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Greta Interviewed by Chris Mooney on “Point of Inquiry” Podcast

And more fun for podcast fans! I did an interview yesterday with Chris Mooney on the Center for Inquiry’s “Point of Inquiry” podcast, talking about my new book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless.

It’s a really interesting conversation, I think. We disagree about a lot of things, but it’s a civil and friendly talk, with more areas of agreement than I was expecting. We talk about anger as a driving force behind the atheist movement; how the image of atheists as angry gets used against us (and how this has happened with every other powerful social change movement); how emotion is necessary for reason to function; how anger can be used in a social change movement; the limitations of anger; the goals of the atheist movement; whether religion is necessary for human society; whether atheists will be able to build alternative communities to religious ones; and more. Check it out!

Comments

  1. gwen says

    I will have to listen just to hear your interview. I stopped subscribing to POI when Moony, Price and (can’t remember the third person) took over.

  2. GBJames says

    Good interview.

    Moony seems desperate to show that atheists should refrain from confronting religion directly, although he was relatively less stridently anti-strdency here. The problem is that he is never able to provide any evidence that polite accommodation actually works. There’s lots of evidence that atheism has made huge strides as a movement since the strident/shrill/angry books by Harris, Dawkins and the rest. Maybe he’s coming slowly around.

  3. says

    Greta, that was the best pummeling of the accomodationalist viewpoint I’ve ever heard. I think even Mooney had to concede that your points made far more sense than his did. This is not to imply that you were ‘angry’ or confrontational. You just did an excellent job of making your case. So, thanks!

  4. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Moony seems desperate to show that atheists should refrain from confronting religion directly, although he was relatively less stridently anti-strdency here. The problem is that he is never able to provide any evidence that polite accommodation actually works.

    I’d always assumed the insistence that confrontation is death for the movement was just wishful thinking by people who personally dislike conflict enough to have their priorities completely skewed by trying to avoid it, but not enough to actually hesitate before sidestabbing their ostensible allies.

  5. says

    The beginning of a transcript. I’ll try and do more later.

    ————-

    Point of Inquiry interview; Monday, May 14, 2012

    CM: So, Greta Christina, welcome to Point of Inquiry.

    GC: Thank you so much for having me.

    CM: You bet. I really enjoyed the book, and let me just say, I mean, you are a really powerful, emotional and witty writer. Can I just say that? You know, because I really enjoy — it’s really funny to read this book.

    GC: Oh, of course you can say that, thank you.

    CM: It’s great to have you on the show. We probably don’t agree about everything when it comes to how to get across the message of reason and rationality. I mean, I think we have the same cause, but some ways, the details may be different. But that’s what I want to get into. But I think you’ve really written a spirited and passionate book that captures the perspective that we’ve gotta sort of make the world a little bit more rational. And so, let’s talk about how to do this, and let’s talk about this theme of anger. You’ve written, you call it I think, a “litiny of rage”, and, there is a lot to be angry about, I mean, what makes you — you’re not angry at this present momement, I take it.

    GC: No, no, right now I’m in a pretty good mood.

    CM: OK. What do you think — Is anger the chief emotion of the atheist or secular movement, or the leading emotion?

    GC: I don’t think that there’s any one leading emotion of the atheist or secularist movement. I certainly think that anger is one of the emotions that many of us have, you know, we’re human beings, of course, we have a wide range of emotional responses to our expierence in the world, and anger is one of them. And certainly, I think, anger is what drives a lot of people to participate in the atheist movement, and to speak out about their atheism, to speak out against the harms that are done by religion, to organize, to do activism, to do visibility work, and so, to create a community and so on. I think that anger is certainly one of the chief emotions that’s driving us, but I wouldn’t argue that it’s the primary one.

    CM: It’s a term that certainly has some negativity associated with it; I mean, that’s stating the obvious. You feel that it’s productive, you don’t feel that, I mean, you don’t feel that it’s pejorative at all.

  6. Greta Christina says

    The beginning of a transcript. I’ll try and do more later.

    JesseW @ #6: Jesse, I very much appreciate the thought — but can you please check with CFI before proceeding with this? They have the copyright to the interview, not me, and I don’t know how they feel about a transcription being published… especially on a site that isn’t theirs. They may well be fine with it — in which case, thank you so much for being willing to do that! — but you should check first. Thanks.

  7. says

    @Greta — Argh, you’re right. Sorry about that. I’ll send them an email now, and certainly avoid publishing any more until I get confirmation back. Feel free to delete the partial transcript above if it seems appropriate.

  8. manfredschroeder says

    @Greta, I enjoyed the interview (and your book), thank you for speaking out.

    In my opinion, you’re right about anger and the atheist state of mind and movement; how can one _not_ be angry about this stuff? People who aren’t angry simply haven’t thought it through yet (I hope).

  9. Hamstur says

    Having just watched “Before Stonewall” and “After Stonewall” (in addition to a number of other documentaries about civil rights and free speech movements), it’s astounding to me that anyone with even a passing sense of history could hold the position that confrontation isn’t necessary and effective.

    What about a recent example – Does anyone seriously think the media would be talking about income inequality if not for OWS?

  10. Hamstur says

    Oops – forgot to say this bit: The interview was excellent, Greta! I love how you respectfully and forcefully disagree and then back up why you disagree. So it’s not just the content but also the method that I admire.

    Short form: You rock!

  11. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Having just watched “Before Stonewall” and “After Stonewall” (in addition to a number of other documentaries about civil rights and free speech movements), it’s astounding to me that anyone with even a passing sense of history could hold the position that confrontation isn’t necessary and effective.

    What about a recent example – Does anyone seriously think the media would be talking about income inequality if not for OWS?

    A passing sense of history is insignificant compared to a paralyzing fear of the boat being rocked.

  12. says

    Great interview! I think you made your case extremely well. I wish Mooney had done more to reply to what you actually said in response to his questions, but apart from that it was a fine discussion, I thought.

  13. DR says

    Mooney sounded like he was shaking when he was talking to you. Clearly a man who knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Mooney goes on and on about studies that show that confronting people with facts they don’t like causes them to get more defensive, but no one seems to ever look at what happens afterwards. The very fact that people get defensive shows that their beliefs are weak; defensiveness is a protection mechanism, by which people ensure that their identity doesn’t get threatened. But no one feels the need to defend their belief in gravity, or in the solidity of walls. Only weak beliefs need to be protected in this way.

    All the studies that Mooney ever refers to look at the immediate effects of a single challenge, never at the cumulative, long-term effects of repeated challenges. Using history as a guide here, it seems to me that if anyone were to actually study these, they’d find the exact opposite result: that repeated challenges from multiple sources ultimately leads to a breakdown of defenses.

    But Mooney is too in love with his accomodationist views to ever admit even to the plausibility of this conclusion. Instead, he just retreats and ignores the challenges while shaking in his boots like he did in this interview.

  14. Skeptic Jackal says

    This reminded me of the “debate” between PZ Myers and Chris Mooney in Point of Enquiry. The scare quotes are due to the stance of the “moderator”; she’s explicitly said that “sometimes people has a different way of expressing things that I agree about, but with different language and cultural foundations, and I intend to respect that” (referring to religious and pseudocientific views). The moderator was biased in favour of Mooney’s position! What kind of “debate” is that?

    (That’s why I stopped listening Point of Enquiry except for Greta’s interview. I really despise Mooney now.)

    I think that that sums up the accomodationist viewpoint in many cases: “respect” above reality.

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