different life experiences/not working out what you’ve been lucky enough to work out is wrong and should always be avoided in favor of accurate intelligent non-abusive criticisms.

    The so-called “fatheist” position that all you “Let’s be a Dick” atheists always attack is wrong and stupid and would indeed silence almost all atheists and devastate atheist activism. All your criticisms of that position are on-point.

    Luckily “Self-destructive self-limiting fatheism” is not held by the majority of people who say “Don’t Be a Dick”

    Can anyone quote a major proponent of being nice to theists or “Don’t be a Dick”-ism saying *anything* to the effect of “…and that means you can’t criticise Theists because it might upset them and that would be Dick-ish”

    I bet no-one can.

  61. 61
    Timon for Tea

    “In the civil rights movement these were the “Uncle Toms” ”

    Whatever the merits of the rest of the article, sympathetically invoking the idea of the ‘Uncle Tom’ throws a a bit of a pall. Uncle Tomming is plainly racist in its effect and nearly always in its intention. Black people who disagree politically with other black people (or their white friends and colleagues) are just that: people who disagree. If the argument against ‘fatheists’ draws at all on the ugly history of anathematising dissident black thinkers and attempting to silence them with demeaning racist epithets, I think it may need a re-think.

  62. 62
    Waffler, of the Waffler Institute

    There is however a third group – those who seek to maintain a status quo with which they are comfortable, for whom tone matters more than argument, and for whom people matter not at all.[emphasis added]

    This may be a inference too far, if we’re still talking about Stedman.

  63. 63
    Aratina Cage

    @Theodore:

    So because those things are not the focus of a “faitheist” it means they don’t acknowledge these issues? Has it occurred to you that maybe they do acknowledge these things? And them working with the religious does not mean they condone the sexism or the racism within those religious texts?

    A concrete difference between gnu atheists and faitheists is that faithiests do not let things like sexism or racism or homophobia get in their way of working with those who promulgate such bigotry. Gnu atheists do; we will not be silent on such things or “go along to get along” in most cases (I think family and friends and work are the only exceptions). Gnu atheists do not tolerate the intolerable while faitheists do.

  64. 64
    Timon for Tea

    “Religion helped those figures [such as MLK] organise, and even market themselves, but what motivated them was the injustices they personally faced, not their religion.”

    “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

    Martin Luther King

    Why not take Martin Luther King at his word Bruce? Surely he was a man who knew his own mind? Why insist that he must really have thought like you?

  65. 65
    Aratina Cage

    The ‘fatheist’ position actually held by people who are regularly accused of fatheism is: “Don’t be a dick.”

    Exactly. Don’t be a dick even when the person you are not being a dick to is spouting sexist, racist, or homophobic, etc. bullshit. See the good in them. Ignore the bigotry. Work with them. The hate they espouse will dissipate if you do.

  66. 66
    Aratina Cage

    Can anyone quote a major proponent of being nice to theists or “Don’t be a Dick”-ism saying *anything* to the effect of “…and that means you can’t criticise Theists because it might upset them and that would be Dick-ish”

    I bet no-one can.

    Have you so quickly forgotten Exhibit A?

  67. 67
    notsont

    “Can anyone quote a major proponent of being nice to theists or “Don’t be a Dick”-ism saying *anything* to the effect of “…and that means you can’t criticise Theists because it might upset them and that would be Dick-ish””

    “Don’t be a dick” doesn’t say anything at all, except tar a whole lot of people with a really really wide brush, and that has always been the issue with it, it means nothing.

    Why don’t you point out some examples of people in the “Atheist movement” being “Dicks” so we can know what the fuck your talking about?

  68. 68
    Timon for Tea

    “Don’t be a dick even when the person you are not being a dick to is spouting sexist, racist, or homophobic, etc. bullshit. See the good in them. Ignore the bigotry. Work with them. The hate they espouse will dissipate if you do.”

    Martin Luther King said something to the same effect (please ignore all you who think MLK was just an ‘asshat’ who held ludicrous beliefs in ‘sky fairies’):

    “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from “Loving Your Enemies”)”

  69. 69
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 60 – of course we can (as people have already shown). There is for instance Stedman’s frequently-repeated context-stripped quotemine of PZ’s rebuke of Islam when Molly Norris was forced to go into hiding.

  70. 70
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 64 – It’s interesting, though, that what MLK said there isn’t substantively religious. The language is; it’s rhetorically religious; but the content actually isn’t – unless you say that all ameliorative ideas are religious by definition, but that would be question-begging.

    What he meant by “God’s will” and “the mountain” and “the promised land” was actually secular.

    The language is beautiful and resonant, don’t get me wrong, but it works even for atheists. It stands for a better world, in this life.

  71. 71
    Bruce Gorton

    Timon for Tea

    Love one another is not synonymous with “Don’t be a dick”.

    “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
    Martin Luther King Jnr

  72. 72
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 68. Very nice, but is it true?

    I would say it’s a partial truth; it’s true sometimes; but just generally true always no matter what? No.

  73. 73
    Bruce Gorton

    And as to 64 – what Ophelia said.

  74. 74
    Aratina Cage

    There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

    And that worked out so well for him that he eventually dropped such silly pretenses and began fighting back.

  75. 75
    Timon for Tea

    “It’s interesting, though, that what MLK said there isn’t substantively religious.”

    But it makes clear that his motivation was religious. I agree he was searching for a secular outcome, but he is quite clear that he is motivated by serving ‘god’s will’. In fact in most of his speeches he uses specifically religious ideas as well as imagery (such as the idea of the ‘redemptive power’ of love) to justify the social outcomes he seeks. I know this shouldn’t be a surprise since he spent most of his life as a minister of the church, but some people still want to deny it.

    Of course atheists can agree with all the social changes MLK sought, but they cannot agree with them for the same reasons, can they?

  76. 76
    Aratina Cage

    Besides that, Christians don’t mean what you think they mean when they use the word love. Christianity has brutalized that word into something it is not. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and “Jesus died for you (out of love)” are two of the best examples of that.

  77. 77
    Timon for Tea

    “And that worked out so well for him that he eventually dropped such silly pretenses and began fighting back.”

    But he did’t. He preached and acted on the principle of non-violent protest (bearing witness) until the end and in the full knowledge that it was likely to cost him his life. His consistency and courage are striking.

  78. 78
    Ophelia Benson

    No, it doesn’t. It perhaps shows that he was confused about his motivation; it certainly doesn’t “make clear” that it was religious. Since he was searching for a secular outcome, his motivation was at least partly secular.

    Religious people do confuse this. They identify their morality with their religion and so they think their motivation is religious, but their morality is prior. Cf Euthyphro.

  79. 79
    Timon for Tea

    “Love one another is not synonymous with “Don’t be a dick”.”

    It is a larger idea, but it contains the other part in it. If you are being a dick to someone, you are not loving them well enough. Not in the Christian sense anyway.

  80. 80
    Aratina Cage

    the principle of non-violent protest

    If that is love, then the Westboro Baptists are flush with it.

  81. 81
    Timon for Tea

    “No, it doesn’t. It perhaps shows that he was confused about his motivation”

    That is incredibly patronising; I think MLK was as able to understand his motivations as well as you and I, Ophelia. He made it very clear that he was motivated by service to God and said so on many occasions. The fact that he was looking for social outcomes is no contradiction, charity is a principle of Christianity.

  82. 82
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh stop that. It’s not patronizing. If he thought trying to make a better world is a religious thing then he was just confused, that’s all. I didn’t say he was less able to understand his motivations than I am. Don’t play dirty.

    I didn’t say looking for social outcomes is a contradiction, I said it’s secular. What the hell could be more secular? It’s as literally secular as you can get.

    I do him the credit of thinking his motivation wasn’t really doing God’s will. I don’t think he would have wanted to do “God’s will” if he had thought slavery was “God’s will.” I think his real motivation was civil rights, and God was a religious validation of that.

  83. 83
    Paul W.

    Kylie,

    I don’t know what to make of your saying

    6 out of 14. Impressive. As you were.

    Was this a sincere admission that evidently such comments are very unwelcome around here, because 6 out of 14 posts (by 6 out of 9 commenters) is a lot? (And presumably most of the others and people who didn’t comment at all didn’t want to feed the troll.)

    Or was it sarcastic, saying that only 6 out of 14 responses disapproved of the death threat, joking or not?

    FWIW I think I can safely say that the regular non-troll commenters here unanimously or very-nearly-unanimously disapprove of such comments, even in jest.

    I for one didn’t comment because I didn’t want to feed the troll, and because I wasn’t sure whether it was an agent provocateur troll, or just an incredibly stupid over-the-top dark-humor joke by some outlier person, or what. (I’m sure there were plenty of other disapprovers who didn’t comment.) And I knew enough others here would make it clear the comment was unwelcome—and almost certainly Ophelia herself, once she noticed it—as sure enough they did.

    I think you misjudged us, and if you agree, I think you should make that a bit more explicit.

  84. 84
    Timon for Tea

    “He thought trying to make a better world is a religious thing then he was just confused, that’s all. ”

    It is not ‘all’, here is something else, something that Dr King himself considered the most important thing in his life. I think he was in a position to know (a better position than you or me). But at least agreeing that,contra Bruce, MLK was motivated by his religion (even if you hold that motivation to be misplaced).

    “I do him the credit of thinking his motivation wasn’t really doing God’s will.”

    I don’t think you do him any credit when you suggest he was not able fully to understand his own mind, and that, in fact, you are better able to understand him and his deepest motivations than he was.

    This isn’t ‘playing dirty’. If I were to start telling you that your motives were not those you stated they were, you would be quick to put me in my place, right? If I aid you were confused, that what you really believed was …

  85. 85
    Rutee Katreya

    Luckily “Self-destructive self-limiting fatheism” is not held by the majority of people who say “Don’t Be a Dick”

    Plausible. Why aren’t you telling people like Stedman, or others who’s names don’t immediately occur to me, to stfu then, as opposed to (or while also) telling us not to be a dick? Because in practice, it seems only one side is ever ‘wrong’, and it’s the people who are visibly annoyed at theists.

    And for fuck’s sake, don’t pretend for two seconds that faitheists are less bigoted than atheists*. HAlf the faitheist shit I actually see is facially classist in how it presents the necessity of religion to the masses, for gods’ sake. We’ve got people creditting non-white movements to religion (Even when they don’t deserve it; ffs, the organizers of the Million Man March, and King’s staunchest supporters, were predominantly atheist, King just was the best face so he got the credit for that act)

    Martin Luther King said something to the same effect (please ignore all you who think MLK was just an ‘asshat’ who held ludicrous beliefs in ‘sky fairies’):

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Not only did nobody say that, but you do realize it is true yes? Just because you can only think of heros in stark absolutes doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t recognize flaws that individuals who accomplished great things did. Ben Franklin never really thought to teach his sister shit and let her be uneducated. Abraham Lincoln was pretty fucking racist, just not racist enough to believe slavery should be fine. Newton had a bunch of crackpot theories about God. And pretty much anyone you can name was racist or sexist as hell. MLK was an important leader, but he was still ultimately wrong about God. Right about Civil Rights though, as far as I know**

    Martin Luther King said something to the same effect

    MLK also told white assholes to get off their asses and help. He didn’t call them assholes, but he wasn’t the only one speaking, and he was pretty unequivocal about holding people’s feet to the fire. He just didn’t use curse words, because that wasn’t his style. He was fucking rude, by the standards he was being held to. And he needed to be, because sitting in ‘wasn’t polite’.

    Not that atheists are in anywhere near the same position of needing power, but I’m not going to stand here and let white people pretend that zombie MLK Jr. was some sort of epitome of niceness and politeness. Not using curse words is not the same as being ‘polite’.

    To my knowledge, he didn’t approve of this kind of bluntness, mind, but I don’t fucking need to re-animate zombies so I can pretend they agree with me.

    *Notice my choice of words. Of course atheists are about as bigoted as theists; they’re from the same general population. I may want atheism to be better, but I’m not going to hold any illusions about where we are… or where faitheists are. Bigotry is not something that only ‘other people’ do.

    **MLK Jr. is actually remarkable in that, as far as I know, he actually was a reasonable bit less bigoted than his culture. I doubt he was perfect, but doing reasonably better than the rest of your culture on every axis I checked into is pretty damn good. But you know, he still let a lot of stupid racist, sexist, heterosexist, etc shit go.

  86. 86
    Bruce Gorton

    In fact in most of his speeches he uses specifically religious ideas as well as imagery (such as the idea of the ‘redemptive power’ of love) to justify the social outcomes he seeks.

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2011/05/nonbelievers-in-civil-rights-movement.html

    Of course he used religious arguments to justify the outcomes he sought, his major opposition was religious, and was using religious reasons to maintain segregation.

  87. 87
    Timon for Tea

    “Not only did nobody say that, but you do realize it is true [that Martin Luther King was an asshat who believed in Sky Fairies] yes?”

    No,I don’t think it is true, and I am surprised that anyone would want to claim it. As my old mother might have said: ‘you should be such an asshat!”

  88. 88
    Aratina Cage

    As my old mother might have said: ‘you should be such an asshat!”

    This is unreal. We are such asshats! We are. Who the hell do you think you are arguing with?

  89. 89
    Ophelia Benson

    Timon, you keep misreading what I’m saying. Is it on purpose?

    you suggest he was not able fully to understand his own mind, and that, in fact, you are better able to understand him and his deepest motivations than he was.

    No, that is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is external to his mind. I have no idea what his “deepest motivations” were. I’m saying he misunderstood or misrepresented the nature of what he was doing. The idea of equality and equal rights is not a religious idea; it’s secular. That’s what I’m saying. It’s got nothing to do with anyone’s deepest motivations – something I don’t presume to know about anyone, including me.

    “God” is not a fan of equality. Equality is a human idea, a this world idea.

    Please stop misdirecting.

  90. 90
    Timon for Tea

    “Of course he used religious arguments to justify the outcomes he sought”

    No ‘of course’ about it – many didn’t. Unless you have evidence to support the contention that MLK was consistently and determinedly dishonest about his motives, or too stupid to understand the ideas he espoused, I think (and Occam agrees) that we should just take him at his word: he said he was motivated by religion, he joined the church and worked in it al his life, he used religious ideas and language in most of his speeches and he had a doctorate in theology. Why twist yourself into knots denying the obvious? I am not suggesting you agree with him about Christianity, but you have to perform some spectacular wriggling to deny that Christianity was at the centre of this great man’s life and struggles.

  91. 91
    Bruce Gorton

    It is a larger idea, but it contains the other part in it. If you are being a dick to someone, you are not loving them well enough. Not in the Christian sense anyway.

