Stedman being Stedman

Oh, christ, Chris Stedman has an excerpt from his book Faitheist on Salon. It’s classic Stedman, and classic accommodationism: it’s all about Stedman and how awful atheists are. He does a lot of humble bragging — he goes to a party with a bunch of cold, dead-eyed atheists who treat him dismissively, but hey, his socks have holes in them and he’s sad about how rude atheists are! — and he “quotes” a lot of nameless atheists who say unkind things about religion. His message is that atheism is toxic, and you can’t help but feel that it’s all about how they don’t love Chris Stedman and his wise appreciation of the deepitiness of faith enough.

But don’t you worry about Stedman! After his brutal manhandling by the godless zombies of atheism, he just scurries off to his “weekly religion class at Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, a Jesuit Catholic-run program for priests, nuns, and lay leaders”, where everyone is loving and tolerant and most importantly, appreciative of Stedman.

It’s something I’ve noticed before in the conflicts between New Atheists and these accommodationists. We’re willing to say that their softer approach is part of the spectrum of tools we need to use to overcome the folly of religion (heck, the UMM Freethinker’s group invited Stedman to speak here last year), and we don’t mind someone with different views working with us towards that, but the accommodationists have a completely different enemy. They consider religion their good buddy and pal, while the real target is…atheism. That shines through in Stedman’s excerpt — everywhere, he makes excuses for religion, while treating atheism as inexcusable.

There’s a reason Stedman gets no respect at atheist parties, and it isn’t his socks.

Larry Moran has got his number, though, and rips into him. Just go read that.

I’m not a believer any longer, but I do believe in respect. The “New Atheism” of Dawkins and Harris is simply toxic.

I’m getting awfully sick of this nonsense. What he really means is that it’s okay to passionately disagree about all kinds of social and political issues (gun control, socialism, capital punishment, quackery, political parties, abortion) but if atheists challenge the existence of god(s) that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Somehow, it’s “disrepectful” to declare that belief in supernatural beings is wrong and it means that intolerant atheists can’t, and won’t, work with anyone who disagrees with them because their position is “toxic.”

As a bonus, read the comments. Lately, I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions about why atheists who care about social justice and ethics (like Larry) don’t just become humanists. Larry explains why: he doesn’t find the specific goals of most formulations of humanism to be in alignment with his principles, so he doesn’t identify with them (he sees too much of a libertarian taint to most humanist definitions). In the future, when people pester me with those questions in which they are unable to see any difference between atheists and humanists, I’ll just send them to Sandwalk.


Ian Cromwell has about the same level of respect for Stedman as Moran. Must be the Canadianity.


Ophelia joins in the pigpile! And she’s not even Canadian!

Stedman: Right and Wrong on Islamophobia

Chris Stedman of the Harvard Humanists has a column at Religion Dispatches about atheism and Islamophobia that, in my view, gets some things right and some things wrong on the subject. The main problem, I think, is that he doesn’t make a distinction between criticism, even if it might be inaccurate, and hatred or bigotry. For instance, he quotes Dave Silverman and JT Eberhard:
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The Road Less Travelled Video – With PZ Myers, Chris Stedman, Leslie Cannold And Meredith Doig



The Road Less Travelled with Meredith Doig, PZ Myers, Chris Stedman, Leslie Cannold. “Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?”

On Monday 16 April 2012, the day after the fabulous Global Atheist Convention, we brought together three fiercely articulate freethinkers to argue the question “Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?” Chris Stedman is the first Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chapliancy at Harvard University. Chris writes for the Huffingtion Post, and Washington Post and his own blog, NonProphet Status. His book “Faitheist: how an atheist found common ground with the religious” will be published later in 2012. PZ Myers is professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, specialising in evolutionary biology. His blog “Pharyngula” has been listed by the journal Nature as the top-ranked blog written by a scientist. He is often cited as the ‘cranky curmudgeon’ of the freethought community. Leslie Cannold is an award-winning ethicist based at the University of Melbourne and noted as one of Australia’s most influential public intellectuals. A native New Yorker, she has made Australia home for the past 23 years. In addition to her prolific writing on a wide variety of ethical issues, her distinctive voice is heard across public and commercial radio. In 2011 Leslie was named Australian Humanist of the Year.
Moderated by Rationalist Society President Dr Meredith Doig, this spirited discussion will intrigue and entertain.

