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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!

Comments

  1. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Was that supposed to read

    “Larry explains why: he doesn’t find the specific goals of most formulations of humanismatheism to be in alignment with his principles, so he doesn’t identify with them”

    ?
    That would make more sense.

  2. hexidecima says

    Stedman, and accomodationists like him, seem forget that respect is earned. There is no reason to respect religion or those who excuse it and wish it to have special priveledges. It is not “toxic” in the least to declare that the emperor has no clothes. It may make the sycophants who want to claim the clothes are there uncomfortable.

    Stedman strikes me as someone who is desperate to have any attention and if he can be the “good special atheist” to a bunch of theists, that’s good enough for him.

  3. wherearemybeets says

    Why do I get the feeling that if Stedman were around in 1955, he’d be “You’re on the bus. You’re going where you want. What’s the big deal about standing?”

  4. says

    While I really cannot fault the idea that most atheists are toxic douchebags and it would be a really great thing if there were more visible atheists that weren’t toxic douchebags and fewer that were… I don’t think Stedman actually mentioned anything about the douchebaggery problems currently plaguing the atheist movement in his article. Atheism’s douchebaggery problem–which is real, and enormous–has nothing to do with us not liking Chris Stedman enough.

  5. says

    humble bragging

    Perfect.

    ***

    I read Greta Christina’s book over the weekend. At one point, in listing the various problems with religious ecumenicalism in practice, she notes the very real tendency to form this community of tolerated* and celebrated religious equals at the expense of atheists, who are viewed as lesser. Stedman doesn’t just go along with this denigration but actively engages in it. It’s how he spends a lot of his time, in fact. He even promotes outright mischaracterizations like Karla McLaren’s.

    I feel a bit sorry for atheists who’ve bought into the religious prejudice that they lack something positive that comes from faith. The opposite is true: faith ensures alienated relationships with other beings and entities in the world, which is no small problem for humanists of any stripe.

    *She points out that of course it’s not true that they’re tolerant of all religion. They don’t tolerate the Taliban, for example, and they shouldn’t, but to be consistent with the respecting-all-faith-traditions rhetoric they’d really have to.

  6. Artor says

    I believe in respect too, but I don’t respect the drunken uncle who shows up at family gatherings, spouts his bigoted opinions to everyone, tries to start fights, and gets caught feeling up my pre-teen cousin behind the garden shed. The people who call out that shit and take steps to stop it are the ones that get my respect. The ones that make excuses for Uncle Bob & say, “He’s done so much good in the past, you shouldn’t criticize him,” get about as much respect as Uncle Bob himself.

  7. borax says

    I read this at Salon and I think it’s a bunch of bullshit. I do not think anyone actually told Stedman that he was a faitheist.
    As a side note,my favorite socks also have holes in them, so do the rest of my socks. Damn, I’m broke.

  8. says

    I had never heard the word “faitheist” before, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.

    I blushed and ran my hands through my short hair — a nervous habit — and cleared my throat, asking if it was intended to be an insult.

    “Yes,” he said without inflection. “There’s nothing worse than a ‘faitheist.’”

    It was my first experience with the atheist movement, and for at least a moment I thought it might be my last….

    The first use of “faitheist” I know of was in July of 2009, when Divalent won the contest at WEIT (I’m not linking to that blog, but it’s easy enough to find). Stedman’s first experience with the atheist movement was after July 2009?

  9. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I blushed and ran my hands through my short hair — a nervous habit — and cleared my throat, asking if it was intended to be an insult.

    How does anyone not see how extraordinarily vain and self-regarding he is? It’s thicker than lard for Christ’s sake.

  10. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    If tossing a couple of fucks in the direction of religious people “weakens our community’s claim that an ethical life is possible without a belief in God”, how on earth can he even talk to any of his religious friends considering what their religions have done and are still doing and supporting?
    Especially considering that
    a) violence and hate are parts of religious doctrine, while atheism has no such thing
    b) are we seriously comparing a “fuck you and the religion you rode in on” to violent acts committed in the name of religion (whichever, choose one)!?

  11. says

    I mean really, what are we supposed to say and do? I believe that God (whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean) does not exist. Obviously, if I say that, I am committing sacrilege or blasphemy or whatever the faithful want to call it, and they don’t like that. So I’m not allowed to say it?

    WTF?

  12. Matt Penfold says

    Now I would agree with Stedman that part of the atheist community is indeed toxic. However I doubt we would agree on what form that toxicity takes. The toxicity I see comes in the form of sexism and misogyny. Given Stedman is quite happy to work the Catholic Church, I suspect that he is not very concerned about respect for women.