    Sometimes loving someone means you have to be a dick to them, otherwise you are enabling destructive behaviours. “Love one another,” even in the Christian sense, includes the ability to criticise someone quite harshly in the hopes that they change for the better.

  92. 92
    Paul W.

    I think MLK was as able to understand his motivations as well as you and I, Ophelia. He made it very clear that he was motivated by service to God and said so on many occasions.

    Cognitive science says that MLK likely didn’t make accurate attributions of his own moral motivations, especially if he attributed them to religion. He certainly didn’t have reliable, direct introspective access to such things—nobody does, even though most people more or less think they do.

    If Christianity was as causative of morality as most Christians believe, it would show up very strikingly in many statistics, and it very strikingly doesn’t. The basic moral motivating effect of religion is well-known among the relevant scientists to be vastly overrated by almost everybody else.

    And political science says that successful politicians and activists systematically misrepresent such things, intentionally and/or unintentionally (by deceiving themselves) because it’s politically effective. Political “natural selection” ensures that the majority of pious politicians and activists who become very successful will be people who are honestly mistaken about their own “religious” motivations, or are willing to overrate them for political effect, and very often both.

    It has been well-known among politicians for literally thousands of years that if you want to make yourself and your policies popular with the masses, you should wrap them up in a “mantle of piety.” (Cicero, among others, said so very explicitly.)

    MLK was a fallible human, and he was an effective political activist working as a Christian in a mostly Christian context.

    Taking his claims of religious motivation at face value is very, very naive.

    There is very good reason to think he was kidding himself to some extent, and others to some further extent, such that his claims of specifically religious motivation were mostly exaggeration, if not entirely false. That is what usually happens with religion in politics, when you’re talking about things for which there’s an obvious secular motivation—religion typically takes far more credit than it actually deserves.

  93. 93
    Waffler, of the Waffler Institute

    Timon, where, in what you quoted, did MLK say what his motives were? I don’t think he says. And no “I just want to do God’s will” isn’t a statement of motivation. That would imply that, if he thought “God’s will” was “slaughter all the Midianites”, he’d have wanted to do that, too (if he could find any Midianites to slaughter). But you certainly don’t know that he would have wanted to do that.

  94. 94
    Timon for Tea

    “No, that is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is external to his mind. I have no idea what his “deepest motivations” were. I’m saying he misunderstood or misrepresented the nature of what he was doing. ”

    But his motivations was the point at issue. I was disagreeing Bruce about his motivations. Do we at least agree that he was (as he claimed) motivated by religion?

    As to the rest, I don’t think you have any grounds for claiming that he misunderstood the nature of what he was doing and I still think it is very patronising to say so unless you have some evidence. It is worse to claim that he was misrepresenting the nature of what he was doing because that implies dishonesty.

    You may think that equal rights can be argued for rationally from a purely materialist or naturalistic position, but others don’t, that argument is not decided, no matter how sure you feel about your position. It is pretty clear that MLK took a different view and, acted on it.

  95. 95
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, jeezis. Timon, pay attention. The issue is not what was in MLK’s innermost whatever. It’s what he was actually doing. He was doing secular work. Maybe he thought it was god’s work, but if he did, he was wrong.

    He was in Memphis to help with a strike, for christ’s sake. A this world activity! Maybe he had himself convinced that god loved the workers; whatever; but what he was doing was secular work.

  96. 96
    Ophelia Benson

    Blegh. SIWOTI. I give up.

  97. 97
    Timon for Tea

    “He certainly didn’t have reliable, direct introspective access to such things—nobody does, even though most people more or less think they do.”

    They do if what Christianity claims is true, and MLK thought it was. But if we have to be so radically sceptical, we need to be radically sceptical of our own motivations and beliefs, no?

  98. 98
    Timon for Tea

    “He was doing secular work. Maybe he thought it was god’s work, but if he did, he was wrong.”

    He did think it was god’s work and that is the point. That was his motive. That is why he did it and that was the point being denied (without any evidence) by Bruce. I know you think he was wrong about that, but that is beside the point, we can none of us know for sure.

  99. 99
    A. Noyd

    Chris Hchr (#48)

    You know what tarnishes my atheism? People thinking we’re all the same. People thinking that I’m like all the rude and offensive atheists who can’t be polite. Those who can’t control themselves when discussing things.

    So instead of blaming the theists who lump all atheists together and try to make you answer for offenses committed by others, you’re going to blame the outspoken atheists?

  100. 100
    Rutee Katreya

    No,I don’t think it is true, and I am surprised that anyone would want to claim it. As my old mother might have said: ‘you should be such an asshat!”

    Your mother must be as much a hero worshipper as you then. Those of us who believe in real people, rather than distorted cardboard cutouts that glorify them, can handle flaws easily.

    Wait, is your mother dead, or did you have he courtesy of actually getting her opinion at some point? And does she have an opinion on necromancy?

    Seriously now, that was the takeaway? Not “Maybe stop reanimating zombies?” Clearly, I should reanimate genghis khan, and the Khanbie can beat your zombies up so it stops being an issue.

    I’m saying he misunderstood or misrepresented the nature of what he was doing.

    It’s pretty dicy as a soundbite. Though that said, I wouldn’t be the tiniest bit surprised if he amped up the God for easier packaging. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how he reconciled what he said with the knowledge that the same tripartite God that the white ‘moderates’ and KKKers and the like all had religious motivations.

    As to the rest, I don’t think you have any grounds for claiming that he misunderstood the nature of what he was doing and I still think it is very patronising to say so unless you have some evidence.

    By definition, unless you believe in the exact same version of the tripartite God that King did, you had to think he was somehow misunderstanding something when he said anything about God’s Will. Maybe not what he was saying that instant, but something.

    I don’t know why you think that thinking King got something wrong is the height of wrong. Oh right, the hero worship.

  101. 101
    Timon for Tea

    “Sometimes loving someone means you have to be a dick to them, otherwise you are enabling destructive behaviours. “Love one another,” even in the Christian sense, includes the ability to criticise someone quite harshly in the hopes that they change for the better.”

    Don’t be silly, trying to help a loved one stop self-destructive behaviour is nobody’s definition of being a dick, nor is criticising them or arguing with them. But shouting abuse at your alcoholic friend, or taunting her, that would be being a dick. We all know this, right? We don’t have to play games?

  102. 102
    Rutee Katreya

    BLah, spliced together two different sentences. “I have no idea how he reconciled how what he was doing was the Tripartite God’s will, but what all the other asshole shit wasn’t, but it’s not really my problem”

  103. 103
    Waffler, of the Waffler Institute

    He did think it was god’s work and that is the point. That was his motive.

    You are claiming this without providing evidence. FYI.

  104. 104
    Ophelia Benson

    I lied about giving up.

    I don’t think you have any grounds for claiming that he misunderstood the nature of what he was doing and I still think it is very patronising to say so unless you have some evidence. It is worse to claim that he was misrepresenting the nature of what he was doing because that implies dishonesty.

    I do have grounds for saying he misunderstood the nature of what he was doing (if he really thought it was god’s will). Religion is otherworldly. Secular is this world. Religion is about doing what god wants; the secular is about doing what people need.

    It’s just silly to claim that a political movement that is obviously about human wants and needs is actually “religious.” It’s like saying a traffic law is religious because the legislator who drew it up goes to church.

  105. 105
    Bruce Gorton

    “No ‘of course’ about it – many didn’t.”

    And as a result the civil rights movement was being painted as being irreligious by the KKK.

    And it has nothing to do with dishonesty – the way I see it Martin Luther King’s theology was inspired to a large extent by his opposition to racism (in other words his beliefs regarding civil rights motivated his theology, not vice versa) and thus given that he wanted to get the churches on the side of civil rights and he was in fact a preacher by trade, he used religious imagery and passages in his arguments.

  106. 106
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    1. Timon, the very least courtesy you could extend is to learn how to

    blockquote the things you’re quoting to make it easy for the reader to follow

    2. I don’t know why I bothered with #1. You have never been a good faith interlocutor here. What you don’t actively misrepresent you misunderstand in consistently incompetent ways. Ophelia, and BW commenters, are always going to be wrong for you. You know it, we know it. It’s not possible in your headspace—as demonstrated by your track record—for such people to say a thing that doesn’t need correcting from you. It’s elemental.

    So why do you bother here?

  107. 107
    Timon for Tea

    “I do have grounds for saying he misunderstood the nature of what he was doing (if he really thought it was god’s will). Religion is otherworldly. Secular is this world. Religion is about doing what god wants; the secular is about doing what people need.”

    You can’t just define away the problem. Christians do not accept the gulf between the two realms that you imply. They believe that god requires us to take certain actions in this world (I know you know this). When they act according to their religion in this world they are being religious even if the specific act in secular (such as feeding the hungry) which is (supposedly) what god wants. That is what King was trying to do, on his own account anyway.

  108. 108
    Timon for Tea

    Thanks for the contribution Josh.

  109. 109
    Nathaniel Frein

    I love how Timon quotes C.S. Lewis almost verbatim about love but conveniently forgets that in that same passage C.S. Lewis was talking about how that said love didn’t conflict with going and killing the hell out of some Germans. Or executing them for war crimes afterwards.

  110. 110
    Timon for Tea

    “the way I see it Martin Luther King’s theology was inspired to a large extent by his opposition to racism”

    But why do you see it this way? Was he active in anti-racism politics before he joined the church or something? Or do you just want this to be true?

  111. 111
    Timon for Tea

    “I love how Timon quotes C.S. Lewis almost verbatim about love ”

    You have the wrong Timon, I don’t read CS Lewis, let alone quote him.

  112. 112
    Nathaniel Frein

    That’s funny, Timon. Your nonsense about “love” is almost identical to C.S. Lewis’ talk on the commandment to “love thy neighbor” in Mere Christianity.

  113. 113
    Rutee Katreya

    But why do you see it this way? Was he active in anti-racism politics before he joined the church or something? Or do you just want this to be true?

    Do you know anything about King’s religious lineage at all? Even if King didn’t write the theology to be based on civil rights, considering what he sprang from, it ultimately couldn’t be any other way.

    You can’t just define away the problem. Christians do not accept the gulf between the two realms that you imply. They believe that god requires us to take certain actions in this world

    Unless the Burning Bush is directly telling you what to do, it’s informed by humans anyway, so I don’t know why you think this says anything.

  114. 114
    Timon for Tea

    I’ll take your word for it Nathaniel (although I think in the bit you mean I was quoting Martin Luther King). I was not quite truthful when I said I didn’t read Lewis, I read the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to my kids once, and I will carry the resentment to my grave.

  115. 115
    Rutee Katreya

    Actually, that’s true anyway, so I don’t know why I wrote an exception in for thinking the Burning Bush is talking to you. It’s just what you think God would tell you to do, based on what humans would.

  116. 116
    Ophelia Benson

    You can’t just define away the problem. Christians do not accept the gulf between the two realms that you imply. They believe that god requires us to take certain actions in this world (I know you know this). When they act according to their religion in this world they are being religious even if the specific act in secular (such as feeding the hungry) which is (supposedly) what god wants. That is what King was trying to do, on his own account anyway.

    Of course they believe that, but they’re wrong. (Again, Euthyphro. You are “of Athens” after all.) They don’t know what actions “god” wants them to take in this world. They don’t have a clue. They just apply the label “god” to whatever they think morality is, and then pretend that’s what “god” wants.

    They oppose same sex marriage because they pretend to know that’s what god wants. Or they feed the hungry, or they keep their children out of school, or they give money to the Red Cross, or they teach Intelligent Design. Sure: they assure themselves that god wants whatever they think is right. But they’re wrong.

  117. 117
    Timon for Tea

    “They don’t know what actions “god” wants them to take in this world. They don’t have a clue. They just apply the label “god” to whatever they think morality is, and then pretend that’s what “god” wants.”

    Of course you think this, but they disagree with you and there is no settling the matter. The point though, is whether it makes any sense to claim that MLK (for example) was religiously motivated and I think it obviously does. We would have no difficulty agreeing that he was religiously motivated if he had performed wicked acts,would we? Even if they were secular in content, such as denying education to women (I think we agree that education policy is secular).

  118. 118
    Aratina Cage

    Of course you think this, but they disagree with you and there is no settling the matter.

    Timon says to numerous ex-theists. Bleh.

  119. 119
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Timon, it is actively rude to deliberately refuse to format your comments in the standard way. Why are you doing that? It’s not an unreasonable request. Politeness requires a minimum of action, don’t you think?

  120. 120
    Rutee Katreya

    The point though, is whether it makes any sense to claim that MLK (for example) was religiously motivated and I think it obviously does.

    And he would never have been as motivated by his religion if it was a sect run by racist white people, rather than by black people who explicitly taught a version of God that wanted people to be free, because they wanted to be free.

    Even if they were secular in content, such as denying education to women (I think we agree that education policy is secular).

    HAHAHA, wow, that’s pretty convenient. So the sexist shit is secular, and is never once informed by the religous or by the secular, but civil rights is totes the religions.

    YEah, denying education was mostly secular. So was the civil rights.

  121. 121
    Aratina Cage

    Politeness requires a minimum of action, don’t you think?

    Of course not, Josh. It’s OK to be impolite to atheists if you are a faitheist. :P

  122. 122
    Dairy

    Dairy: “The ‘fatheist’ position actually held by people who are regularly accused of fatheism is: “Don’t be a dick – make your criticisms without…”

    Aratina Cage, quoting me: “The ‘fatheist’ position actually held by people who are regularly accused of fatheism is: “Don’t be a dick.

    Aratina continuing: “Exactly. Don’t be a dick even when the person you are not being a dick to is spouting sexist, racist, or homophobic, etc. bullshit. See the good in them. Ignore the bigotry. Work with them. The hate they espouse will dissipate if you do.”

    That’s an astoundingly dishonest reading of my post – you literally had to edit my comment to make it useful to you.
    I continued and illustrated what many of the so-called “fatheists” are actually saying – that loud and un-tempered criticism is necessary, but abuse isn’t

    This may be wrong, but it’s astoundingly dishonest to re-write that comment as “See the good in them. Ignore the bigotry. Work with them” – all that I said said is that abuse is not necessary, loud unflinching criticism is better than fighting fire with fire. ‘Don’t Be a Dick’ not ‘Do Be An Enabler’.

    If you can quote me saying “Put up with anything, be an Enabler” without editing my words to make it look like something I’m not saying, feel free to snark about that, but otherwise, you’re badly off-base.

  123. 123
    Timon for Tea

    Thanks for that Josh,much appreciated!

  124. 124
    Bruce Gorton

    Timon for Tea

    MLK was part of the exact same religion as the KKK, and the White Southern Baptists, and the moderate churches that excused racism. It is all off the same book, but each of them interpreted it the way they believed it ought to be.