Token Skeptic Interview – On Faitheism With Chris Stedman

The latest Token Skeptic podcast is now out! Thanks to everyone who has been very patient while I’ve been busy with studies, checking that the podcast is ready to be released – and not keeping a very regular schedule with the show.

There should be two more Token Skeptic episodes at the very least coming out in April, but since there’s also at least three conferences in quick succession over the next two months (including my MC role at the Global Atheist Convention!) – well, I’m not promising a lot of action on the podcast-front until April is well and truly over.

I do have some news though – I’ll be involved with the Media 140 Digital Futures three day event here in Perth, but I’ll hold back on all the details until things have been properly finalised and some meetings and networking have been completed. I’ll certainly be focusing my podcasting efforts on producing more information about the tri-partite conference that’ll be happening from the 26-28th April in central Perth – called Digital Me, Digital Family and Digital Business.

Until then, enjoy the listen and remember to sign up for the Fringe events for the Global Atheist convention, especially the Road Less Traveled fringe event of the Global Atheist Convention, with PZ Myers, Chris Stedman, Leslie Cannold and Meridith Doig.

Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University and the Managing Director of State of Formation, a new initiative at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Chris received an MA in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. A graduate of Augsburg College with a summa cum laude B.A. in Religion, Chris is the founder and author of the blog NonProphet Status. His soon-to-be-released book is called Faitheist: How An Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious and he speaks on it regularly both by invitation and as a member of the Secular Student Alliance Speakers Bureau.

Here’s a partial transcript as to how the interview went (mp3 download here):

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The Stedman paradox

Ah, Chris Stedman. He visited Morris today, and gave a presentation at the Federated Church before sending people off to community activities. He was a very nice guy, and he told some very nice stories, and he was just generally nice. Nice. Lots of niceness. A whole afternoon of nice. So I will restrict myself to entirely constructive criticisms.

  • Why in a church? This was an event organized by Morris Freethinkers, representing their interest in promoting positive community interactions. I would have been more impressed if it were held in a secular venue, if it were made clear that these were atheists doing good, and challenging community Christians to join us. Instead, by putting it immediately under the umbrella of religion, the impression was made that we are following, not leading.

  • I’ve been in churches before, and this talk was indistinguishable from anything that might be said in a liberal Christian church anywhere: be kind, charity is rewarding, it’s good to help your fellow human beings. Aside from saying that he was an atheist a few times, there was nothing to make this talk stand out…absolutely nothing to explain why atheists also find virtue in kindness and charity and goodness. It does not make a case for atheism if you blend into the religious woodwork so thoroughly.

  • It didn’t help that, when describing his background, Stedman talked about being a religious studies major, a seminarian, doing interfaith work, hammering on his associations with the faithful. Oh, and by the way, he’s an atheist. Yeah? This is a guy who’s been neck-deep in Christianity his entire life, hasn’t removed himself from it at all but has made a career of immersing himself ever deeper in Jesus’ pisswater, and occasionally waves a tiny little flag that says “atheist” on it. I’d like to see Stedman actually challenge his audiences and make a real case for rejecting faith, while supporting good works, but I don’t think he could do it.

  • I was entirely sympathetic to the planned community activities (assisting in the art gallery in town, visiting the elderly, doing a highway cleanup), but I couldn’t do them as part of a church group, as a matter of principle. Who was going to get credit for this work? The church, of course. I will not and can not do that; it’s providing support for beliefs I consider contemptible. What would have been better is something to inspire freethinkers to do these works without the framework of a church. We are free of that bogus crap, let’s not promote the illusion that charity is part of religion.

  • Please don’t ask me to participate in anything held in a church again. It felt icky. I really don’t like temples to ignorance, even liberal ignorance.