  13. says

    Stedman’s first experience with the atheist movement was after July 2009?

    Huh. It might have been. If so, that’s a rather short and limited experience with a movement – much of it spent attacking it – to form the basis for a critical book.

  14. chigau (棒や石) says

    If Chris Stedman is such a big deal, why is there no Wikipedia article about him?
    I mean, almost everyone has a Wikipedia article.
    PZ does.

  15. pramod says

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

    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.

    With the obvious disclaimer that I don’t speak for Stedman, and I don’t claim to understand/refute all the diverse positions that “new atheists” hold on this topic, here’s what I believe Stedman is arguing for because I believe it’s somewhat close to what I think.

    I certainly don’t think it’s okay to let religious people dictate terms on social and political issues and I don’t accept any religious justification any law or social practice. It is fine to tell religous people that we don’t accept their religious justifications. I also don’t think anyone is suggesting that we hide our atheism just so religious people feel better about it.

    Things I don’t like:

    We shouldn’t stereotype religious people as being dumb – because this is clearly not true. I’m not saying *you* are doing it, but this happens all the time: r/atheism is a good example.

    We shouldn’t use religious practices to stereotype or insult religions/religious people in non-constructive ways. I see posts everyday that insult Islam because some Muslims did something dumb. I believe there’s a lot of shit written in pretty much every religious book and if Muslims are doing dumb things, it’s more likely because they are undereducated, underemployed, lack economic opportunity, lack the privilege of living in a developed country with its attendant freedoms *and* are being discriminated against and *not* because they’re just dumb and follow a dumb religion.

    It’s fine to say, “I believe women need to get an education because I believe all humans deserve equal opportunity and the emancipation of women is strongly correlated with economic and social progress. So, I think you should take a progressive interpretation of what your holy book says on this matter.” It’s not fine to say, “You muslims are medeival dumbfucks who don’t deserve to live in modern society.” This only antagonizes muslims themselves and serves to strengthen an already discriminatory and racist power structure that dehumanizes muslims.

    We shouldn’t “pre-judge” people based on their religious affiliations. This is just common sense. Treat a person based on how they actually behave rather what you think they think their religious book says.

    OK, that’s all I have time for now. Feel free to rip into my argument and since I’m still close to the fence on this one having being at the wrong end of religious practices myself, you might even change my mind!

  16. redpanda says

    I like the way PZ said “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.”

    Some people respond better to the forceful arguments of the new atheists, and others respond better to atheists who treat religious beliefs with undeserved respect while simply living as an example that atheism doesn’t lead to immorality. We need both types of people.

  17. Waffler, of the Waffler Institute says

    and he “quotes” a lot of nameless atheists who say unkind things about religion.

    Well, does attribute one quote, to a certain PZ somebody…

    It was a tiresome essay. Stedman’s thesis seems to be “getting along is swell”. Deep.

  18. Brownian says

    It’s not fine to say, “You muslims are medeival dumbfucks who don’t deserve to live in modern society.” This only antagonizes muslims themselves and serves to strengthen an already discriminatory and racist power structure that dehumanizes muslims.

    StevOR?

    I believe this is addressed to bigots like you.

  19. Q.E.D says

    Steadman, the High School years.

    Steadman was one of the Geeks in school who wished he were in with the Jocks. His Geek friends said, “don’t bother, those people may be popular but they are douchebags; we’re your real mates”.

    During a routine bullying session when his Geek mates were being verbally and physically abused, Steadman kept his head down, said nothing, and wasn’t picked on.

    He then learned that if he laughed with the cool kids while they abused the Geeks, the Jocks tended to leave him alone. The next time he met the Jocks he betrayed a geek’s crush on a Jock girl which the Jocks used to humiliate the boy mercilessly all term.

    Finally he figured out that if he publicly joined in on abusing Geeks, he was tolerated by the Jocks. Nothing can eradicate the Geek stain, but Steadman figured out that if he flattered and toadied up to the Jocks enough, they let him tag along. He hoped that one day he would be invited to a Jock keg party.

    Unsurprisingly, the Geeks figured out that Steadman was a total douchebag early on when he was selling them down the river.

    Later in life, Steadman turned out to have no friends and to this day complains a lot about how Geeks are so mean to him.

    Steadman did finally get invited to a Jock keg party of sorts, it was called an “interfaith conference”.

  20. anteprepro says

    I believe there’s a lot of shit written in pretty much every religious book and if Muslims are doing dumb things, it’s more likely because they are undereducated, underemployed, lack economic opportunity, lack the privilege of living in a developed country with its attendant freedoms *and* are being discriminated against and *not* because they’re just dumb and follow a dumb religion

    Treat a person based on how they actually behave rather what you think they think their religious book says.