    It wasn’t really religion motivating those who opposed MLK, it was the whole bundle of tricks that make up racism. They found excuses in the Bible, but that wasn’t what really motivated them, and the same thing happens the other way.

    All religion really did for those racists, was it gave them a way around having to think about why they really wanted to do what they were doing.

  125. 125
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Thanks for reminding me, Aratina. Double standards are HARD!

  126. 126
    Timon for Tea

    “HAHAHA, wow, that’s pretty convenient. So the sexist shit is secular, and is never once informed by the religous or by the secular, but civil rights is totes the religions.”

    No, you have understood the reverse of what I was saying.

  127. 127
    Rutee Katreya

    MLK was part of the exact same religion as the KKK,

    Not really, no. His version didn’t hold the subjugation of black people as a tenet.

    This is the only part I’m highlighting because it’s the only part that’s wrong, ftr.

  128. 128
    Rutee Katreya

    No, you have understood the reverse of what I was saying.

    Then you’ve communicated the opposite of what you’ve intended. Because you’re arguing that the civil rights are religious, but the education policies, they are the secular.

    Feel free to stop sucking at writing anytime.

  129. 129
    Bruce Gorton

    Rutee Katreya

    It was still Christianity – just a different interpretation.

  130. 130
    Paul W.
    He certainly didn’t have reliable, direct introspective access to such things—nobody does, even though most people more or less think they do.

    They do if what Christianity claims is true, and MLK thought it was. But if we have to be so radically sceptical, we need to be radically sceptical of our own motivations and beliefs, no?

    It’s nothing like radical skepticism to notice that empirical facts fly in the face of the conventional wisdom, and that most people make systematic errors of attribution.

    We have decades and decades of research in psychology that clearly demonstrate that

    (1) People are frequently quite mistaken about their own motivations, and unconsciously “confabulate” stories about them.

    (2) People who think they have accurate, direct introspective access to their own motivations are simply wrong—they unconsciously make up stories about themselves in much the same way they explain the behavior of others “from the outside.”

    (3) People systematically overestimate the effects of their distinctive beliefs and attitudes on their behavior

    (4) People suck at “counterfactual” reasoning about their own behavior—e.g., what they would have done if circumstances had been different, or if their supposedly “important” beliefs had been different. Differences in circumstances are often a much better predictor of human behavior than “personality” traits or differences in belief—especially beliefs about oneself and one’s personality traits.

    (5) People are especially prone to mistakenly attributing their good traits or positive changes in themselves to whatever salient thing they think is supposed to cause those things. (E.g., people systematically overestimate the positive effects of psychotherapy on depression, because they typically go to shrinks when they’re especially depressed, and they usually get better with or without therapy, but if they went to therapy, they tend to give therapy the credit. Controlled studies show that such attributions are greatly exaggerated.)

    Christians and Christian moral attributions are clearly no exception to these things.

    It’s nothing like radical skepticism to be skeptical of Christians claims of the motivating effects and benefits of Christianity.

    It’s just scientific skepticism—the actual facts clearly contradict the conventional wisdom and “common sense” and personal testimonials.

    We know scientifically that people are usually more or less wrong about such things, and that the surer they are of their reliable introspective access to such things, the more certainly they are wrong about at least that.

    People who are not aware of these scientific facts consistently tell more than they can actually know about themselves and why they behave the way they do.

    “Telling more than we can know” is a classic catchphrase in experimental psychology, because people so consistently do that in so many ways. Off the top of my head, I could reel off a couple of dozen classic experiments demonstrating such systematically biased “attribution errors,” which have been replicated and validated with many variations, in many countries, many times. (Partly because it’s so crucially important to scientific methodology in psychology—you’ve got to know that everybody “lies” about these things to construct a proper experiment and reveal what’s really going on “under the hood.”)

  131. 131
    Timon for Tea

    “MLK was part of the exact same religion as the KKK, and the White Southern Baptists, and the moderate churches that excused racism. ”

    Only in the sense that you are part of the same atheist movement as Stalin. That sort of debating tactic is silly. I am not defending MLK’s theology, I just think we need to admit that he was religiously motivated – no church, possibly no MLK (in the sense we think of him). Of course some people dishonestly claim religious motivations as they pursue other goals, but I think we should have some evidence before we claim that a man like MLK was that sort of mountebank.

  132. 132
    Aratina Cage

    Double standards are HARD!

    Truly.

    I just had the thought that we non-faitheist atheists are, by Timon’s standards, being loving by telling theists that they are wrong. That should be our new slogan: “Atheists <3 U”.

  133. 133
    Timon for Tea

    “We have decades and decades of research in psychology that clearly demonstrate that”

    I am afraid that research in psychology,while fascinating and suggestive, does not really demonstrate anything clearly. But I guess that you think that you do have a more privileged insight into your own motivations than, say, I have, right?

  134. 134
    Aratina Cage

    Timon, we love you. That is why we are telling you that you are wrong and misguided.

  135. 135
    Rutee Katreya

    It was still Christianity – just a different interpretation.

    Ergo, it was not the exact same. The dude gave atheists a thumbs up. It is, in a very real sense, the least you could do to not pretend his tripartite god was the same as the KKK’s tripartite god in any sense other than ‘ultimately fake’.

    I just think we need to admit that he was religiously motivated – no church, possibly no MLK

    And no civil rights desires, no church. What’s your point? Its not like black people needed MLK Jr, specifically, any more than Science needed Darwin, specifically, to talk about evolution, at any rate.

  136. 136
    Ophelia Benson

    Of course you think this, but they disagree with you and there is no settling the matter.

    Oh don’t be silly; of course there is. There is no way people could know what god wants. God doesn’t talk to us. It’s not just an opinion that humans can’t know what god wants. The reasons for saying humans don’t know are vastly better than the reasons for saying they do. It’s not just a toss-up.

  137. 137
    Paul W.

    I am afraid that research in psychology,while fascinating and suggestive, does not really demonstrate anything clearly.

    I’m pretty certain you don’t know the relevant psychology, and how the experiments were done, or you couldn’t say that with a straight face.

    Psychology is a very difficult subject in general—the human mind is a very complicated thing—but these are basic, consistently demonstrable behavioral facts. You can construct various controversial high-level theories to explain those experimental facts in detail, but there are some things in psychology that are simply demonstrable facts.

    Foremost among them are that people do not have the kind of reliable, direct introspective access to the workings of their own minds that they typically think they do.

    If you know basic psychology, and insist that that’s not true, or is unproven, it’s like knowing basic geography and astronomy, and insisting that nobody’s proven the world isn’t flat.

    It’s either very ignorant, or very stupid. Take your pick.

  138. 138
    jflcroft

    Why do you host such complete garbage? This is one of the most ridiculous posts I have ever seen in the atheist blogosphere. It’s full of completely absurd logical errors and jumps of reasoning which defy my capability to make any sense of it.

    Is this what reasoned criticism looks like now on this blog? I used to be dismissive of the term “atheist fundamentalists”. I now have a clearer idea of what that term might mean.

  139. 139
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    O_o. Someone criticized Stedman. ALERT!

  140. 140
    Sansgawd

    eww, faitheist, just the word makes me puke in my mouth a little…

  141. 141
    Rutee Katreya

    O_o. Someone criticized Stedman. ALERT!

    ???
    Is that asshat his best friend or something?

  142. 142
    Bruce Gorton

    “Only in the sense that you are part of the same atheist movement as Stalin.”

    Well, we are. We aren’t motivated by atheism to do good things, we are motivated by the need to do good things, and the same goes for the bad things. That is why we tend to argue that Stalin wasn’t inspired by atheism to be a monster, but rather they were a result of his political beliefs.

    “Of course some people dishonestly claim religious motivations as they pursue other goals, but I think we should have some evidence before we claim that a man like MLK was that sort of mountebank.”

    You are assuming that the process I was describing is conscious. Confirmation bias is a well known psychological effect we all fall victim to – MLK would honestly believe he was motivated by the Bible, but in real terms, it is the same Bible as the one used by the KKK, who honestly believed they doing God’s will.

    He was reading into it, what he wanted to see in it, the same as the KKK were. It is not dishonest, it is human.

  143. 143
    Bruce Gorton

    “Ergo, it was not the exact same. The dude gave atheists a thumbs up. It is, in a very real sense, the least you could do to not pretend his tripartite god was the same as the KKK’s tripartite god in any sense other than ‘ultimately fake’.”

    Sorry, I was more thinking of the holy book than the particular God.

  144. 144
    Nathaniel Frein

    @Rutee

    Yes. J L Croft happily circle-jerks Stedman while Stedman spins a massive straw-atheist story about a po’ little Minnesota boy with at an elitist dinner party with finger foods he can’t name.

    Then comes here and calls this writing crap.

  145. 145
    Anthony K

    Why do you host such complete garbage? This is one of the most ridiculous posts I have ever seen in the atheist blogosphere. It’s full of completely absurd logical errors and jumps of reasoning which defy my capability to make any sense of it.

    Is this what reasoned criticism looks like now on this blog? I used to be dismissive of the term “atheist fundamentalists”. I now have a clearer idea of what that term might mean.

    Geez, how’s your foot, James? You should be more careful. One of these days a shot like that is going to do hit a metatarsus and do some permanent damage.

  146. 146
    Rutee Katreya

    Sorry, I was more thinking of the holy book than the particular God.

    I have no idea about their holy books, but considering the number of translations, I wouldn’t be surprised if those were different either. Regardless, the religion isn’t just the scripture.* It’s the whole package.

    Then comes here and calls this writing crap.

    Oh, so a fanboy, not an actual associate? That’s boring, never mind.

  147. 147
    Anthony K

    Oh, so a fanboy, not an actual associate? That’s boring, never mind.

    No, AFAIK they are actual friends and have worked together.

    Either way, I don’t actually see how that’s a particularly good reason for dismissing his comments, though.

  148. 148
    Bruce Gorton

    Rutee Katreya

    I… think you are right. I should have said “roughly the same scriptures” rather than the “exactly the same religion.”

    Sorry hey.

  149. 149
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    finger foods he can’t name.

    But one of them might have been cheese, remember. Course it’s hard to know when you’re worried about holes in your socks and being fashionably under-dressed while running your fingers through your short hair-a nervous habit.

  150. 150
    notsont

    “but I think we should have some evidence before we claim that a man like MLK was that sort of mountebank.”

    MLK was a man like any other, yes he did some great things, he also cheated on his wife on a regular basis and lied about it. He also plagiarized large portions of his doctoral dissertation. He was a politician better than some men, worse than others, but certainly not above lying to achieve his end especially when they were so important.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with not “being a dick” though since most of Kings opponents certainly though of him as one.

  151. 151
    Rutee Katreya

    Either way, I don’t actually see how that’s a particularly good reason for dismissing his comments, though.

    Hm? I didn’t say that. I said a fanboy is boring, is all. I mean, he doesn’t really make an argument, there’s not a lot to engage with. It’s just a question of which might be interesting.

    But one of them might have been cheese, remember. Course it’s hard to know when you’re worried about holes in your socks and being fashionably under-dressed while running your fingers through your short hair-a nervous habit.

    If my antisocial hermit brother* can put on a nice shirt, dress shoes, and matching socks (that aren’t ruined) for his graduation, Stedman has no damn excuse for showing up slovenly to an actual event. His poor ol’ me posturing is lost on people who actually are awkward at all.

    *Not that I’m not also an antisocial hermit, but I’m an antisocial hermit who doesn’t hoard all of her old ruined clothes so I just look terrible.

  152. 152
    Ophelia Benson

    Brownian – for dismissing, no. For noticing how quick he is to rush to the scene of the mishap – I think yes. James does have an annoying habit of going all “my Stedman right or wrong” whenever some noo atheist meany says something harsh about him.

  153. 153
    Anthony K

    I’ve been nervous at parties. And I’ve gone to parties where I didn’t feel I fit in.* And sometimes I’ve had holes in my socks. And sometimes I don’t know the name of the foods served, but people are usually more than happy to share such information, especially if they’ve made them themselves.

    And I work with atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, people of different ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Our job is to improve the health of people, specifically with regard to cancer.

    Does this make me part of an interfaith team? Or do we have to pat ourselves on the back for being so tolerant every five minutes for it to count? What if we just do our jobs? Can I still write a book about it? I can totes cut my hair short if that’s a requirement.

    *Being an intolerant gnu, I didn’t use the opportunity to paint an entire group of people with a brush. But that’s me. Rude, intolerant, fundamentalist me.

  154. 154
    Anthony K

    Hm? I didn’t say that. I said a fanboy is boring, is all. I mean, he doesn’t really make an argument, there’s not a lot to engage with. It’s just a question of which might be interesting.

    James does have an annoying habit of going all “my Stedman right or wrong” whenever some noo atheist meany says something harsh about him.

    Oh, I know. I’ve argued with him (and other members of the HCH) before. He surely does do that. And I’ve lost my temper and said terribly mean things to him, which I’ve later regretted. I might have been writing for myself more than anything.

    I shan’t tone-troll any longer.

  155. 155
    Paul W.

    Here’s an odd demonstration of a typical introspective attribution error, more for anybody who’s interested than because I think anything will make a dent on Timon.

    Position an “averagely attractive” woman at the end of a hundred-foot stretch of sidewalk going from one place to another, and ask guys who’ve gone past the woman how attractive she is, and what makes her that attractive or unattractive.

    Then position the same woman at the end of a hundred-foot narrow footbridge over a chasm, and ask guys who’ve passed her the same questions.

    It turns the woman is considered significantly more attractive, on average, by guys who just crossed a bridge than by guys who just walked the same distance someplace nondescript. And none of them ever guesses that the bridge has anything to do with it, or even suspects the context of mattering in any way. (Unless they’re hip to that kind of psychology experiment, of course.)

    You can come up with a lot of different detailed theories as to why that’s true—and I can tell you the basic explanation favored by most psychologists—but it is undeniably, demonstrably true that guys typically find a woman at the end of the narrow footbridge more attractive than they would find her most other places.

    And it’s equally demonstrably, undeniably true that when asked what makes her attractive, they predictably don’t guess that the bridge is an important factor or even suspect that the physical context is significant at all. They always make up other reasons that rationalize the effects of the bridge as something else, and they never suspect that they’ve done that.

    There are more important and relevant predictable attribution errors, especially about self-assessment and the effects of beliefs and character traits, but there’s a zillion like this too.

    It’s a general feature of human psychology that we tend to think we have much more reliable introspective access to our own minds than we actually do.

    We’re often mistakenly sure we observed things we didn’t actually observe, that we remember things we don’t actually remember, that our assessments and choices are based on somewhat different things than they actually are, and that we would behave differently in different circumstances than we actually would.

