Odious Christianity »« [Lounge #380]

The journey matters more than the destination

I’m an atheist. I know where we’ll all end up: death, extinction, oblivion. So I’m sure as hell going to emphasize how I live my life, how I make my conclusions, and how I regard my place in the universe as far more important than my final fate. I’m not interested in authoritarian short-cuts that substitute wish-fulfillment fantasies for truth, and one thing I definitely do not want to do is lie to myself.

Those are the thoughts I was thinking on reading this review of Stedman’s book, Faitheist, and while watching this lecture by Sir Ghillean Prance, a British ecologist. They’re very different discussions about very different phenomena, but I agree with the general message of both the book and the lecture while utterly detesting how they get there. They are wasting my time and they are misleading people — they are failing to provide the tools that will help people guide themselves to a rational conclusion and a correct answer.

We all know of Stedman here. He’s an atheist, and his book is all about social justice and working with religious people to achieve the goal of helping the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged. I can agree entirely with that goal; I think atheists ought to recognize the reality that they share the world with 7 billion people, each of whom has just as much right to be here as they do, and that a just solution to the world’s problems does not deny the needs of a majority, or even a significant minority, of the people who live there.

While Stedman has part of the answer right — we need to work with everyone to achieve that goal — his path to it is a combination of contradiction and emotion. Everyone, sure, except those meanie-head atheists who he will undercut at every opportunity, because that’s his scheme for notoriety, to be the good atheist, the one who loves Christians and despises atheists. He’s the left-wing version of S.E. Cupp. And how will he persuade people to his vision? By being the gosh-darned nicest, sweetest, gentlest person he can be, and by sucking up to faith (oh, excuse me: “interfaith”) leaders, who will never ever get the kind of criticism he delivers to atheists.

We will never get the critical thinking I consider the ideal of rationalism from a Stedman — even when he’s fighting for a cause I consider eminently defensible by rational means. While an atheist by definition, Stedman is not an atheist by principle. He’s an atheist by feeling (which, admittedly, is true of a great many atheists — just not as often by atheists who try to justify their position with a book).

Meanwhile, Ghillean Prance is an excellent biologist, with data and real concerns about the state of the planet. He discusses the evidence for climate change, its effect on natural populations, the consequences of environmental degradation and habitat destruction, and also deplores the selfishness of our current economic inequities — inequities that are widening rather than be corrected.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much I agree with his conclusion. But what ruins it for me is how he gets there.

“We should be taking care of the earth and not destroying it,” says Sir Ghillean. “The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it – not to destroy it.”

In this guest lecture, Sir Ghillean discusses the positive role faith leaders are playing in the environmental movement – from the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church (dubbed ‘the Green Patriarch’ by Al Gore), who has brought together faith leaders from around the world to discuss environmental issues, to His Holiness the Dalai Lama who speaks of an ethical approach to environmental protection.

Environmental ethics are, Sir Ghillean says, a part of Christianity and Judaism. He points to Job 12:7-8 as an example:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.” (Job, 12:7-8 NIV)

He asserts that his Christianity is compatible with his scientific/ecological views, and of course it is. But it’s because the religious justifications are endlessly malleable, and you can wrap it around any conclusion you want. There are industrialists bulldozing the rain forests right now who will tell you that their holy book tells them that it is their right to do so; there are people murdering other people because their holy book says to kill the infidel; there are people treating their own children as subhuman because their dogma does not allow them to tolerate people with different sexual desires. To tell people that they should accept scientific observations because their magic book and their sacred leaders say so is a betrayal of scientific thought.

And, man, this guy loves to quote the Bible.

It is through the combination of his faith and career that Sir Ghillean sees the case for environmental sustainability as a moral one. He quotes Isaiah 24:5 to make his case, but points out that there are similar messages and beliefs across the major world religions.

“The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5 NIV)

Whilst Isaiah was talking about moral defilement rather than ecological damage, Sir Ghillean believes that the message here and the impacts of climate change cover the intersection of ethics and ecology.