    Yeah, here’s the thing: You’re absolutely right that even if there were an excess of dumbevil deeds by Muslims, it wouldn’t make Islam especially dumbevil. You are absolutely right when saying that pretty each every religious book says stupid shit. You lose the plot a bit when you think that we absolutely cannot say anything about a religious person’s behavior based on their stated religious beliefs. Some people go a bit too far, obviously, and some people do ignore the factors that you mention. But that’s no excuse to do the opposite, and ignore religion as a factor completely.

  21. says

    A good rule of thumb for what to say or what not to say is whether it’s true.

    It’s not true, for example, that Muslims are stupid, evil, or not deserving of the same rights as anyone else by virtue of being Muslim. Nor are Christians, or members of any other religious group or religious people generally. So don’t say that.

    Is it true that specific religious people and religious beliefs are wrong and damaging? Sure, demonstrably so. So say that, without apology.

    And then flatly reject being told that you must apologize for telling the truth.

  22. sebastianmarch says

    Do any of these people who complain about how “toxic” the so-called New Atheists are cite examples of old atheists they consider to be respectful of religion? Because I’ve got some books on my shelf by old atheists that are pretty darn caustic.

    By “toxic,” I think what they really mean is “popular.”

  23. jose says

    I bet the religious would be delighted if all atheists were this way: appreciative of religion, invites atheists to churches and mosques, won’t stop criticizing atheism, not in any any a threat to the political power of religion… The Good Atheist, in the same line as SE Cupps.

  24. Q.E.D says

    Pramod @ 19 I have some issues with your disclaimer

    I certainly don’t think it’s okay to let religious people dictate terms on social and political issues

    They do.

    and I don’t accept any religious justification any law or social practice.

    religious justifications are in fact the underpinnings for a vast array of laws and social practices including: contraception, abortion, climate change, sunday closing hours, blue laws, parking regulations, foreign relations, 1st Amendment violations, not teaching science, constant professions of faith by elected officials, religious slogans on money, pledges and public buildings, not teaching sex education etc etc

    It is fine to tell religous people that we don’t accept their religious justifications.

    Religious people routinely, chronically and successfully use religious justifications for just about everything. See non-exhaustive list above. They emphatically reject that it “is fine to tell them we don’t accept religious justifications”

    I also don’t think anyone is suggesting that we hide our atheism just so religious people feel better about it.

    If by “hide our atheism” you mean that the religious expect atheists to recognize that they have “special knowledge, are better people, have a keener sense of morality, have a spiritual quality we lack, know how to order society, are magic and immortal” and that they should never be seriously questioned on these facts, then yes, that is exactly what what the religious expect and what accomodationists accomodate.

    Given what you think is and isn’t ok in dealings with the religious you should be ok with the following statement:

    Ratzinger personally, and the Vatican in general, covered up for and continues to harbour an international paedophile ring and until that has been satisfactorily dismantled and prosecuted, the Pope and the Princes of the Church have no moral or any other kind of authority and can go fuck themselves before I will listen to their views on anything involving ethics, the law, who should be US President or anything at all really. Oh and they should loose their tax exempt status for blatant political activity and the US should suspend diplomatic relations of any sort until the whole paedophile thing has been properly prosecuted.

    Steadman will never say any such thing.

  25. Q.E.D says

    oh dear made a hash of blockquotes, sorry.

    Pramod @ 19 I have some issues with your disclaimer

    I certainly don’t think it’s okay to let religious people dictate terms on social and political issues

    They do.

    and I don’t accept any religious justification any law or social practice.

    religious justifications are in fact the underpinnings for a vast array of laws and social practices including: contraception, abortion, climate change, sunday closing hours, blue laws, parking regulations, foreign relations, 1st Amendment violations, not teaching science, constant professions of faith by elected officials, religious slogans on money, pledges and public buildings, not teaching sex education etc etc

    It is fine to tell religous people that we don’t accept their religious justifications.

    Religious people routinely, chronically and successfully use religious justifications for just about everything. See non-exhaustive list above. They emphatically reject that it “is fine to tell them we don’t accept religious justifications”

    I also don’t think anyone is suggesting that we hide our atheism just so religious people feel better about it

    If by “hide our atheism” you mean that the religious expect atheists to recognize that they have “special knowledge, are better people, have a keener sense of morality, have a spiritual quality we lack, know how to order society, are magic and immortal” and that they should never be seriously questioned on these facts, then yes, that is exactly what what the religious expect and what accomodationists accomodate.