    Human thinking is riddled with this kind of mistake, in many, many ways, due to one simple thing—we just don’t have reliable introspective access to much that’s going on in our heads, or very detailed memories of much that happened in the world or in our heads. We unconsciously use fragmentary memories, and very limited introspection, to guess what really happened in the world and in our own heads. And we often guess wrong, but think we’re accurately remembering things.

  156. 156
    Paul W.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with not “being a dick” though since most of Kings opponents certainly though of him as one.

    And he certainly criticized accommodationist allies who wouldn’t be as much of a “dick” as he was, and kept telling him to tone down his righteous anger and “counterpoductive” confrontationalism, because they feared overwhelming backlash.

  157. 157
    Mark The Shark

    “Concerns such as sexism, or racism, or incredibly inept economic views such as libertarianism exist right now. There is such a thing as an atheist right wing.”

    You sound very uneducated, like a Christian and a angry democrat. I concede, that I may be wrong on the order.

  158. 158
    Anthony K

    You sound very uneducated

    About libertarianism?

    Maybe.

    That’s because the ‘rational self-interest’ assumption of libertarianism is incorrect.

  159. 159
    Anthony K

    But good job on the vacuous “you sound like a Christian and a angry democrat” part.

    So, what kind of shark are you? Basking?

    It’s clear you don’t have the chops to hunt down any prey more clever than krill.

  160. 160
    Aratina Cage

    You sound very uneducated, like a Christian and a angry democrat.

    Here we go again! (Courtesy of superbly educated Mark the Shark.)

  161. 161
    Anthony K

    Courtesy of superbly educated Mark the Shark

    Five bucks says when asked, not only will Mark ‘The Shark’ be unable to point to the substantive part of his comment, but will be confused as to why he’s even being asked.

  162. 162
    Aratina Cage

    Five bucks says …

    But will you donate your winnings to the ‘Democrat’ Party?

  163. 163
    Anthony K

    But will you donate your winnings to the ‘Democrat’ Party?

    I’m going to use it to start a lobby group petitioning the government to include libertarianism as part of the core curriculum.

    It’s obvious that left to their own devices, substantial numbers of people (i.e. angry democrats) just won’t bother to learn about it any other way.

  164. 164
    Anthony K

    Or, perhaps I’ll start my own organisation to simply educate people myself. It’s true that I haven’t studied the dogma in depth and could end up spreading potentially dangerous inaccuracies about it, but that’s what the market is for.

  165. 165
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Not to nitpick or anything, but someone who writes a angry really shouldn’t call anyone else uneducated.

  166. 166
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Oh, ups, I missed that the “find the error in this sentence” task was given to shark boy.

  167. 167
    Mark The Shark

    @Brownian

    FYI Shortfin Mako Shark

    I am a dose of your own medicine kind of guy. When a person, in this case the author, makes blanket statements with our merit or purpose, I simply responded in kind. I conclude that is logic required to address them on a level they can understand. As for the five buck, please give it to the author of this stellar piece of journalistic excellence so they can purchase themselves a clue.
    Have a wonderful day!

  168. 168
    Anthony K

    I am a dose of your own medicine kind of guy.

    Yeah, you and every fucking fifteen-year-old on the internet. This is the best you got? Why don’t you just write “FAKE LOL!” and be done with it.

    FYI Shortfin Mako Shark

    Wrong. Those are interesting. You are not.

  169. 169
    Anthony K

    And don’t tell me what kind of a day to have, you fucking fascist!

  170. 170
    reappaden

    “We want to believe that homophobia isn’t the serious problem it was in the past”
    Sure it’s a serious problem but it isn’t happening as often. People are waking up.When you continue to insist a problem is rampant and as common as ever when it isn’t people will see that and start to dismiss you all together. What kind of idiot suggests zero progress has been made in lessening homophobia ?

    When I am in agreement with Brownian it raises a red flag ….and an air raid siren
    I apologize if someone has already made this point–
    Ophelia I think I can speak on behalf of at least a whole hell of a lot of people when I ask “When are you going to deflate your head and come down for a landing?” Some of the incredible things I have seen you post lately make me wonder if you have been eating too much cat food or something.

  171. 171
    Anthony K

    When I am in agreement with Brownian it raises a red flag ….and an air raid siren

    I understand such a sentiment is what you folks like to describe as ‘tribalism’.

  172. 172
    Anthony K

    I think I can speak on behalf of at least a whole hell of a lot of people

    And speaking of swelled fucking heads…

    James, did you give Reap your foot-shooting gun?

  173. 173
    Waffler, of the Waffler Institute

    What kind of idiot suggests zero progress has been made in lessening homophobia ?

    Because the important thing is that we’re able to pat ourselves on the back and move on to the stuff we actually care about, right?

  174. 174
    Anthony K

    Because the important thing is that we’re able to pat ourselves on the back and move on to the stuff we actually care about, right?

    Sorry, I’m still laughing over “make me wonder if you have been eating too much cat food or something.” What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?

    Too much cat food? Causes what? A swelled head? What the fuck is this supposed to be?

    S’matter, Reap? Physiology too feminist for you or something? How did you get to be so fucking uneducated?

    And don’t you DARE fucking come back and claim that this is some sort of literary cleverness on your part after failing to understand the context of the paragraph in which the statement “We want to believe that homophobia isn’t the serious problem it was in the past, so gay people who point out that isn’t the case get silenced” occurs.

  175. 175
    Paul W.

    Timon:

    I am not defending MLK’s theology, I just think we need to admit that he was religiously motivated – no church, possibly no MLK (in the sense we think of him). Of course some people dishonestly claim religious motivations as they pursue other goals, but I think we should have some evidence before we claim that a man like MLK was that sort of mountebank.

    I was certainly not claiming that MLK was a mountebank pursuing nefarious goals wrapped in a mantle of piety. I think he was generally pursuing good secular goals wrapped in a mantle of piety.

    And I wasn’t saying that he was a “mountebank” if he honestly mis-estimated the “religiosity” of his own motivations and/or consciously overstated it, and overstated his “religious” case for what’s basically a secular cause, for political effect.

    I guess that you think that you do have a more privileged insight into your own motivations than, say, I have, right?

    Not in the sense of having more reliable, direct introspective access to them, no. You can’t have that.

    I do suspect that I’m more appropriately skeptical of my own motivations than most people, and somewhat more often aware that I’m likely to be unconsciously making shit up when I seem to remember various things, including why I do things.

    And I’m especially skeptical of any introspective sense of the causes of my most basic moral motivations—e.g., why I value fairness. I’m pretty sure I do value fairness, though maybe not as consistently as I like to think, but I can’t introspect and find out why I really value fairness. I can just introspect that I consciously seem to, and cross-check that with my actual behavior to see if I’m just kidding myself about that. I’m pretty sure I’m not just kidding myself, even if I kid myself to some extent.

    And I know I’m vulnerable to certain things that most people are vulnerable to, but mistakenly think they’re not, or not so much. So I try to be careful about those things, and I don’t pretend I’m great at that, either.

    And I think I’m entirely justified in suspecting that other people—including you and MLK—aren’t a whole lot better at gauging their own motivations by introspection. And pretty much everybody is quite bad at knowing the basic causes of their most basic moral motivations by introspection or from memory—especially when well-known common causes of serious attribution errors are obviously in play. It’s not the kind of thing people can just know and correctly remember, as many people think they can.

    We know scientifically that religious people tend on average to greatly overestimate how much religion or their specific religion causes their morality—in much the same way we know that people tend to think their kids are “above average” in various ways, whether they really are or not, and that many of those people must be wrong, and clearly most people guess too high.

    It’s a demonstrable fact that irreligious people and non-Christians aren’t demonstrably very morally deficient, on average, in ways that the religion-makes-you-moral hypothesis would clearly imply.

    That means that we have good reason to suspect people of being mistaken about the degree to which their religion motivates them toward things that irreligious people are motivated toward too.

    If you and your ilk are clearly second-class citizens, you’re almost certain not to like that whether you’re a Christian, irreligious, or something else. It doesn’t take religion to make you see that it sucks. It’s too obvious.

    But if you first learn about that in religious terms, e.g., that it shouldn’t be that way because God says it sucks, you’re likely to give God the credit for the obvious idea that being a second-class citizen is a bad thing, when in fact it’s something you’d have inevitably figured out pretty quickly, with or without religion, because it really does suck in pretty obvious ways.

    And if your fight for equal rights is largely organized through churches, just because that’s the dominant social institution in your community, you’re likely to think of that as a religious movement, as opposed to a secular movement.

    Religion is evidently quite good at taking credit for ideas and motivations that have nothing necessarily to do with religion, and which happen naturally with or without religion.

    And religious individuals are evidently quite bad at guessing why they’re moral.

    And yes, that does mean that it is perfectly fair for me to seriously doubt religious people who claim that their religion is what motivates them toward justice.

    It’s not outrageous or rude.

    I don’t think they can know that stuff by direct introspection, and if they do think that, then it’s obvious that they’re not appropriately skeptical about where their own motivations really come from, and are most likely to be among the majority that predictably overestimates such things.

    The science clearly says so, without appealing to any controversial theories. It’s quite evidently what commonly happens, whether you have the right theoretical account of it or not.

    And notice I’m not making the claim that my (ir)religious (dis)beliefs cause my basic moral motivations. I have some ideas about where my basic moral motivations really come from, but I don’t claim to know that by direct, reliable introspection, and I don’t think anyone can do that.

    I’m not claiming I’m different in either of those ways, as you seem to suggest. I’m saying nobody should make those kinds of claims, including me, because they’re typically at least somewhat wrong, and there’s good reason to think they’re always very unreliable.

    If you want to convince me I should generally trust Christians who say their basic moral motivations mostly come from Christianity, you’re going to have to convince me that I should believe people who are clearly usually wrong.

    Good luck with that.

    If you have any good argument that MLK in particular was freakishly good at such motivational self-assessment, and knew the pitfalls of mistaken introspection and successfully avoided them, feel free to give it.

    Good luck with that, too.

  176. 176
    Timon for Tea

    ” there are some things in psychology that are simply demonstrable facts.”

    Amazingly few, actually, probably fewer than you imagine.

    The reason is that experimental data in psychology has tended to be obtained by means that would not pass in any real science. Take your bridge experiment above, for example. What was the sample size? I am guessing half a dozen? Fewer? And how many times has it been replicated with the same findings? If it is typical it has never been replicated or, if it has, the effect disappeared, right? That’s because the success in replicating results in psychological experiment come close to zero. when the experiments are properly double blinded ( very rare in psychological experiment, partly because of the inherent difficulties) the amazing findings disappear like smoke on an autumn evening.

  177. 177
    Timon for Tea

    By the way, when I ask about replication, I mean real replication, not the creation of similar experiments that find similar results (something that happens all the time in psychology , but not, starngely enough, in chemical engineering or particle physics) precisely the same variables all through.

  178. 178
    Paul W.

    OK, Timon, you’re the one being hyperskeptical.

    I understand having methodological and theoretical concerns about a lot of psychology results, especially recent ones. It’s one reason I’m not a psychologist—it’s hard to do right.

    But there were a number of basic experiments that were done in the 1960′s or thereabouts, and have been both (1) replicated as precisely as practical (to ensure that the phenomenon is real) and (2) redone with big and small variations, to see how robust the phenomenon is.

    There were also plenty of experiments done in the 1960′s that were never replicated, or couldn’t be replicated, or where seemingly general results turned out to be peculiar to some weird aspect of the setup.

    I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about well-known basic papers that have been replicated, and whose general implications are corroborated by other specific results—various ways of showing that humans don’t have the kind of veridical introspection that they typically think they do.

    There may not be a lot of things in psychology that are clearly demonstrable—we can argue about how many—but that is one of them.

    You can just keep nay-saying, and claiming somehow none of that stuff is real, or shows anything surprising or interesting, but at this point, fuck it. You could just as well argue that the word is flat. And apparently you would, to defend MLK’s dubious claim.

  179. 179
    Paul W.

    BTW, Timon, how did you get to be in a position to pooh-pooh all of psychology so confidently?

    What is your relevant background or experience?

    How familiar are you with the particular work in question?

    Do you know why Daniel Kahneman was recently given a Nobel prize?

  180. 180
    Ophelia Benson

    Cat food! That’s a new one.

    I think it’s because the new me-haters-joke is that I’m a crazy cat lady. You know – woman, ugly, 9 million years old, witch, therefore has 40 thousand cats and is crazy.

    Therefore I eat cat food.

  181. 181
    Anthony K

    I think it’s because the new me-haters-joke is that I’m a crazy cat lady. You know – woman, ugly, 9 million years old, witch, therefore has 40 thousand cats and is crazy.

    Ah. I suspected it had something to do with you owning cats, but I didn’t see the whole connection, probably because I’m not an audience member at a goddamm Jeff Dunham special.

    Jesus Reap, I hope you didn’t strain yourself too hard to come up with that one. I’d hate to see you prolapse over a joke that tired and weak.

    Why don’t you stick to the differences between the way white people and black people drive and then segue into the deal with airplane food?

  182. 182
    Aratina Cage

    Therefore I eat cat food.

    What a strange insult. It’s something only a misogynist would think up.

  183. 183
    Anthony K

    What a strange insult. It’s something only a misogynist would think up rip off.

    Q: What’s the difference between one of Jeff Dunham’s ventriloquist dummies and Reap Paden?
    A: One’s an unoriginal and artless tribute to the sensibilities of the lowest common denominator with a head full of sawdust, and the other sits on Jeff Dunham’s lap.

  184. 184
    Ophelia Benson

    And I don’t even have a cat. I have a part-time dog.

  185. 185
    Anthony K

    And I don’t even have a cat. I have a part-time dog.

    Well, that’s why true skeptics find stereotypes so hilarious: they’re just so accurate.

  186. 186
    Ophelia Benson

    Confirmed. Google my name and crazy cat lady – RESULTS!

    Some troll RT’d something along those lines yesterday, so I figured it was a new Thing. Also crazy cunt lady of course.

  187. 187
    Stacy

    no church, possibly no MLK (in the sense we think of him).

    Maybe. No church, no SCLC, certainly. But the reason has less to do with religion per se than with Black history.

    Black churches were the one place African Americans could get together, more or less unmolested, to organize.

    White racists allowed the black churches to flourish (up til the point it became obvious they were being used to organize resistance to racism, then they started torching them.) Black Christianity had been seen as non-threatening–turn the other cheek and endure, be humble, wait for your reward in the next life–so churches existed, there was an infrastructure in place for outreach that had authority within the community. Also outside the community: Christianity was respected by most people in the 50′s, it was granted a lot of moral authority.