“It’s the poor who suffer the most from this climate change,” he says. “In some places the rich are getting even richer and the poor poorer. When there’s 1.4 per cent of the world’s wealth with 20 per cent of the population, it is something we should truly be ashamed about.”

If Christianity (and religiosity in general) is so good at convincing people of the importance of charity and fairness, explain the Republican party.

Isn’t it obvious that religion is not a tool for spreading goodness and kindness? That some individuals do so is not argument that their little granfalloon is responsible. That’s true of religion, but it’s also true of science and atheism, as we know all too well.

If you’re trying to persuade people to do the right thing because they’re Christians, or atheists, or ecologists, you’re making a fallacious argument: you’re trying to rope them into a cause by invoking the tribe or authority. Those things are not an appeal to reason! It’s easily subverted: the whole tribe can go marching off to war with another tribe, or the authority can be wrong and send everyone chasing the wrong answer, and the only check we can possibly have on that is if everyone is taught to think for themselves. A quote from the Bible or Darwin can be pretty words to illustrate an argument, but they are not necessarily arguments in themselves.

I entirely endorse the concerns and scientific solutions Ghillean Prance advocates, but not because he’s a Christian. It’s because the data that we’re changing the world for the worse is strong, and because I can respect the beauty and richness of the natural world — not because the Bible tells me I should, but because I know enough about how that world works to see the relationships of all those elements to each other and to me. If I want to see further and do better, I won’t achieve that by burying my nose in a holy book, and advocating greater absorption in magical thinking is going to actively interfere with our appreciation of reality.

I similarly endorse greater involvement in social justice and equality. It’s not because Jesus was a politically progressive social worker or because atheism says I must: it’s because of empathy and the ability to identify with other human beings, and recognizing that all 7 billion of us are on this planet together and that I cannot demand of others what they cannot also demand of me. Philosophy and ethics should shape how we behave not a deified science or imaginary magical being.

Another faulty argument that is fundamental to religion is the idea that you should follow the precepts of your faith because you will be rewarded after you die — an evil argument right at the heart of Christianity. No, you won’t; you’ll be dead, as will we all be, whether we’re paragons of virtue or monsters of vice. The only good arguments are ones that explain the consequences on living human beings — that the paths we take have to be their own rewards.

Comments

  1. kantalope says

    PZ be fired up this morning!

    I can agree with much of what is being said here..but I think there is a place for people that can talk the other sides language. When I hear someone start quoting the bible all I hear are the grownups in Peanuts cartoons talking –bwah bwah bwahhh. Whenever I see the indentation for a bible quote my eyes go out of focus and I skip down below it. And I imagine that those foxnews people do the same with any kind of facts. If there are honest people that can speak psychobible language they are going to be necessary for talking across that chasm.

  2. im says

    I’m a little intruiged by the fact that technological immortality does not seem to be on the map for most of the biggest posters at FTB.

  3. says

    I’m a little intruiged by the fact that technological immortality does not seem to be on the map for most of the biggest posters at FTB.

    It’s on my map. In that big blank spot, right under where it says “here there be dragons.”

  4. erikthebassist says

    I’m a little intruiged by the fact that technological immortality does not seem to be on the map for most of the biggest posters at FTB.

    I’m a little intrigued by why you think this thread has anything to do with that subject.

    Can you explain why you’re derailing?

    If you really want to discuss we have a thread for open discussions Here.

  5. georgelocke says

    The only good arguments are ones that explain the consequences on living human beings — that the paths we take have to be their own rewards.

    Good arguments are only one tool in the toolbox for persuading people, and, as any competent social scientist will tell you, they are not the best. Personal appeals and compelling stories work much better. We know we should follow the data, but the data tell us that telling people to follow the data is not a very good way to reach most of them.

  6. anteprepro says

    Personal appeals and compelling stories work much better.

    The only problem is that such an approach reeks of dishonesty, even if it is supposedly more effective.

