PZ has an amusing post about his latest excommunication from something he wasn’t part of in the first place.
Next time I’m waiting for a bus I think I’ll fantasize about all the groups and organizations I’m not part of that could excommunicate me. The Air Force. Focus on the Family. The League of Left-handed Botanists. God-lovers United for Cheese-flavored Dog Food.
Read PZ’s post for the full entertainment package, but I just want to poke at the excommunication a little myself because it’s so…classic.
It’s handed down by the Secular Policy Institute, which started life as the Global Secular Institute (which was so funny because it was neither global nor an institute) and then morphed into something else and then morphed into the Secular Policy Institute. Maybe in a few months it will be the Interfaith Doughnut Factory. Anyway…they don’t write any better than they did under the original name. That’s funny too, in a way, since they don’t do anything else detectable – you’d think they would bother to get the writing done properly.
The secular movement has a problem, in that some of our foremost leaders get media attention by causing controversy. While this helps them draw in followers, it causes an atmosphere of infighting in the secular community that hinders us from partnering, takes our eye off the ball of important issues, and makes us look crankypants to outsiders. No wonder the stereotype of a secular person is condescending and angry.
I know. I told them some of that when they started (as the Global thing). Dawkins on Twitter for instance; he’s notorious. He keeps getting into the papers in the UK for saying absurd things on Twitter.
On the other hand I hate that word “infighting” because it always means pesky feminists messing up all the nice smooth atheism by objecting to sexist bullshit. Also…”crankypants”? Crankypants? This is a serious Statement, not a blog post. It’s a serious, professional statement by a serious, professional organization.
At the Secular Policy Institute, we know that the problem comes from who we partner with, in two ways.
First, we want to positively partner with anyone who will work with us, including religious organizations. We don’t bash religion and we seek to partner with everyone. This prevents doors from closing with politicians and other big decision-makers. We even have several churches in our coalition because plenty of liberal churches support our goals of separating of church and state, and ending discrimination against nonbelievers.
That’s some really awful writing. But more substantively – what do they mean they “seek to partner with everyone”? Everyone? The Vatican? The OIC? White supremacist organizations? Concerned Women for America? Tobacco lobbyists?
No, apparently not everyone, because they promptly specify liberal churches. So don’t say everyone then. Think while you write; it helps a lot.
Second, we also avoid partnering in some situations. We believe the secular movement should stop rewarding those who cause discord. Why are “shock jock” bloggers invited to lecture at major secular conferences?
Oh bloggers! So they don’t mean Dawkins after all. They mean people like me.
Of course they primarily mean PZ, since this is an excommunication of him, but they also mean people like me. They ask why we’re invited by way of saying we shouldn’t be invited. Fair enough. I don’t think anyone should pay attention to the Secular Policy Institute, and they don’t think people like me should be invited to talk at conferences. Ain’t this country great?
Freedom of speech is a confusing issue, but it means that each person can speak freely through his or her own channel. It does not mean that angry voices have a right to dominate unmoderated discussions on our own Facebook pages and forums. Perhaps as a community we are responsible for leading a cultural tone and guiding people towards constructive debate.
See what I mean about the bad writing? Do they make the interns do all the work?
Apparently we are not alone in wanting to look more professional as a movemnent to the outside world. This week, SPI coalition member Atheist Ireland publicly dissociated itself from blogger PZ Myers in an open letter.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel that strident internal criticism makes us stronger, or that our generosity to be inclusive to all voices is being taken advantage of? Let us know on our Facebook page and on Twitter.
Hmmmm good question. Is their generosity to be inclusive to all voices being taken advantage of? After all, if it weren’t for them, PZ and I would be unable to be shock-jock bloggers at all, and here we are taking advantage of that generosity.
Oh wait, no we’re not, because no we wouldn’t. We don’t depend on them at all in any way in order to blog. They have nothing to do with it. Zip, zilch. It’s the same with Atheist Ireland – it can’t excommunicate PZ because he was never a member of it. This business of “disassociating” is just trying to make “I hate you I hate you I hate you!!!” look official and important. I don’t think many people are fooled.