    Was King’s Christianity sincere? I’ve no reason to doubt it. Was it his main motivation? We don’t know and neither do you, Timon. Did the importance of the black church have to do with harnessing specifically Christian resistance to inequality? Not at all. And the movement galvanized by King and the SCLC welcomed people of all beliefs and none.

  188. 188
    Anthony K

    Also crazy cunt lady of course.

    Stop it, you’re killing me.

    These people make Carlos Mencia look like Oscar Wilde. You could visit Lenny Bruce’s grave with a stethoscope and hear funnier and edgier ‘free speech’ bits from the worms crawling through his eye sockets. A health economist grunting through a bad episode of constipation in the next stall would be funnier than these fucking hacks.

  189. 189
    Ophelia Benson

    Snerk. I had the same thought in the title of my latest post. I bet he fancies himself another Hitchens.

  190. 190
    Paul W.

    I’ve been too busy arguing about giving religion too much credit for motivation to address the OP per se.

    FWIW, I still don’t see Stedman as racist, just mostly wrong.

    It certainly doesn’t seem clear to me that he attributes good motivations to religion because the people in question are nonwhite.

    I think he’s the kind of religion-respecter who tends to give undue credit to religion across the board, and make New Atheists look nasty and counterproductive for not doing so, just like the accommodationists who say that Christianity is “compatible” with religion because many outstanding scientists have been Christian. (And those people were generally white.)

    As I said in the earlier thread, I suspect that Stedman can condescend to anybody about this stuff, regardless of color or class, and could be just as paternalistically condescending about well-to-do white liberal New Agers if he found them politically useful enough. (They don’t need to know the truth, as long as they do the right thing, and their religion is generally more or less progressive, so just be nice to them and work with them and “respect” them enough not to tell them the truth so much.)

    I’ll bet he’d be all over us for harshly criticizing those political allies, too, if they were politically important enough to him and we criticized them as often as we criticize the Christian majority.

    I could be wrong, but it still isn’t evident to me that Stedman’s invoking of King and Gandhi was at all racist. I think it’s a sufficient explanation that he was talking about very famous and uncontroversially good liberation movements led in large part by very famous and uncontroversially good “religious” people who cast things in “religious” terms.

    There aren’t many such big names that everybody would recognize and almost everybody he’s writing for would respect, and they tend to be brown.

    Seriously, who in modern times is as famous and as generally revered (among American liberals and moderates) as MLK or Gandhi for leading any liberation struggle, or for liberal do-gooding of any sort at any comparably important scale?

    IMO Stedman was just wrong to pick such religious movement leaders and somewhat overrate their importance, and especially to overrate the importance of their religiosity to their actual motivation, as though we should thank religion for black civil rights and Indian liberation—horrible ungrateful us if we don’t admit that religion has good effects, even in such obvious cases.

    But given that he was going to do that, it’s hard to find better examples of any race than Gandhi and MLK. (I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d picked Mother Teresa, too—another iconically pious religious do-gooder—if she wasn’t somebody many of us would say very derogatory stuff about, with some pretty damning arguments about how her religion ruined her supposed do-gooding.)

    Nehru wouldn’t serve that role for Stedman, not just because he wasn’t religious enough, but because he’s not quite famous and iconic enough—too many people would think of a 60′s fashion fad and not get how important he was politically.

    People do almost universally “get” reverent references Gandhi and MLK and very, very few others, and I think that’s a sufficient explanation of Stedman choosing them as examples.

  191. 191
    Argle Bargle

    I personally have only one problem with faitheists. They can cuddle up to theists all they want, flattering egos and assuring believers that not all atheists are like those nasty gnu atheists. If that’s what gets people like Stedman through the night, I’m not going to criticize them. What I will complain about is the insistence that gnu atheists should shut up, that we’re “not helping” and that pointing out the logical errors and historical atrocities of theism is double plus uncool.

    Perhaps the faitheists are just explaining their reactions to gnu atheism poorly. But they always make a big deal about what great communicators they when dealing with the theists. So why are their communications with other atheists so poor? No I’m not buying this argument at all. I see the majority of faitheists as convinced their milquetoast relations with theists is the only way to behave towards theists and they honestly want the rest of us to STFU. It’s hypocritical. They play nice with people they disagree with and are nasty to people who agree with them on the basic issue of gods.

    I’m willing to let faitheists deal with theists in any way they want. I just ask they give me and other gnu atheists the same consideration.

  192. 192
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    reap:

    Ophelia I think I can speak on behalf of at least a whole hell of a lot of people when I ask “When are you going to deflate your head and come down for a landing?” Some of the incredible things I have seen you post lately make me wonder if you have been eating too much cat food or something.

    Do any of you people know how to explain yourselves?
    All I hear from the anti-FtB crowd is generalities.
    “Stephanie said stuff”
    “Ophelia lied”
    Greta was mean”
    “PZ banned me”
    “FtB is group think”

    This post by you takes the cake. You have a problem with *something* Ophelia has done, yet you can’t even be assed to explain what it is. You must expect that Ophelia *magically* knows what she’s done to warrant this criticism from you.

    So I’ll ask:
    What are these “… incredible things…” you’ve seen her post, and why should she “…deflate her head…”?

    Or will you take this opportunity to pull your head out of Misogyny central and admit you don’t like Ophelia and don’t have a solid reason why? Heck, if you’d just admit you’re a misogynistic scumbag, that would explain *so* much. Not really, we already know you don’t have a high opinion of women.

  193. 193
    Bruce Gorton

    reappaden

    Dude, I am writing from South Africa. Out here? The progress we have made on gay rights is being threatened by the traditional courts bill on the legal front, and on the social front by “corrective rape.”

    If anything we have actually gone backwards when it comes to homophobia.

  194. 194
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    You guys are giving this reappaden an awful lot of credit here. I don’t even think he’s bright enough to realize that Ophelia didn’t write this post.

  195. 195
    Michael Paull

    Wow, Bruce Gorton is definitely not a big fan of Chris Stedman, is he? Wonder if they used to once hang out together, before one or the other of em broke one of the major “Bro-Codes”. Who can say? Maybe all’s not entirely fair in love and war…

    I Dunno, it seems like a classic case of two intellectuals from the same basic ilk (in this case, avowed atheists) No longer being able to sit at the same table anymore, because they lack that last few inches of common ground necessary to keep the peace.

    I’m definitely not a huge fan of religion, but I can definitely say I’m also not nearly as hard-lined about it all as ‘ol Bruce Gorton. And the stuff about Stedman here smells like a bit of a hatchet job. He sure seems pretty sore about it all. I think when it comes to the big picture, he might actually be even madder at Mr. Stedman than he is at all the other religion supporters/apologist in our current world put together. At least that’s how he sounds in this article. He begins the topic disingenuously enough with the line, “Now I bring up Stedman for a simple reason…” as if the man were merely being mentioned in passing on the way to a much larger and broader idea, when in fact, the entire rest of the article is basically our guy Gorton, bellyachin left and right about his now arch-nemesis Darth Stedman. In fact, I now think that the first few paragraphs of the article were, in retrospect, a long intro into our main topic, which is: [horn call riffs from the back of the colosseum] That durn foul Stedman guy! [more horn riffs, but this time using dark sinister chords] I’m quite sure now, that if Stedman were to suddenly show up at Gorton’s door, even as a purely social call, or even yet a reconciliatory gesture, the latter would holler prissy little taunts at him, threaten to run him down with the hybrid car parked in front, and then slam the door (made from recycled wood particles) in his face.

    Sorry for the long-windedness of this. I usually don’t come across this kind of article, and so I read it carefully, and it gave me much to think about. In the end, I think religion is, like people (who happen to be the inventors of it), basically, a mixed bag. People, as a species/thing/whatever have, in this world done a considerable amount of good, and an equally considerable amount of bad, throughout history. And so it goes with many of man’s inventions. Religion is such an invention. What do we do then, hate both? Condemn all of humanity? The argument for one is as compelling as for the other. I can see why Gorton does not approve of religion, but I still think, in even the worst of times, the people who are most willing to yield an inch here or there, and shrug off a bit of their own partisanship in favor of peace and cooperation are still our overall best hope, if we’re going to make it through the next thousand years of humanity. And if we don’t have even that long, maybe we should try even harder in the time that we DO have? I guess it’s obvious now, that I cast my lot in with the guy on Gorton’s sh*t list, the nefarious Chris Stedman, if only for the reason that if I was to have one of those guys over for a dinner party with a BUNCH of other people from various backgrounds/beliefs, I would invite the guy who’d be less likely to get a little too drunk, and then start a bunch of shit with the dude next to him who happens to be an Episcopalian.

  196. 196
    tunnelolfaction

    Interesting article, that sounds like me. My friends are all non-church-going to atheist, but one of my sisters is mormon. I haven’t told her of my atheism, but I assume she knows. Her husband is dying, so I’m not expressing any skepticism, even as she regales me with tales of bulletproof underwear.

    I love her and I don’t see any point in arguing, as the status quo is best for her, am I right. I’m happy to not question her religion. She’s unlikely to change her mind, and I’m right, so that’s that. I tell all the kids though.

    I don’t rule out the possibility that an alien created this universe [irrelevant speculation], it’s just that religious stories are silly.

  197. 197
    Nathaniel Frein

    @197

    The funny thing is, you’re defending the man who created the most hackneyed retelling of a social event…ever.

    Did you not read the dialogue in Stedman’s piece? No one (in the atheist movement or out) talks like that. His straw atheists talked like the silly rich people at Dan Akroyd’s country club in Trading Places.

    Seriously. If anything close to what Stedman describes actually happened, then he got the “brush off” because he tone trolled an atheist party, not because he was some poor li’l midwestern rube asking for the nasty elitist intelligentsia to be fair to the ickle theists fee fees.

    Stedman would have had the same response as a young police cadet going to a party full of cops and being horrified at bad jokes about prison inmates, or as a young medical student being horrified about crass jokes about patients.

  198. 198
    Timon for Tea

    “How familiar are you with the particular work in question? … Do you know why Daniel Kahneman was recently given a Nobel prize?”

    Pretty familiar, I think, though not professionally familiar. I think massive scepticism is called for. Do I know why Kahneman was awarded a Nobel for economics? Yes. And I like Kahneman, but really, economics is the only science that is less reputable than psychology. I don’t think it is any surprise that ‘experimental economics’ is so big, it is the field that places the lowest bar on evidence. Any gee whiz, counter intuitive finding gets huge publicity, invites to conferences and follow up books by Malcolm Gladwell. Yes, a lot of this is fun, and I enjoy it too. Daniel Ariely is ingenious and a great writer, but do his experiments tell us anything that is true? With samples that almost always consist of his own class and which are never replicated?

    Anyway, the useful Kahneman stuff about cognitive bias does not have anything to say about motive in the sense we are discussing with regard to MLK.

  199. 199
    Timon for Tea

    “Was King’s Christianity sincere? I’ve no reason to doubt it. Was it his main motivation? We don’t know and neither do you, Timon.”

    We know he said it was, that was my point. And I think we need better reasons than personal bias to assume that someone is lying or too stupid to understand his or her own thoughts and feelings, especially someone like MLK whose work and great sacrifice ought, in my opinion, to afford a higher than usual degree of respect.

  200. 200
    Timon for Tea

    “it seems like a classic case of two intellectuals from the same basic ilk (in this case, avowed atheists) No longer being able to sit at the same table anymore, because they lack that last few inches of common ground necessary to keep the peace.”

    I have no idea of the background to all of this whether there is any Gorton-Stedman personal hash to be settled, but it does all remind me of the old joke that academic disputes are always so vicious because there is so little at stake.

  201. 201
    Bruce Gorton

    I guess it’s obvious now, that I cast my lot in with the guy on Gorton’s sh*t list, the nefarious Chris Stedman, if only for the reason that if I was to have one of those guys over for a dinner party with a BUNCH of other people from various backgrounds/beliefs, I would invite the guy who’d be less likely to get a little too drunk, and then start a bunch of shit with the dude next to him who happens to be an Episcopalian.

    Funny thing is, at any given party I would be keeping my disaproval to myself and changing the subject. The point to Stedman’s story however (stilted dialogue and all) was he couldn’t do that at a party with other atheists.

    As to compromise – what are the things we are being asked to compromise on precisely?

  202. 202
    Nathaniel Frein

    I noticed that JFLC mentioned me by name in his response to this, to the effect that I made my circle-jerk comment because both he and Stedman are gay. (The fact is I really couldn’t have cared less what orientation either if them are).

    This is not the case. Circle-jerk to me has always meant a group of people giving mutual gratification without any real substance. In the same vein I’d say that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (neither of whom seem to be gay) circle-jerk each other because when they get together they just do mediocre work because neither challenges the other, but simply reinforces their mutual feelings of awesomeness.

    But the way JFLC phrased his response gives me this nagging feeling that I’m letting my privilege show. So I want to ask here first, was I wrong in using that term? Is it a homophobic term? Because if it is I want to fix that. And if it isn’t then I can give a much more confident response to JFLC.

  203. 203
    Timon for Tea

    “Is it a homophobic term?”

    No it isn’t (not that it matters much in my opinion)and you are right about Burton and Depp. I just wanted to say that because so many critics seem to swoon before everything they do. Depp has nice cheekbones, but you have to like cheekbones a lot to want to watch whole movies about them.

  204. 204
    Paul W.

    Nathaniel,

    I’ve never understood “circle jerk” to be a homophobic term. It’s just collective “wanking.”

    In my mind the prototypical wanker is straight, and likely a young straight, relatively privileged white guy with no particular knowledge of anything, and nothing contentful and true to say, who insists on saying whatever ill-considered shit is in his head. More literally, an undistinguished guy who can’t get laid, because he has nothing particular to offer anybody, so he wanks.

    A prototypical circle jerk is a bunch of prototypical wankers (hence probably straight) with esprit de corps who get off on saying ill-considered shit as a group. They have nothing in particular to offer anybody outside the group, and all can’t get laid, so they wank together instead.

    So the way I cognize it, it’s pretty clear that the guys are straight, and wank together because they can’t get women to have sex with them. If they were gay they wouldn’t need to do that—they could have gay sex of the usual sorts, not just wanking.

    But I can easily see how some other people would inevitably interpret the “circle jerk” metaphor differently, and more literally, thinking that guys doing something “sexual” together obviously implies homosexuality, and that homosexuality is being used as a slur. Maybe it’s guys who aren’t admitting they’re gay, so they can’t have outright gay sex, and they wank with other guys because they’re really gay.

    That’s not how I’ve ever understood it, but it’s a fairly reasonable interpretation.

    Bummer.

    I guess now I’ll have to be careful about using the term with reference to gay guys, because that interpretation is way too easy in that case.