  7. anteprepro says

    Using data is not a magic key that makes anything you say virtuous and morally pure. Nor do emotional appeals render everything you say underhanded, manipulative, and degrading.

    Using data is the way to make sure what you say is actually accurate (unless you are spinning it). Which should be important. Relying entirely on emotional appeals, without data, is underhanded and manipulative. I don’t think emotion should be off the table, but it definitely shouldn’t be a complement to facts, not a substitute for it.

  8. says

    If Christianity (and religiosity in general) is so good at convincing people of the importance of charity and fairness, explain the Republican party.

    That’s a knockout punch, right there, if I ever saw one.

  9. says

    Yes, we need to take multiple approaches to achieve our goals, and appealing to the emotions with stories and discussion of the effects on our lives of our beliefs is an essential part of that process.

    But the question is…what are your goals?

    Are goals settled on by nothing but emotion necessarily valid? Is it fucking good enough to decide to follow the preachings of that Jesus guy because your local priest’s interpretation of his life fits your biases?

    I don’t think so.

    Our goals as atheists and skeptics ought to be, not to convince others of the virtues of St Carl Sagan, but to teach them to think and analyze and criticize. To apply the ideas of a Sagan, not to write purty and be kind to animals because Sagan was. But of course, if purty writings help people pay attention and think, then of course we’d be fools not to use them.

  10. says

    I’m a little intruiged by the fact that technological immortality does not seem to be on the map for most of the biggest posters at FTB.

    It’s irrelevant to me. Even if a simulation of me were to continue on, immortally, I’d still experience death (though not being dead) So in that sense we’re following the advice of Epicurus – as we’re not those immortal beings you’re hypothesizing, what happens to them and what they experience is irrelevant to us.

  11. BubbaRich says

    PZ, I’ve been following this for a couple of years from you, but I still haven’t been able to decide whether you honestly have constructed the mental picture of Stedman in such a childish way. I’ve pored over your words, looking for hints about specific crimes, but your charges always come back to “Stedman is too mean to me, and he’s not mean enough to every idiot who believes in God!”

    And yet, his “being mean” to you seems to consist entirely of disagreeing with your approach, and mentioning that you are rude in a way that would be counterproductive to his own work. I’m not quite sure what you expect from him in “being fair” by “being mean to them.” I don’t know him well, but I get the feeling that he would also say that a theist was being counterproductively rude if the theist attacked you in the same pointless way.

    Can you list 2 or 3 things that Stedman has done to you (or any of the Freethought bloggers) where he has crossed the line for you? You could even strengthen your point by listing 2 or 3 times when Stedman failed to criticize or even explicitly agreed with some equally ugly criticism by a theist against a nonbeliever?

    I have honestly been working hard and looking for this, both in your words and in Stedman’s, for a couple of years. But I’ve never found it. When you had a chance to speak to him directly, you made up a false complaint about him making you go to church to speak in Morris, and then you even should have withdrawn that when it became clear it was your own organizing committee that put the event into a church building.

    I want to know if there is more to this than a petty, childish tribalism. Could you (or fans, since you’re probably too busy) just post a couple of links to those things I mention above?

  12. georgelocke says

    Using data is the way to make sure what you say is actually accurate (unless you are spinning it).

    When you’re trying to find the solution to a problem, yes. When you’re forming rhetoric meant to persuade people to follow the solution the data indicates, it’s not so effective.

    Relying entirely on emotional appeals, without data, is underhanded and manipulative.

    I don’t know what you mean by “entirely” or “without data”. If what we’re saying isn’t informed by data, it’s bullshit. If we’re communicating what the data tell us in the most effective way, then it’s just effective communication. Effective communication requires emotional appeals.

    I don’t think emotion should be off the table, but it definitely should be a complement to facts, not a substitute for it.

    You and I would prefer for peer reviewed scientific communication to have a larger impact on public policy. But the percentage of the population that reads Nature and Science is tiny. Likewise, politicians like John Kerry who explain the differences in policy in terms of the effect on the average family fail while people like Obama, who reach people’s hearts, succeed. We need to communicate science in engaging, compelling language.