    Given what you think is and isn’t ok in dealings with the religious you should be ok with the following statement:

    Ratzinger personally, and the Vatican in general, covered up for and continues to harbour an international paedophile ring and until that has been satisfactorily dismantled and prosecuted, the Pope and the Princes of the Church have no moral or any other kind of authority and can go fuck themselves before I will listen to their views on anything involving ethics, the law, who should be US President or anything at all really. Oh and they should loose their tax exempt status for blatant political activity and the US should suspend diplomatic relations of any sort until the whole paedophile thing has been properly prosecuted.

    Steadman will never say any such thing.

  26. says

    #18: The argument from Wikipedia is so tiresome and irrelevant.

    Everyone knows the real cool kids are highlighted on Conservapædia. There are pages and pages and pages dedicated to me there.

  27. mythbri says

    It’s fine to say, “I believe women need to get an education because I believe all humans deserve equal opportunity and the emancipation of women is strongly correlated with economic and social progress. So, I think you should take a progressive interpretation of what your holy book says on this matter.” It’s not fine to say, “You muslims are medeival dumbfucks who don’t deserve to live in modern society.” This only antagonizes muslims themselves and serves to strengthen an already discriminatory and racist power structure that dehumanizes muslims.

    Looking at this from a feminist perspective, I agree with you. Getting a group of people abandon and denounce their religion entirely is much less important to me than getting them to stop using it to justify discrimination, equality, and law.

    Western feminists need to support the feminists that are actually there on the ground, trying to do that work. I don’t really care if those feminists reject their religion and/or their belief in God if it improves the circumstances of the women in those regions. I will take practical victories that are demonstrably beneficial over idealogical victories that are of dubious merit.

    Since I’m an atheist, of course I would believe that removing religion from the equation would be the right way to solve these problems. I believe it’s the right way for me, anyway. But it is absolutely not my place to tell the women in question what’s best for them – that’s been a problem for feminism in the past, and it’s still true today. I will absolutely lend them my support, though.

  28. tsig says

    Stedman’s lying about the whole thing. He never gives any specifics about the conference. The party is pure literary invention, he’s overawed by the rich people and the furniture, has holes in his socks and is called names.

    Same ol, same ol, cold, hard, stuck-up atheists vs warm, soft, humble theists.

  29. chigau (棒や石) says

    PZ
    I don’t see Stedman there either.
    He seems to exist only on his own webpage.

  30. nms says

    I blushed and ran my hands through my short hair — a nervous habit — and cleared my throat, asking if it was intended to be an insult.

    It’s like bad Chris Steadman fanfiction, written by Chris Steadman’s biggest fan.

  31. tsig says

    @Ing

    Yes, I also left out the ritual of signing your name in blood in respect to Satan but I thought that I’d spare the tender eyes of the posters here. :)

  32. anteprepro says

    It’s like bad Chris Steadman fanfiction, written by Chris Steadman’s biggest fan.

    And yet it didn’t include even one poorly written, implausible sex scene. Guess Stedman isn’t that big of a fan of himself.

  33. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    The comments are quite amusing. Here’s one directed to Larry:

    and Larry when you speak of rationality, you’re really borrowing it from the Bible since its a Christian virtue, look it up

    That immensely silly (and wrong headed) comment made me smile.

  34. says

    And yet it didn’t include even one poorly written, implausible sex scene.

    If I recall correctly, the excerpt that was available online last year (seems to be gone now) was about his first kiss. Josh would probably remember reading it, too.

  35. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    If I recall correctly, the excerpt that was available online last year (seems to be gone now) was about his first kiss.

    He kissed a Catholic and he liked it?

  36. says

    The self-regard throughout just drives me up the wall, as does the manipulative quality.

    I keep trying to be fair to Stedman, but this “poor shy humble blushing holes-in-socks always hungry tentative bashful kindhearted awkward me” routine just makes it impossible.

  37. anteprepro says

    If I recall correctly, the excerpt that was available online last year (seems to be gone now) was about his first kiss. Josh would probably remember reading it, too.

    Wow. That is all.

  38. Sastra says

    I imagine that any legitimate scientist who wants to show up at pseudoscientific conferences, meetings, and talks would be warmly accepted and welcomed on the same terms: state only the simple fact that you disagree with them — and don’t get into any of the reasons why.

    Don’t try to change anyone’s mind. And then make a big show about how you are you and they are them and isn’t it wonderful how you get along. We need people asking the Big Questions, we need people not afraid to think outside the box. Alternative medicine, alternative history, alternative physics, alternative biology share the common ground of medicine, history, physics, and biology. We need to focus on what we share.