    But should I also stop using it with reference to straight guys, because some people will probably interpret it as insulting them by calling them a bunch of queers, as opposed to calling them a bunch of horny-straight-boys-who-can’t-get-women? Ew.

    Of course it’s pretty stupid that we use “wanker” as an insult at all, and make people look like losers by comparing them to sexually unattractive people.

  205. 205
    Ophelia Benson

    Timon – before you say anything more, could you please at least indicate that you have taken in what I was saying in reply to you yesterday? You said the Promised Land speech was evidence that religion was what motivated MLK. My point was that the speech doesn’t demonstrate that, because what it’s talking about is not in fact religious. It uses religious language, yes, but it applies it to a secular goal: civil rights here on earth.

    You have talked a great deal yet you have still never managed to say that you even understand the point.

  206. 206
    Rutee Katreya

    Circle Jerk probably can be used in a heterosexist way, and almost certainly has been done, but I’ve not heard it done. Still, I’d find something else for Stedman/jlfcroft if they’re gay and saying it’s touching buttons. You really don’t need that exact wording to defend the idea of colleagues or friends’ mutual sucking up making their work weaker.

    No it isn’t (not that it matters much in my opinion)

    And that is why a hetero’s opinion on the matter is less than worthless.

  207. 207
    Anthony K

    But I can easily see how some other people would inevitably interpret the “circle jerk” metaphor differently, and more literally, thinking that guys doing something “sexual” together obviously implies homosexuality, and that homosexuality is being used as a slur. Maybe it’s guys who aren’t admitting they’re gay, so they can’t have outright gay sex, and they wank with other guys because they’re really gay.

    You know, Nathaniel’s comment didn’t sit well with me either. Now, I was 99% sure that Nathaniel didn’t mean it that way, but I know both Chris and James are gay, and I’ve seen other threads in the past in which James’ has defended Stedman and was insulted by someone else’s phrasing which (intentional or not) implied they were lovers (I’m being vague here because I don’t remember the exact thread or the wording).

    So I’m not surprised at James’ interpretation. And I’m not criticising him nor Nathaniel for this. I think this is the type of situation for which the phrase “Intent is not magic” was made.

  208. 208
    Anthony K

    Oh, posted before I could read Rutee’s response.

    Still, I’d find something else for Stedman/jlfcroft if they’re gay and saying it’s touching buttons. You really don’t need that exact wording to defend the idea of colleagues or friends’ mutual sucking up making their work weaker.

    Yeah. Pretty much. Even without homophobic undertones it’s kind of sex-shaming, as Paul W. points out.

  209. 209
    Ophelia Benson

    And James has indeed taken it that way, for which I can’t blame him. That’s what I thought it meant when I first saw it yesterday, and I flinched and started trying to decide what to do about it, then ended up thinking it was meant generically rather than personally so didn’t do anything. But yes, it does at least have that ring to it.

  210. 210
    Timon for Tea

    “Timon – before you say anything more, could you please at least indicate that you have taken in what I was saying in reply to you yesterday? You said the Promised Land speech was evidence that religion was what motivated MLK. My point was that the speech doesn’t demonstrate that, because what it’s talking about is not in fact religious.”

    I did take in this point Ophelia and I replied to it a couple of times, but maybe I didn’t make myself clear or you haven’t understood the replies. The speech is evidence that MLK was motivated by religion because in it he claims that he is motivated by religion. That does not imply that the entire content of the speech is religious, obviously. But he says there (as elsewhere) that he is motivated in his politics by his religion. Think of an analogy. Imagine that he was demanding instead for some social evil, to deprive girls of education, for example. Now, if he explicitly said his motivation for that was religious, that he believed his religion demanded it, we would all agree that he was religiously motivated, right? You can’t have it both ways.

    “It uses religious language, yes, but it applies it to a secular goal: civil rights here on earth.”

    It uses religious language and expressly says ‘my motivation is religious’. I take him at his word, that is all. Whether peace, love, equal rights etc can only be seen as secular goals is amount to say the least. I don’t think any religious people would agree with you. I am certain MLK would not.

    “You have talked a great deal yet you have still never managed to say that you even understand the point.”

    Tu quoque.

  211. 211
    Timon for Tea

    “And that is why a hetero’s opinion on the matter is less than worthless.”

    Rutee, don’t make such assumptions, they can bite you in the arse.

  212. 212
    Timon for Tea

    In my #212 please read ‘moot’ for amount’ (if you read it at all).

  213. 213
    Rutee Katreya

    Rutee, don’t make such assumptions, they can bite you in the arse.

    No, not really.

  214. 214
    Ophelia Benson

    Timon, no, you’re the one who didn’t understand.

    I’m not denying that King said he was motivated by religion. I’m saying he was mistaken about it, in the sense that the goals and ideas that motivated him are not inherently religious, but rather, secular. Yes, of course he was “motivated by his religion” in the sense that he simply forced the two together – he simply assumed that his religion, unlike that of the defenders of Jim Crow, was in favor of racial equality.

    Both sides cited religion. Both sides claimed God for their team. Neither side had any good way to adjudicate between them. What was really going on here was a fundamental disagreement about the idea of racial equality. That’s a secular subject, not a religious one. Don’t just repeat that that’s what King said; I know that; that’s not the issue.

  215. 215
    Q.E.D

    Gnu Atheist to the Religious: “There is no evidence that your god exists much less that he is a supernatural justification for your misogyny, bigotry, authoritarianism and patriarchy, so you can take your social injustice agenda and shove it up your arse”

    Fatheists to Gnu Atheists: “don’t be a dick, you’re so mean”

    Pope Ratzinger: “Aggressive secularism and Atheists are just like Nazis”

    Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor: “Atheists are less than fully human”

    Fatheist: *crickets*

    Guess whose cocktail parties the Fatheist wants to go to?

  216. 216
    Worldtraveller

    Did I miss it, or did Kylie not bother coming back and explaining/owning up to her early posts? Doesn’t speak well for her skepticism if that’s the case.

  217. 217
    Waffler, of the Waffler Institute

    Imagine that he was demanding instead for some social evil, to deprive girls of education, for example. Now, if he explicitly said his motivation for that was religious, that he believed his religion demanded it, we would all agree that he was religiously motivated, right? You can’t have it both ways.

    Not so simple. Colonial and pre-civil-war Americans pointed to the bible (among other things) to justify slavery. We (or I) don’t therefore believe that the motivation for slavery was religious. Likewise, although the KKK tries to uses it’s view of Christianity to justify its racism, that doesn’t mean its racism is motivated by religion.

    You take ‘I just want to do God’s will’ as a statement of motivation. But it isn’t (necessarily). He can have a reason, a motivation, for wanting to do “God’s will”, and, in particular, a reason for focusing on a particular aspect of what he believes is “God’s will”. To understand his motivations, you have to understand those reasons. If his desire to do “God’s will” is simply because he thinks he’ll go to hell if he doesn’t, yeah, it’s a religious motivation. But that doesn’t seem consistent with what other things MLK has said.

    None of this means, necessarily, that Stedman was being racist for suggesting that MLK had religious motivations, though.

  218. 218
    Timon for Tea

    “I’m not denying that King said he was motivated by religion. I’m saying he was mistaken about it, in the sense that the goals and ideas that motivated him are not inherently religious, but rather, secular. ”

    He would have disagreed with you that the goals were inherently secular but it hardly matters, it is not incoherent to claim that you are motivated by religion to act in particular way in a non-religious context. MLK believed that his religious faith required him to act in such a way. If he had not had that faith he may not have acted in that way (he appears to believe this). So he was motivated by religion. If religious motivation is limited definitionally to specifically religious spheres (such as religious ceremony, dress etc) what is the atheist beef with religion? It can, by definition, have no effect on the non-religious. You seem to apply a different standard when the religious act in the secular sphere in ways you consider disreputable.

  219. 219
    Timon for Tea

    “Not so simple. Colonial and pre-civil-war Americans pointed to the bible (among other things) to justify slavery. We (or I) don’t therefore believe that the motivation for slavery was religious.2

    That’s true, but we don’t think the slave owners were mistaken, do we? We think they were dishonest (and evil). Surely Martin Luther King, of all people, deserves a more generous and respectful hearing than slave owners.

  220. 220
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes of course we think the slave-owners were mistaken! We think they were mistaken to treat one ancient book as the source of all morality, mistaken in the criteria they used to decide which bits to take seriously, mistaken to think that a few words in an ancient book could be not just relevant but decisive in a modern political controversy, and thoroughly mistaken in their morality.

  221. 221
    Rutee Katreya

    Imagine that he was demanding instead for some social evil, to deprive girls of education, for example. Now, if he explicitly said his motivation for that was religious, that he believed his religion demanded it, we would all agree that he was religiously motivated, right? You can’t have it both ways.

    Some fool honkey might, but it’s primarily rooted in racism, and justified in biblical language. The religion can teach it, and reinforce it, but unless there’s an actual burning bush, or the introduction of the religion specifically changes widespread social attitudes, you can’t really credit the religion specifically with much more htan being a human organizing tool.

    For instance, I could say the shift from something approaching gender equality in Scandinavia to one where women were more subjugated was religiously motivated; we have strong evidence that the turning point actually was the Christianization of the region. And that only holds for a couple generations at best, because once the rest of the culture comes closer, the religion only needs to do so much.

    But those are actually pretty fucking rare. Most social ills that religion props up were already there to begin with, in strong force, and the religion is just another way to reinforce it to the culture at large. It’s not generally a unique motivator, and only rarely will be.

  222. 222
    Timon for Tea

    “Yes of course we think the slave-owners were mistaken! ”

    Well, you are mistaken. There is plenty of evidence, I mean mountains of it, that slave owners were motivated by profit rather than biblical authority. The Hymn ‘amazing grace’ was actually written by a slave trader who discovered god and was led away from the trade. When they said they held slaves because god wanted them to, they were lying.

  223. 223
    Timon for Tea

    “but unless there’s an actual burning bush, or the introduction of the religion specifically changes widespread social attitudes, you can’t really credit the religion specifically with much more htan being a human organizing tool.”

    So you do not hold, after all, that religion can be an evil in the world (outwith there is a burning bush etc demanding evil)?

  224. 224
    Q.E.D

    Timon for Tea

    About your unique ability to know people’s religious motivations (even when you never spoke to them and they are long since dead) do you have to look through magic seer stones, is it a mutant superpower or are you just awesome that way?

    I mean it can’t just be the words on paper, right?

    Because politicians and preachers are notoriously good at using language, symbols, concepts and dogwhistles that will help them communicate with an audience and bring them on side regardless of what they personally believe.

    You don’t fucking well know whether MLK was 100% motivated by his religion to do social justice on earth or whether he was a closet atheist doing social justice on earth. In either case, given his education (degrees in sociology and divinity), his society and audience it would have been normal for him to use religious language to tell his audience that God was on their side during a long difficult struggle.

  225. 225
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    When they said they held slaves because god wanted them to, they were lying.

    Just as much as those who said God didn’t want them to hold slaves.

  226. 226
    Bruce Gorton

    That’s true, but we don’t think the slave owners were mistaken, do we?

    Yes, I do actually. They weren’t being dishonest, they simply attributed their desire to own slaves, to their God’s larger plans.

    When you get right down to it that is the tap of omniscience in a god that answers prayers, people pray, they think they are getting answers from some all knowing being that knows everything, but meanwhile they are just talking to themselves and they know exactly what to say to convince themselves that they are right.

    Honesty only comes into play if they don’t believe that God answered their prayers.

    Religion doesn’t motivate them, they already want to do whatever it is they are praying for guidance on, but it does strip the brakes.

  227. 227
    Rutee Katreya

    So you do not hold, after all, that religion can be an evil in the world (outwith there is a burning bush etc demanding evil)?

    Can be? Of course it fucking can be. It has been and it will be. I didn’t say religion did nothing to reinforce slavery, fool. I said it wasn’t fucking unique to it, because I’m not a clueless asshole trying to pretend racism starts from religion. And for fuck’s sake, I directly pointed out a historical example of a religion *actually motivating bigotry* directly after that. Do you read for fucking comprehension?

    Yeah, religion rarely starts things up. That doesn’t fucking mean that when preachers took to the pulpit to affirm how god loves slavery, religion wasn’t used for evil. It just means it didn’t start it.

    About your unique ability to know people’s religious motivations (even when you never spoke to them and they are long since dead) do you have to look through magic seer stones, is it a mutant superpower or are you just awesome that way?

    It’s necromancy, obviously. That’s how he was re-animating MLK Jr. to speak for him before.

  228. 228
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I mean, there were probably slave owners who didn’t give a fuck about God’s word, but don’t you think there were those (I would expect, the most) for whom both the profit and the fact that slavery it ok in the Bible were mutually reinforcing reasons for continuing their business?

  229. 229
    Verbose Stoic

    I’m not denying that King said he was motivated by religion. I’m saying he was mistaken about it, in the sense that the goals and ideas that motivated him are not inherently religious, but rather, secular.

    I think there’s two different interpretations here that is causing the problem.

    You are correct that the goals King had — ending racial discrimination — are not inherently religious ones, in the sense that you can be religious and not have those goals and, particularly, not be religious and have them. This would differ from a goal of, say, everyone going to heaven which can only be religiously motivated, or a goal of no one believing in gods, which can only be non-religious. That’s fine.

    But what people are talking about are what are King’s reasons for HAVING that as a goal. Why did he think that that was a goal worth having? For King, it seems that for him a large part of the motivation for that, in his own words, is his religious beliefs and what he thought they implied. Yes, it is probably true that the discrimination he experienced played a part in that, but it seems to me that mostly it would be because it made him think about whether that was just or not. If he had concluded that it was really the case that God dictated that black people were inferior, he’d probably simply internalize the inferiority and not fight it at all. But he couldn’t reconcile that, and so ended up with a motivation on two fronts, that it bothered him personally AND that it was unjust morally, universally.

    So when you say, as you’ve said a few times, that King was WRONG in his motivations mainly because you can have secular reasons for having that goal or even that it is more naturally a secular than a religious goal, it seems that that isn’t a good reason to think that King was wrong about his own motivations, because it seems like you are trying to reason for the typical case to a specific case, and that’s always problematic.

  230. 230
    Q.E.D

    Timon for Tea @ 224

    There is plenty of evidence, I mean mountains of it, that slave owners were motivated by profit rather than biblical authority

    Yeah. Because people never have mixed motives, multiple motives or various motives with different degrees of importance.

    Motives are always a binary either/or choice.

    Your magical motivation-knowing seer stones/mutant superpowers/awesomeness are broken.

  231. 231
    Ophelia Benson

    If he had concluded that it was really the case that God dictated that black people were inferior, he’d probably simply internalize the inferiority and not fight it at all.

