Chris Stedman is at it again. Once more, he’s carping at atheists who dare to question the beliefs of the delusional theists he considers his dearest friends, his most important clients, and the people he wants to spend his life working among, the liberal Christians and Muslims. Unfortunately, he chose as his opening salvo a rather innocuous comment, which tells us exactly where the limits of his tolerance lie, and they’re pretty darned low. David Silverman of American Atheists said this:
The WTC cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross.
Yes. That sounds accurate to me. Do you have a problem with that, Stedman? It’s a very clear statement about the absurdity of sanctifying some random wreckage because it shares a trivial orthogonality with the simplistic religious symbol of Christians, and it’s good that Silverman was pointing that out — I want atheist leaders to be clear-headed and assertive.
But not Stedman. He seems to think that statement was divisive, and for backup, he cites Jon Stewart, who took offense at a statement of truth.
After sharing that statement, Stewart — speaking as if he were Silverman — added: “As President of the American Atheists organization, I promise to make sure that everyone, even those that are indifferent to our cause, will f-cking hate us.”
What neither Stedman nor Stewart mentioned, of course, was that Stewart is on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum board of directors, has a vested interest in the 9/11 museum, and that his organization was being sued by American Atheists for promoting sectarian religion in the museum.
But even ignoring that, I would ask both Stedman and Stewart this: was Silverman wrong? I don’t think so. What stings about that remark is the truth of it…that the museum and Stedman just want to let some stupid pareidolia have a place in a museum because it’s easier than actually pointing out the folly of it all. They don’t think it’s worth fighting for a reasonable response because it might alienate groups of unreasonable people.
It’s good to know that an atheist community under the thumb of Stedman would be asked to avoid comments as mild as Silverman’s, for fear of antagonizing Stedman’s favored clientele…the believers. It’s becoming obvious that Stedman also has a conflict of interest: he’s not really interested in working for atheism, but is more aligned with that weird pro-faith organization called Interfaith Youth Core. Could he please toddle off, work hard with them, and stop pretending to be one of us, please?
Stedman also does something unconscionable. Most of his post consists of a garbled, desperate twisting of a post by Greta Christina, on the different goals of the atheist movement. Greta is a firebrand, someone who promotes a strong, aggressive atheism, and somehow, Stedman mangles her words to pretend that it all somehow supports his position of passive-aggressive self-adulation. And he doesn’t even understand Greta’s argument, which doesn’t say much for Stedman’s ability to empathize with different positions. He simply doesn’t comprehend the New Atheist position at all.
I’ll help. As Greta says (and I’ve said before, too), there are a lot of different reasons to be an atheist, but the reasons of the New Atheists (and myself, specifically) are quite clear and simple. They’re so simple that stupidity can’t be Stedman’s excuse for not grasping them.
And here it is: our first priority is the truth.
When someone makes a statement about gods — and here’s where Stedman is really incomprehending, because we aren’t focused on just the fundamentalists, but also include the liberal religious persuasions in this criticism — the question right at the top of our heads is, “Is that true?”
Someone says, “God will cast you into eternal hellfire!”, and we wonder, “Really? Is that true? Can you back that up with evidence?”
Someone says, “God is love,” and it’s all the same to us. “Is that true? How do you know? Is there a way to confirm that, or even say it with less mush in your mouth?”
Somebody sees a couple of girders at right angles to one another in the rubble of the WTC towers, and thinks it’s worth putting in a museum. We ask, “Why? Does this make sense, even in the context of your own religion, that this tragedy is marked with a symbol of your faith?” It’s a good question. Jon Stewart didn’t answer it. Stedman sure as hell didn’t.
No, not Stedman. Stedman is one of those guys who’d happily sacrifice reality on the altar of let’s-just-get-along.
That’s not where I stand. If Stedman had actually read Greta’s post with comprehension, he’d know that there are a lot of different atheists out there, and some of us have science and an attitude of unrelenting criticism and doubt seared into us, right down to the bone. We’re not surrendering it to make some hippy-dippy narcissistic appeaser happy, or to reconcile jesus-worshippers to us. That’s a compromise we aren’t going to make. Especially when Stedman’s only alternative is to shut up about the incoherence of faith.