    The Mainstream Scientist who can still appreciate those who are open-minded and on the cutting-edge will thus become very popular. It’s reassuring. They are so proud of that scientist. Not one of them, of course — no, they haven’t yet made that paradigm leap. But see how inclusive Science should be!

  39. jose says

    It seems to be whenever atheists want to approach religion without criticizing it, religion swallows them up. Look at Biologos. That organization was supposed to bring evangelicals to science; instead, they ended up defending the literal existence of Adam and Eve.

    Is religion less powerful now than it was when Stedman began his work? Because that’s the case for the new atheists.

    Also, Stedman’s point that new atheism has been harmful (driving people away from secularism) is an empirical statement, and it’s been proven wrong.

  40. carlie says

    I have a patched hole in the sock that I’m wearing at work right now.

    I’d happily accept a plate of mystery snacks and not be snippy about them.

  41. Louis says

    Was that nice enough? I didn’t say “fuck”. OH FUCK I SAID IT! FUCK….erm…FUCK….oh no I can’t stop FUCK…FUCK…

    Poot.

    Louis

  42. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    I’d happily accept a plate of mystery snacks and not be snippy about them.

    Me too, as long as I can be reasonably sure that I won’t suddenly discover what the mystery was while I’m hugging the toilet.

  43. pramod says

    @Ing:Intellectual Terrorist “Starting Tonight, People will Whine”

    I haven’t read a lot of what Stedman has written and I don’t claim to know what he thinks or speak for him. I did read this article though and I found myself in agreement with what he was saying, in particular the quote about Dawkins and Hitchens, who have said needlessly antagonistic things about Islam. One example is Dawkins calling Islam an unmitigated evil, another is, this tweet. I certainly think such things are toxic.

  44. carlie says

    Me too, as long as I can be reasonably sure that I won’t suddenly discover what the mystery was while I’m hugging the toilet.

    Something about that part really gets to me. It’s never ok to diss what someone offers you as food (at least not when they’re offering everyone the same thing). That’s basic manners in every single culture that exists, I’m pretty sure.

  45. carlie says

    Clarification – what gets me is the way Stedman described it, not what you just said. I was using that as a hook to get back to that topic.

  46. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I certainly think such things are toxic.

    Whereas I think your accommodationism is toxic and has no evidence it works. Check.

  47. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    My worry? That because we’ve been so bogged down with fighting legitimately horrible atheists (and lord, have we ever) that some people are going to start thinking Chris is “nice” and “right” simply because he sounds nicer by comparison.

    He is not nice, and he is not honest. Horrific, entrenched misogyny in the community is a real problem. But it does not make Chris Stedman an honest interlocutor. I’m already seeing what look to be signs of this conflation and it disturbs me. Not enough to make a big case out of or call anyone out (I’m not trying to be passive aggressive, believe me), but I’m keeping alert.

  48. says

    I had gone with optimism and excitement…I pictured myself saying with a well-meaning grin, “Hey, I work with religious people every day and my atheism is stronger than ever!” I hoped I might even serve as a bridge between two communities that are so often pitted against one another, to offer my insights as a nonreligious person working in an interfaith environment.

    This is (allegedly) his very first ever experience with the atheist movement, his very first ever atheist event, and yet he goes in excited not about learning about and from the community and the people involved but about educating them from his vast store of insight. That says a lot.

    I shifted my weight from one side to another — another nervous habit — and picked at an hors d’oeuvre that I thought might be some kind of cheese.

    I have to know what this unidentifiable kind of cheese is.

    And I have to wonder why he was drinking a mint julep.

  49. pramod says

    @Q.E.D

    Religious people routinely, chronically and successfully use religious justifications for just about everything. See non-exhaustive list above. They emphatically reject that it “is fine to tell them we don’t accept religious justifications”

    I’m not sure what you want me to say about this. I don’t accept religious justifications for moral/ethical questions and I do acknowledge that the society we live gives undue privilege to religion on these matters. I think the way we ought to change this is point out to religious people that their books have been wrong in the past on questions of ethics and are likely wrong today as well. Calling them names is in *my* opinion unproductive and needlessly antagonistic. I recognize that I don’t have an evidence-based argument supporting this, but AFAICT neither do “New Atheists”.

    An especially important point here is to be aware of one’s privilege when talking to religious people. I am strongly against privileged atheists using religion as an excuse to bash those who are less privileged than themselves.