    Well why wouldn’t he do that? If he simply looked at the world around him, and at history, that would seem to be the right conclusion, wouldn’t it? If God didn’t dictate that black people were inferior – if in fact God thought black people should not be treated as inferior – then why did God allow them to be treated as such? Why did God allow them to be enslaved? Why didn’t God, for instance, deliver a new revelation to make clear to all humans that slavery is not ok or that equality is good?

    But he couldn’t reconcile that, and so ended up with a motivation on two fronts, that it bothered him personally AND that it was unjust morally, universally.

    Why couldn’t he reconcile that?

    And your two fronts are both secular. “Morally” and “universally” – secular.

    God demands obedience – obedience to God, and in the interpretation of clerics, to God’s representatives – the clerics.

    That is not the same thing as univeral morality. It’s not the same thing as a concern with injustice.

  232. 232
    Ariel

    Sorry, no time to do anything earlier, so only now a reply to Bruce. Reactions to some more recent stuff further below.

    Bruce Gorton #51

    “Why do you think that religion wasn’t a motivating factor for (say) Gandhi?”
    Because Gandhi was part of a much larger movement for Indian independence, his allies included members of multiple faiths and none …

    So what? How does it show (or even suggest) that his involvement in all of that wasn’t religiously motivated to a substantial degree? Can’t a religiously motivated person become a part of a larger, heterogenous movement? Can’t he have allies of multiple faiths? Aren’t you confusing religious motivation with religious fanaticism?

    … (3) and besides he opposed basing politics on religion.

    This requires explanation. What did he oppose and how in your opinion does it conflict with religious motivation (especially, as it seems to be the case with Gandhi, stemming from religion of a universalist kind)?

    There was plenty otherwise motivating MLK and Ghandi, quite aside from religion.

    The problem is that from their point of view these other factors might have been quite entangled with religion. It is you who want to keep them separate. But when discussing MLK’s and Gandhi’s motivation, we are talking about their psychological reality. Not yours. Please keep that in mind.

    All in all, I find your argumentation very shallow. It all goes in a total disregard not only of Gandhi’s own words, but also of his lifestyle, asceticism, periods of starvation, sexual abstinence, and most of all: of his attempts to integrate this lifestyle with his political activity. My impression: you want soooo much to reach a verdict comfortable to you that you are ready to apply very low standards in what you write. Anything goes.

    Oh, there was also this:

    Yes it is, because it isn’t “doubtless” that Claire would have spilt her porridge, thus without that initial motive you would not have pushed Claire

    C’mon, you must be kidding :-)

    Comments on some more recent stuff
    Paul (e.g. #130) stressed that “People are frequently quite mistaken about their own motivations, and unconsciously “confabulate” stories about them” – that it’s naïve to take their words at face value. In a similar vein, Ophelia also wrote:

    You said the Promised Land speech was evidence that religion was what motivated MLK. My point was that the speech doesn’t demonstrate that, because what it’s talking about is not in fact religious. It uses religious language, yes, but it applies it to a secular goal: civil rights here on earth.

    My reaction would be: yes, we can’t take words at face value, more information is needed. I wonder only what sort of information would satisfy you. The gnu atheists are fond of blaming religion for the crusades, for the Inquisition, and so on, and so on. When discussing people like Gandhi or MLK, there may be a temptation to demand very strong arguments for the claim that they were motivated by religion (“oh no, that can’t be, they are ours, they couldn’t have been really motivated by that!”). But too strict standards can backfire – they can eliminate also religion as a motivation for doing those bad things, leaving you with a conclusion that … religion is not so bad after all, being motivationally (almost) vacuous. Crusades? The pope’s words? Oh my, these are just words, and words are not to be trusted. The goals of these guys can be also described as secular, so where is the place for religion? Inquisition? Official church documents? Oh, but these are just words, and words … ok, you can guess the rest.

    So I’m asking: what sort of evidence would convince you that Gandhi’s or MLK’s motivation was religious? I suggested earlier looking at the specifically religious elements in Gandhi’s life (not just words) and how they were integrated with his political activity. Is this a reasonable direction in your opinion?

    (Or maybe all of you want to join Bruce and Rutee Katreya in their Brand New Official Version of New Atheism: religion is just an organizing tool, almost no one is motivated by religion. Very few exceptions. Religion doesn’t motivate, because … because … I don’t know why, they didn’t bother to tell. Don’t overlook a message for the gnus hidden here: blaming religion for mishaps is like blaming a knife for murder. You gnu atheists are making so much fuss about a mere tool! Shame on you!)

  233. 233
    Stacy

    That’s true, but we don’t think the slave owners were mistaken, do we? We think they were dishonest (and evil).

    How do you know they didn’t honestly believe slavery was ordained by God? The Bible supports slavery.

    There is plenty of evidence, I mean mountains of it, that slave owners were motivated by profit rather than biblical authority.

    Of course they were motivated by profit. That doesn’t mean they were deliberately lying if they said they were motivated by the Bible or by God. They may have consciously believed that.

    People tend not to recognize the extent to which their behavior is motivated by personal and historical circumstance.

    Do you really think every paleolibertarian is sitting around thinking, “I got mine, screw you, heh heh heh”? Some may, but many sincerely believe in the Free Market and axioms about “liberty”.

    Same thing for the good people do. Religious people have done great things in the name of religion. Doesn’t mean their only, or fundamental motivation was the theological gloss they used to justify the principles they were acting on.

  234. 234
    Rutee Katreya

    (Or maybe all of you want to join Bruce and Rutee Katreya in their Brand New Official Version of New Atheism: religion is just an organizing tool, almost no one is motivated by religion.

    I don’t usually see the defenders of religion sprinting to claim credit for bigotry, and that’s the primary thing I was talking about. This is novel. I usually have to fight atheists off with a stick to keep them from pretending that religion is really the cause of racism or whatnot, not theists.

    Also, when did I become a popess? I didn’t get a hat. I demand a hat and a paycheck if my word is to become official canon of some sort.

    Moving along…

    So what? How does it show (or even suggest) that his involvement in all of that wasn’t religiously motivated to a substantial degree? Can’t a religiously motivated person become a part of a larger, heterogenous movement? Can’t he have allies of multiple faiths? Aren’t you confusing religious motivation with religious fanaticism?

    I dunno, aren’t you basically confusing the Indian independence movement with The Mahatma Gandhi show?

    How do you know they didn’t honestly believe slavery was ordained by God? The Bible supports slavery.

    But would they have thought slavery was ordained by God if they weren’t already racist fucks who were okay with slavery? Evidently not.

  235. 235
    Rutee Katreya

    Seriously if I’m going to be placed in dual responsibility for running the Gnus, I’m going to need a paycheck at least; I need it to pay for all the drugs and/or video games I’m going to need to keep myself from going crazy trying to clean up the generally bigotted movement.

  236. 236
    Rutee Katreya

    So I’m asking: what sort of evidence would convince you that Gandhi’s or MLK’s motivation was religious? I suggested earlier looking at the specifically religious elements in Gandhi’s life (not just words) and how they were integrated with his political activity. Is this a reasonable direction in your opinion?

    The short version of it is that I don’t say religion plays no part; that’s trivially false. I said religion doesn’t generally generate something new. You would need to demonstrate that prior to the formation of the various Christian traditions that blacks in the USA followed, they were fine with slavery and racism. You would need to prove that Christianity gave rise to the desire to be free.

    GOOD LUCK WITH THAT. Culture informs religion, because it’s human-made.

    More or less the same would be needed for hinduism, but I’m not as familiar with that specifically.

  237. 237
    Ariel

    Rutee Katreya #237

    I’m going to need a paycheck at least; I need it to pay for all the drugs and/or video games

    Video games replacing traditional values – sex and rock’n’roll!!! O tempora! O mores!

    I’m deeply wounded. No paycheck for you.

  238. 238
    Nathaniel Frein

    Hmm.

    Well, thanks for the honest responses. I do believe I will be shying away from that term (which I liked because it seemed to me to sum up the concept very quickly and efficiently).

    I’m…not to sure how to proceed. He called me out on his blog, and I think I should address it on his blog, but some of the snark I originally planned has been taken from my sails, so to speak. I feel bemused that he calls out Gorton’s quick extrapolation of racism, whilst at the same time similarly (to me) quickly extrapolating homophobia from my own comments which judging by the response I got in this thread could have been just as easily interpreted without those connotations. In other words, it feels to me like he’s asking for generosity in reading Stedman’s comments whilst denying that generosity to other people’s comments.

    I do feel that Stedman’s article is insulting in it’s portrayal of atheists. I think that none of JFLC’s responses have addressed just how ridiculous the narrative was, the character’s present, nor how narcissistic Stedman’s portrayal of himself was. Stedman tells a story of how he goes to a party, tries to pick a fight, and gets a rebuff instead of getting engaged. If the narrative really happened, then likely Stedman got rebuffed because he was killing the mood. He was trying to talk shop at a shindig.

  239. 239
    Stacy

    But would they have thought slavery was ordained by God if they weren’t already racist fucks who were okay with slavery?

    Unlikely. Thus the problem with attributing motivation to religion. As I asserted:

    People tend not to recognize the extent to which their behavior is motivated by personal and historical circumstance.

    I don’t think that’s a controversial point. We’re all blind to that sort of thing. Which fact inclines me to think that if you’re looking at movements with secular purposes, arguing about religion-as-motivation is sort of pointless.

  240. 240
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    And your two fronts are both secular. “Morally” and “universally” – secular.

    God demands obedience – obedience to God, and in the interpretation of clerics, to God’s representatives – the clerics.

    That is not the same thing as univeral morality. It’s not the same thing as a concern with injustice.

    This is precisely where I think you’re going wrong with this. Yes, it is the case that universal morality and a concern with injustice are not IDENTICAL to religious morality, in the sense that if you are not religious you can’t have them. But religion is indeed ONE WAY to come up with a universal morality and to be concerned about injustice. For you to say that the two fronts are “secular” is to DENY that you can come to those conclusions through religion, and that’s absolutely and obviously false. Or, at least, that seems like what you’re saying to me, and that’s just as bad as denying that you can come to those conclusions without religion at all.

    Now, you can insist that obedience to an authority is not a true morality, but that’s far, far afield from King’s specific beliefs and motives here.

  241. 241
    Ophelia Benson

    VS –

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying there’s nothing specifically religious about (for instance) belief in equal rights. I’m not saying that no one can get there via religion, I’m saying that getting there via religion doesn’t make “there” religious.

    Change the terms if that helps. Equal rights is a this-world idea. Religious morality as such is an other-world idea.

  242. 242
    Paul W.

    Timon:

    Imagine that he was demanding instead for some social evil, to deprive girls of education, for example. Now, if he explicitly said his motivation for that was religious, that he believed his religion demanded it, we would all agree that he was religiously motivated, right?

    No, many of us would say that he’s probably motivated by something else, and uses the religious stuff to justify it. (As you yourself seem to when you talk about slaveowners being evil.)

    But it’s complicated. Motivation and justification are weird things that interact in weird ways.

    I suspect that Martin Luther King was basically motivated by the same things that motivate secular activists for social justice. He just justified those things differently sometimes, by framing what he wanted as what God wanted, on the assumption that God is Good, so He must want social justice, too. (Irrespective of what the Bible actually says in many places, where God wants things that are patently unjust, and clearly allows slavery.)

    If I thought MLK was mostly motivated by prospects of Heaven or Hell for himself, rather than a more basic desire for social justice, then I’d be more inclined to say that he was “motivated by” religion. (In the sense that his more basic selfish motivation would manifest itself as being instrumentally motivated to pursue social justice, in order to get himself to Heaven and not Hell.)

    But I give MLK credit for being a better man than that. I doubt he was much motivated by such naked self-interest, and assume he really cared about justice a lot.

    I might also be more likely to say that MLK was “motivated by” religion if I thought submissiveness to God’s authoritarian will was the dominant motive driving him—e.g., if he wanted social justice mainly because he thought God approves of social justice, rather than valuing justice for itself, and thinking God does too.

    But again, I give MLK credit for being a better man than that. I don’t think he was slavishly obedient to God’s will; if he hadn’t been able to pick and choose bits of the Bible, and imagine God as wanting social justice as MLK himself did—and not really endorsing slavery and genocide as He clearly does in the Bible—he’d have had a big problem with God, and wouldn’t have appealed to God’s will.

    MLK could only justify social justice in terms of God’s will by first shoehorning God into the mold of wanting social justice.

    That strongly suggest to me that MLK was more basically motivated toward social justice than he was toward obeying God, even if he sometimes made it sound the other way around.

    I think that’s basically a secular motivation wrapped in a mantle of religious justification.

    I think the religious justification was specious—before you can use God’s will to justify anything, you need to justify God’s will in secular terms, and that generally ends up being ridiculous on close examination—but I don’t think the secular motivation itself was specious.

    MLK may have assumed that his own basic drives toward moral ends were implanted by God—that God had made him want what God wants, and that’s why he and God wanted the same things.

    As an atheist, I clearly can’t buy that argument, but it’s a common part of Christian theology, that would explain how MLK could honestly say that he wants to obey God’s will, even if he knew he was much more strongly motivated toward social justice than toward obedience to God per se.

    On that very common theological view, when you obey your basic moral drives, using your God-given moral sense, you are “obeying God’s will,” whether you’re motivated to obey God’s will per se or not.

    That’s another reason many Christian ministers don’t feel the need to distinguish between pursuing social justice for its own sake and obeying God’s will—pursuing social justice for its own sake is obeying God’s will, automatically.

    I’d be kinda surprised if MLK didn’t think something roughly like that—it’s very common among politically liberal (but not very theologically liberal) Christian ministers, who recognize that people of other religions or no religion are moral, too. There can be such “virtuous pagans” because the Christian God built the seeds of morality into human nature—much as atheists like me think that evolution did. Given MLK’s appreciation of Gandhi and various secular figures, he presumably did have some such rationalization, if he needed one.

    So if MLK cast his motivations in terms of obeying “God’s will,” that doesn’t really tell us much about his motivations, even if we entirely believe him, and even if we entirely believe he could magically introspect to the level of his most basic built-in motivations with superhuman accuracy. It’s just terribly ambiguous. He’d have to write a clear essay explaining how he meant it, and AFAIK, he didn’t.

  243. 243
    Paul W.

    In case it’s not obvious, Ophelia and I are arguing different points.

    Ophelia’s been reiterating the point that getting to a particular moral place via religion doesn’t make that place a religious moral place.

    I’m the one making the stronger claim, specifically about MLK, that I don’t think he even got to that basic moral place (valuing social justice) by basically religious means. I think he got to that basic place by basically secular means, with secular motivations being justified in religious terms.