  13. anteprepro says

    I don’t know what you mean by “entirely” or “without data”. If what we’re saying isn’t informed by data, it’s bullshit. If we’re communicating what the data tell us in the most effective way, then it’s just effective communication. Effective communication requires emotional appeals.

    So, you want to communicate the data, you just want to do it in a way that also appeals to human emotions? That wasn’t the impression I got from your initial post, where you described it as a distinct “tool” but if that is what you are proposing, then I don’t disagree with you.

  14. Beatrice says

    My mental picture of Stedman is pretty childish, yes. I imagine him sitting on a couch in sandals over socks with holes, mournfully gazing at his feet. A plate of some strange cheeses is poised on the arm of the sofa he is sitting on. Strange people wearing fancy clothes such as non-holey socks and dress shirts chat around him, throwing around jokes about those silly religious people and sounding totally unrepentant about it.

    Where did I get that picture again? Oh yes, from his own article/book.

  15. mnb0 says

    “faith leaders, who will never ever get the kind of criticism he delivers to atheists.”
    I am a non-believer by feeling (because of the Problem of Evil) but this drives me towards New Atheism. I wish to cooperate with religious people as much as Stedman does – in fact I do – but that doesn’t mean I keep my mouth shut about the things I don’t believe.
    Subh Holi (even I don’t believe in that stuff either) everyone.

  16. georgelocke says

    Our goals as atheists and skeptics ought to be, not to convince others of the virtues of St Carl Sagan, but to teach them to think and analyze and criticize. To apply the ideas of a Sagan, not to write purty and be kind to animals because Sagan was. But of course, if purty writings help people pay attention and think, then of course we’d be fools not to use them.

    This is a strong point. We want people to think critically, and Stedman and Prance aren’t helping.

    Stedman and Prance don’t have this as their primary goal, so they let go of this commitment in the service of their own goals, goals we share, at least in this case.

    I guess the reason I spoke up is that I don’t see a difference between Stedman criticizing us for hurting his goals and us crticizing him for hurting our goals. Our goals are mainly aligned, so it’s a pity that the rhetoric between us should be so heated, “utterly detesting” and all.

  17. says

    Can you list 2 or 3 things that Stedman has done to you (or any of the Freethought bloggers) where he has crossed the line for you?

    Not trying to answer for PZ, but in addition to what’s discussed at his link I quoted from and linked to two guest posts Stedman hosted and cheered here.

    There’s also this. (Even Croft was compelled to disagree with him there.)

    And this, from his book:

    With divisive religious fundamentalism on the rise, reactionary atheism that fixates on making antireligious proclamations is creating even more division. I believe that this so-called New Atheism — the kind that singles out the religious lives of others as its No. 1 target — is toxic, misdirected, and wasteful. Disengaged or antagonistic atheism weakens our community’s claim that an ethical life is possible without a belief in God, supplanting this with an alienating narrative that both distracts us from investing in community-building efforts of our own and prevents us from accomplishing anything outside of our small community.

    He’s been engaging in these attacks and misrepresentations for years now, increasingly talking about how awful gnu atheists are (couched in this bogus “we” language that I’ve been calling them on since 2010) to others while refusing to engage with our responses or our arguments in general – trying to build himself up by tearing us down. Then when we object, Croft comes along to scold us for expressing our anger with Stedman.

    I’ve pretty much had it with that crew.

  18. Sastra says

    One of the other problems with the argument that theists will like atheists better if we stop criticizing religion and just find common ground is that that doesn’t touch the reason they don’t like atheists in the first place. On the contrary, this strategy allows it to go unchallenged and pass as acceptable. From a faith perspective atheism is scorned because believers in God are morally committed to the belief that whether you believe in God or not is a moral commitment. It’s not about facts and conclusions; it’s about identity and relationship.

    And that kills us every time. It places us in the role of someone who doesn’t want or can’t have or chooses against God. It blackens our character instead of our analytic skills. That’s worse.