I know the students mean well. I know the students want to do good for entirely secular reasons. What we need, though, are tools and ideas and inspiration to do so that don’t fall back on the trappings of religion, which simply reinforce the entirely false notion that morality is a function of the church. That’s how we got into this cultural trap in the first place, by perpetually promoting the belief that goodness equals godliness, and Stedman’s approach provides no escape hatch.

PZ Myers, Leslie Cannold, Chris Stedman – The Road Less Traveled Fringe Event

I’m going to see if I can get more information about what they’ll be talking about precisely – but here’s the details and tickets are going fast! Do get one if you’re around after the Global Atheist convention!

Can believers and atheists work together for the common good? Join Chris Stedman, PZ Myers & Leslie Cannold in conversation with Meredith Doig. An oficial fringe event of the 2012 Global Atheist Convention.

Monday, April 16, 2012 – 6:00pm until 8:00pm
Elisabeth Murdoch, University of Melbourne
Tickets: Standard $22, Students $12
Order online: http://roadlesstraveled.eventbrite.com/

It’s on the Monday AFTER the Global Atheist Convention, and if you’re unable to afford the event – especially if you are a student – this is a fantastic way of getting to see three presenters (with the MC Meredith Doig, who was at the 2010 GAC) with lots of discussion and interaction. With PZ and Chris and Leslie – for two hours! This is a real bargain, quite frankly!

Me vs. Chris Stedman

How do I get myself talked into these things? I have two events with the slithery Chris Stedman coming up: first, he’s speaking at the Midwest Science of Origins Conference in Morris next week. He’s scheduled for April Fools’ Day, so I’m hoping the student organizers are just going to hand him an exploding cigar and then put out his flaming hair with a swirlie…but I suspect they’re actually going to take him seriously and give him time to annoy me.

Second, the day after the Global Atheist Convention, as part of their fringe events, I’m speaking at this event: PZ Myers, Leslie Cannold, Chris Stedman – The Road Less Traveled, in which I’m supposed to talk about whether believers and atheists can work together for the common good. My answer is simple: sure they can, but faith isn’t in the common good, and we have to work against it.

You know, one of my concluding lines in my Reason Rally talk was that I want to be bad without god. And by bad, I mean defy the bogus religious morality that the majority want to impose on us, and fight against the status quo.

Talk about free speech but don’t mention Raif Badawi

See update at the end.

Chris Stedman wrote a public Facebook post a couple of days ago about a little misunderstanding between him and the people at The National, an English-language newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates. They invited him to write an opinion piece.

I decided to use this opportunity to look at what I think are the most constructive aspects of a UAE-sponsored UN resolution that calls for interfaith dialogue, free expression, and the open debate of ideas.

I would still rather see more secular dialogue (which of course religious people can perfectly well engage in) than interfaith dialogue (which excludes non-religious people). But if the UAE is a fan of free expression and the open debate of ideas that has to be a good thing. Maybe they can exert some pressure on their neighbors to let Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair out of prison.

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Into the secular tent

From a conversation Chris Stedman had with Phil Zuckerman about the rise in “nones” in the US and whether or not the pugnacity of people like Dawkins and Bill Maher is the chief cause:

CS: What are some of the most important things nontheists can do right now to support the growing number of nonreligious Americans? What should we prioritize?

PZ: In my opinion, the best thing atheists can do right now is to make the world a better place. That means fighting inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, and global warming. When life is hard—when people face suffering—religion tends to be strong; it offers comfort in the face of life’s troubles. But when life is more manageable and secure, people can find meaning and purpose in the here and now.

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It’s like asking, “if we remove the cancer, what will we replace it with?”

Philip Kitcher is interviewed about his new book, Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism. It sounds interesting, and I’ll probably pick it up…but two things annoyed me about the interview: the misrepresentation of the position of some New Atheists, and the religious apologetics. It’s nothing personal about Kitcher, but they’re just two things I bump into all the time, and it’s exasperating.

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