    Christians can invert that with the theological gimmick I mentioned at the end of my last comment—they can say that the seemingly “secular” drive toward justice is actually obedient to God’s will, automatically, because God gave us our basic moral sense that makes us feel that, so seemingly “secular” motivations are actually religious in the sense that they’re divinely implanted bits of godliness.

    I’m not saying that religion doesn’t ever affect people’s motivations in any substantive way—I think it fairly often does affect how individuals approach moral problems, and the choices they make.

    I think the drive for basic justice is usually a bad example of that, though—that’s something that doesn’t seem to depend on religion much at all, at least on average, and even in individuals, it seems to be less important than most people think, with religious justifications disguising secular motivations.

  244. 244
    Timon for Tea

    “No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying there’s nothing specifically religious about (for instance) belief in equal rights.”

    But many religious people would disagree with you and claim there is no way you can simply reason your way to universal values. Many philosophers alive and dead agree with that. Some of those religious people would say that you may think you have a a sincere non-religious belief in universal rights, but you are mistaken in your motives ( you must be since it is nonsensical to claim universal values exist in a mechanistic universe) and you are really moved by the spirit of god, your true motive, to approach the godhead, is occluded from your view. But we think that sort of sleight of hand is dishonest rhetoric, right? I mean dishonest when they do it.

  245. 245
    Ophelia Benson

    Timon, I know that many religious people would disagree with me. That’s not an answer.

  246. 246
    Timon for Tea

    But it is an answer of the same kind you have been giving Ophelia. I agree that it is absurd, but it is absurd in the same way that your claim that any religiously inspired action that is good is therefore, by definition, not religious in motivation, is absurd. That’s why I made the comparison.

  247. 247
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, fuck, Timon. I gave reasons. You ignored them. That’s not my fault.

    You keep claiming that it’s all the same when it isn’t. Some reasons are better than others. The mere fact that two parties on opposite sides of a question both say the other is wrong does not mean both are equally right or wrong or justified.

  248. 248
    Ophelia Benson

    Also please note what I said – I said it’s not an answer. I didn’t say it’s absurd.

    Your answer to that wasn’t an answer either.

  249. 249
    Timon for Tea

    Ophellia, you said that the claim that many religious people would disagree was not an answer was not an answer. But I had made a larger point than that, as you well know. And I see nothing to choose between your claim that you have better knowledge of the motives of certain peple than they have themslves and those Christians who claim the same thing. You know as well as or better than me that the it is very difficult to justify the idea of human rights ( as a universal value) from a purely materialistic philosophy. The new Nagel book makes the point better than I could but it is only one of many philosophical works that makes it. All I want is to stop this game. If you accept ( as you seem to, you haven’t denied it yet anyhow) that religion can motivate people to evil, even when those evils are not specifically religious in nature ( such as the oppression of women, FGM, banning education for women etc), then you should accept that it can motivate them to equivalent goods, such as campaigning for human rights.

  250. 250
    Ophelia Benson

    I have already said that I’m not disagreeing about the motivation. The motivation is not the issue.

    The motivation is not the issue.

    The motivation is not the issue.

    The motivation is not the issue.

    The issue is whether civil rights is religious or secular.

    And stop saying things like “as you well know.”

  251. 251
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    The interesting thing is that I agree completely with this:

    I’m saying there’s nothing specifically religious about (for instance) belief in equal rights. I’m not saying that no one can get there via religion, I’m saying that getting there via religion doesn’t make “there” religious.

    But I’m not sure that I agree with this:

    Change the terms if that helps. Equal rights is a this-world idea. Religious morality as such is an other-world idea.

    Why? Because religious morality aims at this-world notions as well, in terms of how you should act in this world. Now, if you mean it to say that the only things that are purely religious are those that are other-world — because a secular state has no interest or expertise in them — then that’s fine … but it seems to relate little to Timon’s point, since you seem to accept in the first comment that King’s motivation for his stance could be religious, even if the goal and discussion is not, in and of itself, PURELY religious.

  252. 252
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    The issue is whether civil rights is religious or secular.

    So let me ask you this: what if my answer is “Neither”, in that civil rights is, say, philosophical or legal, and philosophical and legal considerations don’t really allow for being classified as secular or religious in any real sense? If someone does not try to assert that civil rights/morality must be based on religious or secular principles per se, is there any reason to try to shoehorn them into a “secular” designation?

  253. 253
    Ophelia Benson

    I mean it to say that religious morality’s this-world notions are simply secular morality. If religion doesn’t add anything of its own, the morality isn’t religious, it’s just morality. It’s human, not religious. When religion adds something of its own, the result is bad morality, like panic at homosex.

    Religion can add emphasis, and reminders, and repetition. It can add rhetoric and inspiration, as with the speech that started this discussion: the promised land speech. I said that at the outset. But it has nothing to add to the substance.

    At least not that I can see. I’ve seen/heard arguments that it’s a source of extra levels of compassion and generosity, of as it were irrational compassion and generosity. But then…that’s just more of something secular, it’s not something other than secular. It’s motivation again. My point was always about the substance.

  254. 254
    Ophelia Benson

    No, but that’s where this started. Secular is the default state, but when people start saying it’s religious when it’s not – then the state is no longer default.

  255. 255
    Paul W.

    Timon:

    You asked about how you can tell when religion does cause something.

    In general it’s hard, and it depends on what you mean by religion and causing.

    So, for example, I think a lot of people in the South before the Civil War would not have been able to justify slavery without the Bible—the other justifications they’d have found would not have convinced as many people, so maybe Christianity and the Bible actually caused slavery to a substantial degree, and didn’t just provide trappings used to justify what people would have done anyway.

    But likewise, in the North, different versions of Christianity had some opposite effects—there were individual abolitionists who were only abolitionists because they were influenced by particular abolitionist sects, and those sects wouldn’t have succeeded so much if they didn’t have their own Biblical pull-quotes to amp up and activate people’s innate sense of justice in various ways.

    So I’m certain religion and Christianity had some major effects on on many individuals and groups… in various ways and often in opposed directions.

    But on average, in the big picture and in the long run, most of those effects mostly cancel out, and it’s generally harder to determine whether religion has major net effects, and which way they go. E.g., did Christianity cause the Southern slave system, or did Christianity oppose and destroy it, or both? And was that better or worse than whatever else would have happened without Christianity?

    You can get some limited insight by looking at secular groups. Atheists (“freethinkers”) were apparently disproportionately anti-slavery at least in the few decades before the Civil War, and it seems they found it just as easy as Christians to come up with rationales for abolishing slavery, but found it harder to come up with rationales for perpetuating it. It was too obviously unjust, if you didn’t have the Bible to justify it with.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that resourceful slave-owning atheists wouldn’t have managed to come up with a sufficient “justification,” and convinced enough others, to preserve the slave system, if there’d been enough of them working on the problem. But it doesn’t look good for Christianity.

    Either way, if we look at individuals, it seems clear that some varieties of Christianity did cause some individuals to be pro-slavery and other varieties caused others to be anti-.

    If all those people had been raised atheists instead, likely many of them would have turned out differently in effectively random ways, and which ones went which way would often depend on other details of the particujlar atheistic they were raised in they were raised in, just as it actually depended on details of the Christian cultures they were raised in.

    That system would pick often pick different individuals to turn into abolititionists or whatever than the Christian system actually did.

    So it’s true that Christianity caused some people to be abolitionists, but it’s also true that it prevented some others from being abolitionists, who would have been abolitionists under a different system, such as an atheistic one.

    I would say that the effects of religion on individuals and groups can fairly often be good, and fairly often bad. I think the net effects of religion in the big picture are mostly a wash but probably somewhat negative overall.

    But back to MLK.

    I’d say that it’s likely that MLK’s activism was positively influenced by the particular varieties of Christianity he was raised in and worked within, and a combination of such influences (and various circumstances) may have been absolutely critical to him becoming the important leader he did. If he’d been raised in some random atheist way, he likely wouldn’t have become a preacher, and thus not a leader, and never been a major social reformer.

    That’s likely because any system ends up “picking winners,” who are in the right place at the right time, given the situations the system creates—that system may have created that particular winner, and that may be good in itself, but it may not say much in favor of that system. Some other system would likely pick different winners, putting different people in the right place at the right time to have comparable or better effects.

    You have to realize that even if Christianity “created MLK,” by amping up his innate sense of justice and putting him in a good place at a good time, it also destroyed a bunch of other potential leaders’ prospects.

    Even if Christianity has no net effect on social justice, or a generally negative one, it shouldn’t be surprising at all if in a Christianity-dominated social context, the leading social reformers would be not only Christian but heavily influenced by Christianity. Christianity tends to promote such people at the expense of others. A Humanist atheist likely couldn’t have done what MLK did, in that place at that time, because his audiences’ Christianity would have alienated them from him.

    Giving Christianity big credit for MLK is rather like giving the amazing Russian athletic system big credit for training winning athletes, only to find out that those athletes have a big edge because most of the judges are Russian, and give Russian athletes extra points for being Russian.

    The individual Russians who win such rigged competitions may indeed be extraordinary, and may in fact be profoundly positively influenced by the Russian training system—because inevitably they’re the ones who can thrive best in that context.

    None of that should be even a little bit surprising, or taken as evidence that the Russian training system is a particularly good one—different Russian people would likely have done as well under a different Russian system, and if the game wasn’t rigged in favor of Russians, people from different countries with still other systems would likely win more often than Russions.

    The question of whether Christianity made MLK the effective social reformer he was is thus not the really important question.

    The really important question is what situation you’re comparing to, and what the outcome would have been, and whether the job would have gotten done bette or sooner, by someone in that situation.

    If we’d had a bunch of atheists instead of a bunch of Christians, would that system have worked toward racial equality faster or slower than a Christian one? I think probably faster, but I could be wrong. Would it have created secular equivalents of MLK? Probably, if it needed them, I think.

    I think Stedman had a subtler point about MLK than just giving the credit to Christianity, though.

    One question is whether people like us should be appreciative of people like MLK and Gandhi, and willing to work with them toward shared goals like social justice.

    Yes, of course. People like us did work with those guys.

    Stedman makes it sound like you can’t both be a New Atheist and work with liberal religious people toward shared goals like social justice.

    He’s wrong. Most of us who want to work on social justice issues are able to put aside the religion issue to work with religious people, while we’re doing that work. And that’s good.

    It doesn’t mean we should self-censor in other contexts, and refrain from criticizing religion very broadly—including MLK’s and Gandhi’s versions of religion.

    We may agree that those religious guys did good stuff. We may even agree that the ways those guys did good stuff was crucially dependent on their particular religiosity.

    That doesn’t oblige us to suck up to their religions, even the nicest and most pro-social versions.

    We can think–and I do–that even if MLK’s and Gandhi’s particlar versions of their religions were essential to the way they did good things, that doesn’t mean their religions or their specific versions of them aren’t bad on the whole, or that they are worthy of any particular “respect.”

    We know the game is rigged in favor of people like them over people like us, because the judges are mostly religious like them, so their admittedly quite admirable successes aren’t evidence for what Stedman seems to think they are—that religion deserves a lot of credit and respect because it does a lot of good stuff.

    Stedman seems to want us to suck up to the Russian judges, and show a special respect for the Russianness so prized by those Russian judges.

    Sorry, no. Ew.

  256. 256
    lereddit

    SO BRAVE!!!

  257. 257
    jonisa

    Thank you for your condescension, Bruce. As an atheist, I’m glad to finally learn know who I do and don’t respect. I’m glad that you’re so sure that because I agree with you on things like the importance of science and the evils of religion, I agree with you on faitheists. (That is such a stupid word. Faitheist. Horrible branding.) I’ glad that the word ‘atheist’ has been redefined to mean ‘people who agree with Bruce Gorton’.

    There’s a fourth group, consisting of people who don’t like your take *and* who don’t like Stedman’s, either. Some of these people respect Stedman and don’t respect you.

    There’s a fifth group. People who think religion is harmful, but that their feminism, anti-racism, reason, environmentalism, and embrace of science are more important than their atheism and fighting religious fights. They do good work on those fronts, both when the racism, misogyny, and irrationality are religiously motivated and (and this happens!) when they are not religiously motivated.

    There’s a sixth group, too. These people don’t turn everyone they disagree with into the Other, into Them. They realize that people aren’t divided into mutually exclusive disjoint subsets consisting of People Bruce Agrees With, People Bruce Likes, and Irrelevant People.

    There are all sorts of groups of atheists! Some of them even consist of people who don’t break the atheist population into simple, wrong, mutually exclusive groupings and write stupid posts.

  258. 258
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    #260… that’s me. That’s my in-depth response to all this.

    Bruce is wrong about the racism, but right about everything else.

    In my opinion, of course…

  259. 259
    Nate

    So let me get this straight – as an atheist, we’re supposed to be anti-theist? What else are we “supposed” to believe? For atheists, some of you sure seem to be fairly theistic in your beliefs. And you want to crucify (figuratively, not Jay-style) someone for trying to remind everyone to be decent people? No thank you — this is not what I signed up for as an atheist.

  260. 260
    collinmerenoff

    So you argue against being civil, with a civil argument! You have just accomplished what you claim is impossible: using civility as a weapon. Just like MLK and Ghandi did. I’m not surprised MLK fought side-by-side with atheists. I suppose he also fought side-by-side with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, UFOists, etc. He fought for equality, a virtue. Now we’re supposed to be post-modern and rename it “accomodation”, a vice? You’re no better than a Teabagger!

  1. 261
    Reap Paden is another Mencken, or even Hitchens | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] But he tries! [...]

  2. 262
    Bruce Gorton’s Bollocks: More Straw Stedman

    [...] when I do not, both in private and in public. I do not, as commenter “Nathaniel Frein” put it over at Butterflies & Wheels, “happily circle-jerk Stedman” at every opportunity (and, haha, I see what you did [...]

  3. 263
    Religion, Faitheists, and Racism… Three of My Least-Favorite Things | Atheism, Music, and More…

    [...] posted a guest post by Bruce Gorton going on about why he hates Faitheists. A faitheist is essentially an atheist who argues for “politeness”in atheist/ religious [...]

  4. 264
    Quaresima per atei? - UAAR Ultimissime

    [...] Stedman è impegnato nel movimento ‘interfedi’, altro tema “caldo” nel mondo ateo Usa: l’obiettivo del movimento è quello di trovare una base morale comune con i credenti più aperti e disponibili al dialogo — di certo, non quelli integralisti o che diffamano gli atei — per costruire un mondo migliore. Stedman critica quegli atei che considera poco rispettosi e aperti e altri umanisti, dal canto loro, contestano il suo approccio troppo accomodante ed ‘ecumenico’. [...]

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