    Atheists reject a hypothesis. That’s how we see it. But to the theist, we haven’t opened ourselves up to God. The more important it is to believe in God, then the more virtuous and wise and sensitive you need to be in order to take that “step.” And the more important it is if you DON’T believe in God. One follows the other, if God is to be taken more seriously than just a preference or a therapeutic habit.

    Sure, we can pass as nice people just by being nice. We can pass as nice people even though we are atheists. It’s like being black, but white inside. Gay, but you’d never know it. A woman, but smart and competent anyway. Really changes their minds about us.

  19. iknklast says

    I recently assigned my students a paper to write about the pros and cons of Yucca Mountain, concluding with their own opinion based on what they’d read. I don’t require them to come to any particular opinion, but I do require them to justiy it with data and solid logical arguments. One of the students used the example of Noah to support her conclusion that using Yucca Mountain to store the mountains of nuclear waste was a good idea. I mean, seriously, Noah? There are many good scientific reasons for considering this site; an ancient, mythical flood is not one of them.

  20. Sastra says

    I think Stedman’s criticism of the new atheists for attacking religion sounds like someone criticizing science-based medicine for attacking alternative medicine:

    “Look, there’s a lot of good things in alternative medicine — encouraging healthy habits, exercise, diet. And they’re very caring and compassionate. Not all of them are bad. Why not get together with the good ones — like the homeopaths and naturopaths and reiki masters who endorse vaccines — and work on a vaccination campaign? People are who they are, and should find what works for them. Focusing on telling them they’re wrong is toxic, misdirected, and wasteful. They’ll just become more resentful. But they’re sure to become more and more scientific if they start to realize how nice scientists can be!”

    So many things wrong here. But I see the analogy.

  21. BubbaRich says

    No, I hadn’t read it. It was more relevant than I expected.

    I do note this towards the beginning of the review:

    So, to set the record straight: yes, Chris really is an atheist. No, he doesn’t think atheists should completely shut up. And yes, he really does criticize religion.

    This would seem to undermine most of your ongoing criticism of Stedman. And I think most of yours and Zach Alexander’s eventual criticism of Stedman can very easily be characterized by Jonathan Haidt’s “Righteous Mind” idea. In fact, Zach starts by giving Stedman credit for recognizing several moral principles that most liberals fail to consider in Haidt’s conceptuary. But his final point, and one that I think summarizes your and the Pharyngulites hatred of Stedman, is that Stedman doesn’t give primary and overwhelming moral consideration to epistemic value, or “truthiness.”

    I think the problem here is that, in my limited experience of reading Stedman, you’re both interpreting this the wrong way. I don’t see any evidence that he would choose to believe something that he had evidence was not true, nor that he would try to convince anyone else to believe something that was not true.

    But he can accept people, and value people, who come to different epistemic conclusions than he does, and he can work with them to achieve common goals. And he disagrees with people who reach the same epistemic conclusions, but who fight in an ugly, anti-humanist way with people who reach different conclusions. For him, working together with other humans to make the world a better place, and develop our knowledge further, is more important than all having the same right answers at the same time.

    I notice that most of you have laid off of criticizing Genie Scott. Was she just too nice a person to be a good target for your venom, despite doing the same things that Stedman does?

    I note, in passing, that Zach Alexander includes a reference that he doesn’t expect Stedman to become Neil deGrasse Tyson, as a positive example. That’s amusing, given that Tyson just dissed your rabble-rousing new atheists a few months ago, as Kazim reported on FtB: http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2012/04/30/neil-degrasse-tyson-posts-a-surprisingly-disappointing-video/

    This is that same purity of thought that is seems like you are preaching for, exalting epistemic conclusions over all other moral values, on Jonathan Haidt’s scale. I have rarely run across such diligent evangelists and inquisitors among the Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, and Jews I’ve spent a lot of time with in the South. They do exist, of course, and tribalism always rears its head among Haidt’s moral values. Although I have to disagree with Haidt, at least as presented to me recently, in that I think tribalism IS highly valued among “liberal” thinkers, it’s just that “nation” isn’t a tribe that is highly valued.