    Given what you think is and isn’t ok in dealings with the religious you should be ok with the following statement:

    Ratzinger personally, and the Vatican in general, covered up for and continues to harbour an international paedophile ring and until that has been satisfactorily dismantled and prosecuted, the Pope and the Princes of the Church have no moral or any other kind of authority and can go fuck themselves before I will listen to their views on anything involving ethics, the law, who should be US President or anything at all really. Oh and they should loose their tax exempt status for blatant political activity and the US should suspend diplomatic relations of any sort until the whole paedophile thing has been properly prosecuted.

    Steadman will never say any such thing.

    I am largely okay with this and as I said earlier, I don’t speak for Stedman and I don’t claim to know what he believes.

  50. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    And I have to wonder why he was drinking a mint julep.

    Because he wants to be Scarlett Fucking O’Hara.

    Seriously. He was totally not drinking a mint julep at a Cambridge party.

  51. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    carlie,

    I understand. I was just joking a bit.

    The way he describes the whole scene strikes me as so ridiculously made up that I can only joke about it. Fanfiction (as nms already noted) with Stedman as Gary Stu.

  52. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I haven’t read a lot of what Stedman has written and I don’t claim to know what he thinks or speak for him.

    I urge you to do so. There is both much more and far less to him than is apparent just from reading this excerpt. He has a track record that gives critics real reasons to view him with distrust. It’s not just tribalism.

  53. carlie says

    Beatrice – oh yes, I just realized I looked like I was writing about you and not him. :)

    This is (allegedly) his very first ever experience with the atheist movement, his very first ever atheist event, and yet he goes in excited not about learning about and from the community and the people involved but about educating them from his vast store of insight. That says a lot.

    Excellent point.

    He was totally not drinking a mint julep at a Cambridge party.

    And all the men were wearing tweed, and all the women were wearing pearls. Which they clutched at the sight of the holes in his pants, and at the way he was pawing over and dismantling his finger food before he ate it.

  54. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I am strongly against

    And I am strongly against your promotion of accommodationism. Check.

  55. says

    I’d arrived hoping to find a community bound by ethical and humanitarian ideals. Instead, I felt isolated and sorely discouraged.

    I’ll just let that speak for itself.

    …Emerson reminds us to be wary of casting our neighbors in a negative light.

    *cough*

  56. Ichthyic says

    Calling them names is in *my* opinion unproductive and needlessly antagonistic. </i.

    if you want to have honest debate, you should start by not erecting strawmen.

  57. Feline says

    It’s like bad Chris Steadman fanfiction, written by Chris Steadman’s biggest fan.

    Bad insertion fanfiction, written by someone who has never read the works that the Steadman character was inserted into.
    That’s why all other characters are both wooden and OOC.

  58. consciousness razor says

    Ing:

    On the Faithiest thing, I don’t believe that happened, Stedman is a horrible dialogue writer

    It might have worked better if his little fable had talking animals. Maybe just a couple. Not if there were poorly written sex scenes too, obviously. That would not work.

    It is hard to believe he didn’t hear about it first on the internet, where it originated, in at least one of the (endless and fairly boring) arguments he was involved in. I assume the point was that he wanted to make how it felt more personal, so whether that’s actually his first interaction with atheists and whether it happened as he described (including invented dialogue) probably doesn’t matter to him. I guess it also doesn’t matter that there’s a good reason to insult people for faitheist bullshit.

    What’s really hard is wrapping my head around the idea that this is from his book. It’s not some piece of shit article he threw together at the last minute or something. It’s a piece of shit excerpt from his fucking book. That’s got to be one shitty book.

    from Stedman:

    Several years ago, Harvard Humanist chaplain Greg Epstein wrote a book called “Good Without God,” and his thesis was a simple but important one: our society must move beyond the question of if one can be good without God to how this may be accomplished. I join Greg in wanting people to move beyond wondering whether I am a moral individual, [my emphasis]

    I suppose he means moving beyond the assumption he’s immoral because he’s an atheist; but that’s definitely an odd way to put it. How could we even start figuring out how to “accomplish” being good, if we don’t wonder whether we’re being good?

    but I also join him in a companion call to our own community: atheism must move beyond defining itself — both in thought and in practice — in opposition to religion.

    This is especially weird, because it’s got nothing to do with the rest of what he’s talking about. His whole schtick is that we need to respect religion. If he instead wants to make it about being against opposing religion, that’s not any kind of improvement.