  22. says

    I guess the reason I spoke up is that I don’t see a difference between Stedman criticizing us for hurting his goals and us crticizing him for hurting our goals.

    If Stedman weren’t constantly attacking gnu atheists in public, I’d probably ignore him and the HCH completely, but for the occasional friendly jab at their faithy faithiness and his relentless self-promotion. Their work isn’t of particular interest to me. The problem is that he recognizes this on some level – that he’s made his name in large part by bashing us, and if that were to stop he’d be significantly less interesting or useful to many people and we’d have little reason to address him. So I doubt he’ll be stopping anytime soon. (Of course, the alternative would be for him to start treating us with respect and understanding such that we might consider him an ally. That’s less likely than the continuation of his current approach, but still possible.)

  23. jaybee says

    And, man, this guy loves to quote the Bible.

    I often see bumper stickers around with bible citations — not the passage, just the citation, like “John 3:16″.

    Does anybody sell bumper stickers with actual bible citations, but referring to the most awful, hardest to defend parts of the bible? I’d love to have one or two such that a fundie will see it, think, “Hmm, I don’t recognize that one. I’ll go look it up.” and then get a shock.

  24. zachalexander says

    PZ, I totally agree with your overall point here. But this isn’t quite right:

    While an atheist by definition, Stedman is not an atheist by principle. He’s an atheist by feeling (which, admittedly, is true of a great many atheists — just not as often by atheists who try to justify their position with a book).

    That is exactly what I was arguing in the review, but this is an unenlightening way to put it. If there are, in fact, two different kinds of atheists, and we are only one of them, we can’t truthfully speak for all atheists (and neither can Chris). Migrating towards more accurate terms like “skeptic”, “humanist”, “freethinker”, etc. lets us keep doing what we’re doing, gives Chris fewer opportunities to complain about it (I can’t see him identifying as a faithiskeptic), and makes room for more people to identify as atheist — people who don’t currently because of the current conflation of “atheist” with “atheist by principle”.

    If you love the word “atheist”, set it free.

  25. Sastra says

    BubbaRich #26 wrote:

    I notice that most of you have laid off of criticizing Genie Scott. Was she just too nice a person to be a good target for your venom, despite doing the same things that Stedman does?

    But Genie Scott doesn’t so the same things that Stedman does. There are significant differences, and they matter.

    For one thing, in her role as executive director of NCSE, she isn’t representing the atheist community. As an individual, she doesn’t write long screeds about how the new atheists are hurting the image of atheism. When her organization complains about new atheists inhibiting the acceptance of evolution or cozies up too much with religion then we attack it in general, or the writer in particular.

    We’ve also argued against Genie Scott’s accomodationist stance, on a regular basis. Even when she got the Dawkins Award, Dawkins dug into that in his introduction. But she’s well aware that new atheists can work fine and deal well with people they disagree with. I mean, she got the award.

  26. frankensteinmonster says

    I know where we’ll all end up: death, extinction, oblivion.

    .
    (evidence?)
    .
    I mean, death, sure. we are all mortal.
    But extinction and oblivion ? how can you be sure that we will not only get extinct, but also be completely forgotten and no one, not even some future sentient species or alien archaeologists will ever discover our fossils ?

  27. georgelocke says

    #27 SC (Salty Current), OM wrote

    If Stedman weren’t constantly attacking gnu atheists in public, I’d probably ignore him and the HCH completely, but for the occasional friendly jab at their faithy faithiness and his relentless self-promotion.

    Okay, so he started it. What’s the difference between PZ being “utterly disgusted” at his methods and his criticizing us for taking a hard line?

  28. says

    As an individual, she doesn’t write long screeds about how the new atheists are hurting the image of atheism. When her organization complains about new atheists inhibiting the acceptance of evolution or cozies up too much with religion then we attack it in general, or the writer in particular.