    Some people obviously do have trouble navigating life as an atheist, or integrating atheism with their other needs. People want stuff like security, equality, tolerance, help when they’re in trouble, emotional and intellectual satisfaction, and so on. Those are the sort of reasons why it can’t simply be about a lack of belief: there’s little that can work for you and little to work for. If there weren’t much benefit for you, the rest of the group or society as a whole, there wouldn’t be much of a point for an atheist. (Of course, religions have such a stranglehold on our society that that’s often the only way some people can meet those needs, but that doesn’t make religion good.)

    But there’s no way to make that happen for atheists by respecting religions,* and I don’t see how it could be a good thing even if it would benefit the atheist movement.** It’s just a bizarre idea: if we respected religions, either none of that is a problem or we’d somehow be solving it at the same time. If that’s really what he was saying, the only way I can make sense of it is that he’s aware atheists have these problems and thought mentioning it would make it seem like he’s trying to help them (and not just the religious). Or it could be he’s sincerely confused about what the phrase “negative belief system” means and thinks it’s about having a negative attitude or saying negative things or something.

    *In other words, kissing their asses or remaining invisible.

    **For an atheist who in the same sentence was concerned (and not concerned) about how we can be good, it’s pretty odd (and not really odd at all) that he’d care so little about how bad religion is. I get that he’s arguing it’s sometimes good, so it goes against the message, but he barely even acknowledges that it really is bad in so many ways. Couldn’t he at least pretend to be fair about it, and why isn’t he? He’s just a bad communicator, has totally lost the plot, or what?

  59. Brownian says

    I pictured myself saying with a well-meaning grin, “Hey, I work with religious people every day and my atheism is stronger than ever!”

    Would Chris Stedman ever say that to his religious friends?

    “I’ve been working side-by-side with you on all of these projects, and specifically with a religious focus, and you know what? I’m even less inclined to share your beliefs than I was before!”

    I’d honestly like to know.

  60. Brownian says

    That was dumb of me. He’s put it in his book; one can only assume he’s comfortable with his theistic colleagues reading it.

  61. mandrellian says

    What cliche-ridden, passive-aggressive, self-serving bullshit.

    Poor little Cap’n Chris, adrift in his rusty little tugboat amongst a sea of New Atheist luxury yachts, his tiny yet pure heart all a-flutter as he struggles to identify a canape!

    Name names, or at least give locations and dates. “Some New Atheist was rude to me; I hereby extrapolate that they all are” isn’t an indictment of a movement or a community, it’s lazy writing, a lazy stab, a very fucking lazy generalisation and very likely a fabrication (or at least a generous embellishment). The whole thing reeks.

    Additionally, it’s almost definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tar a whole community, in print, with deliberately vague & self-serving accounts of incidents that occurred at mysterious parties and functions (complete with embarrassingly implausible dialogue and situations) and you can pretty much be guaranteed a brusque reception at any future unspecified events you attend in your scuffed sneakers and hand-me-down piercings.

    Of course, the important thing here is that he’s found a way to feel superior to anyone who doesn’t coddle him.

  62. mandrellian says

    I pictured myself saying with a well-meaning grin, “Hey, I work with religious people every day and my atheism is stronger than ever!”

    … did you picture yourself pulling behind you a bright red Radio Flyer wagon with a coupla puppies in it too?

    Honestly, if I encountered someone talking like this about anything at any time or location, I’d assume they were doing an impression of Kenneth, the NBC page from 30 Rock.

  63. John Morales says

    [meta]

    I suspect Chris has read this post and its comments by now — and if so, his loathness to responding is indicative of his character.

  64. vaiyt says

    I liked the New Atheists precisely because they were rude. I’m tired of etiquette being mistaken for ethics.

  65. John Phillips, FCD says

    vaiyt
    23 October 2012 at 11:53 pm

    I liked the New Atheists precisely because they were rude. I’m tired of etiquette being mistaken for ethics.

    QFFT.

  66. says

    Name names, or at least give locations and dates.

    Well, it was in Chicago, and couldn’t have been earlier than the second half of 2009. It also seems to have been a combined theist-bashing/Kentucky Derby party, so that narrows it down.

  67. Q.E.D says

    pramod @ 58

    Calling them names is in *my* opinion unproductive and needlessly antagonistic.

    You mean names like “Nazis” (Pope Benedicte), “not fully human” (cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor), “disordered.” (Ratzinger re GLBTQ people)?

    I didn’t start this slanging match but I sure as hell am not going to respectfully listen to Ratzinger keep pushing the deceitful, damaging meme that Atheists are sub-human Nazis without calling him out as a sac of shit liar for Jeebus.

  68. says

    Q.E.D @77

    Wait… Pope Benedict called other people Nazis? He couldn’t find, like, any other insult in the history of insults that wouldn’t be so incredibly easy to turn back on him?

  69. lippard says

    #8, #76, re: “faitheist” being coined in mid-2009:

    Nope, it’s been around much longer than that. John Shook found it in a NYC newspaper in 2006 (The Brooklyn Paper, April 8, 2006), and in Warren Allen Smith’s book, Who’s Who in Hell (published 2000, p. 57). Smith attributes it to “The Freethinker” in November-December 1998.

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/faitheists_are_nothing_new/

    http://www.philosopedia.org/index.php/Faitheism

  70. says

    #8, #76, re: “faitheist” being coined in mid-2009:

    Nope,…

    I stand corrected. The details he offers – he was a grad student living in Chicago and an intern for Interfaith Youth Core – also enable people to date the event, though. That looks like around 2009, but I’m not sure about that. I’d guess anyone from whom he heard the term in recent years had learned it from the contest coinage. If it had really been in any significant use before that, someone would very likely have pointed that out at that time of the contest. Do you have examples of it being in common use among atheists in recent years prior to the contest?

    I’m not too surprised someone had come up with it earlier, but it doesn’t seem all that relevant to Stedman’s story or book title. Possible, but not likely.

  71. dontpanic says

    SC,
    I don’t think one should concede the argument too easily. For instance, while the philosopedia might have an earlier date it has a definition that doesn’t match how Stedman claims it to have been used:

    …Instead, faitheists realize that it is impossible to prove that no god or gods exist, just as theists cannot prove that a god does exist. The faitheists, however, have faith that no god exists.

    Ah, I don’t see how that matches the usage in the alleged insult towards Stedman. The core of the insult is that one is accomodationist or the like; this definition is almost the exact opposite.

    I’m not sure that the references in the other cite are any better. The one-line summary of Kuntzman in the (recent) CFI article implies that his use is “A growing number of non-believers still need a dose of that old-time religion.” (I can’t be arsed to go read the link). That I could concede could be used as an insult, but it is a different than what I think is implied by Stedman’s writing. Or at least has a different shade of meaning. The way I read Stedman is that he was implying that the insult that he was a suck-up to the religionists. This use is, I think, more appropriate to Stedman, implying that he too needs the trappings of a religious framework. While it is possible that if the story happened the way it is claimed (something I too highly doubt) then it could have been used in this manner. But that’s not really fitting with the rest of the narrative.

  72. says

    @81

    I am extremely tickled by the amount of forensic work you and SC are doing. I would have given up the point just finding it easier to focus on the fact that Stedman is an asshole.

    Stedman has always struck me, and this may be unfair, as one of those people attracted to power. Powerful organizations attract him and appeal to him and he wants to be part of them.

  73. Paul W., OM says

    (Crossposted from Butterflies and Wheels)

    A nice catch, in a comment by Simon on James Croft’s post at Patheos:

    Here’s a WaPo article by Chris from Nov. 19, 2009 that describes the same event he refers to on the salon.com article when apparently the panel he attended was just the previous weekend: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/eboo_patel/2009/11/respecting_religion_staying_se.html

    You will note that while much of the text is very similar and in some places identical to the salon.com piece, there is no mention of the term “faitheist” or any dialogue that included it. The line about the “superior perspective” is included however. In fact, this is the only line of dialogue to appear in the piece at all.

    Now quoting from Chris’s earlier account:

    I left the panel sorely discouraged. Throughout the program, religion was mocked, decried, and denied. I’d arrived hoping to find a community bound by Humanistic ideals. Instead, I felt isolated. When I asked a fellow attendee to consider that religious diversity fosters an environment where discourse thrives, I was stonewalled: “We have the superior perspective; everyone else is lost.”

    In fairness, the earlier account is very short and doesn’t include the afterparty at all. Maybe he just left out the fact that the comment by a “fellow attendee” happened at an afterparty, and the now-important fact that he was chillingly called a “faitheist” for the first time.

    If that happened in 2009–late 2009 if there wasn’t a very long publication delay for a guest blog post—then that was after Coyne popularized the term among New Atheists.

    But was that really when our young, unworldly Chris had his early, terribly shocking, and apparently formative experience with nasty confrontational atheism?

    Color me a bit skeptical.

    BTW, the intro to the earlier account includes this:

    Chris is currently a candidate for a Master of Arts in Religion at Meadville Lombard Theological School, where he is writing a novel and an accompanying paper on storytelling.

    Maybe he decided his novel would sell better if he called it a memoir.

    I have to wonder what grade he got. (And whether Ayn Rand was a dialogue-writing model for him.)