    Yes. It even prompted this back in 2011.

  29. says

    Okay, so he started it.

    What a waste of time you carpers are. That was not my point. And PZ has said on several occasions that he thinks we need a diversity of approaches. (That doesn’t mean no one should ever respectfully criticize or mock some aspects of others’ approaches.)

    What’s the difference between PZ being “utterly disgusted” at his methods and his criticizing us for taking a hard line?

    I think you mean “utterly detesting,” and you might want to read that sentence again. He’s saying he utterly detests the epistemic methods that form the basis for their ethical position. So do I. That’s why epistemic methods are such a priority.

    That’s not the same thing as saying you’re utterly disgusted by Stedman’s methods of activism (aside, of course, from those practices that involve attacking us at every turn, claiming what we do obstructs the realization of positive values, and blaming us for prejudice against atheists). If you read PZ’s posts on the subject and come away with the impression that he’s been saying that – something equivalent to Stedman’s attacks – you need to work on your reading comprehension.

    As I argued in my most recent post to Croft:

    What I’d like to see is a situation in which our different approaches are acknowledged and respected. We could debate them or just accept that we have different priorities, while appreciating the values and goals we share regardless of labels. There will still be criticism and mocking, and occasionally serious disagreement, within and between the two “camps,” but neither group will seek to promote itself or build its identity by denigrating the other, claim that the other isn’t coming from a positive place, or insist the other stop its activities.

  30. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Okay, so he started it.

    No, no. Airy dismissal of legitimate differences and of ethically non-equivalent actions is not good enough. It’s not good enough when kindergarten teachers tell two fighting kids “I don’t care who started it,” and it’s not good enough for serious adult discourse. It’s an easy abdication of moral responsibility to assign responsibility to actors based on what they do. It’s stupid false-equivalence-mongering.

    It’s not that “Chris started it.” It’s that what he’s doing is seriously problematic. The problem isn’t that both sides equally detest the other (or the methods). Detesting something isn’t ipso facto a Bad Moral Act any more than prosyletizing is “wrong because that’s what those rude Christians do so therefore it can’t be right!!”

    Critics of Stedman (me included) do not merely have an aesthetic distaste for his methods. We think he’s dishonest, disingenuous, calculatingly political while he pretends to be guileless, and utterly morally untroubled by twisting the knife unfairly into his opponents for the primary purpose of building his own ego and brand.

    You may disagree with this. But you may not dismiss it as “both sides are acting bad and I don’t care who started it.”

  31. consciousness razor says

    In this guest lecture, Sir Ghillean discusses the positive role faith leaders are playing in the environmental movement

    … and what role gods are not playing in it? Or are there gods fighting for or against environmental causes? Maybe it’s sort of like the Trojan War, with gods fighting on both sides?

    I’m a little intruiged by the fact that technological immortality does not seem to be on the map for most of the biggest posters at FTB.

    A great philosopher once said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”

    As for myself, I don’t want to achieve it at all.

  32. BubbaRich says

    No, salty and Josh, I don’t think that PZ has made equivalent attacks against Stedman. I have only seen from Stedman discussions that PZ’s (and others’) attacks against Stedman have been bad and counterproductive. Nobody has posted anything more than this in response to my question above. What I see from PZ, etc, is complaints that Stedman is wrong, stupid, and morally bad. Their exchange at the Global Atheist Convention in April perfectly summarizes what I’ve seen of their conversation: PZ is petty and doesn’t want to talk about facts, he wants to leverage his fanbase to hate something.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsqqFpWh7m8

    I would really like for PZ to engage him on actual issues, I likely would agree with PZ on much of it, even on style of approach. I’m certainly willing to be contrary for a hostile audience. Stedman sometimes speaks in a vague way that at least leaves open the chance that I strongly disagree with him about some issues.

    And yes, salty and Sastra, I do see occasional attacks on Genie, but much less often than Stedman. Where do you see Stedman “constantly attacking gnu atheists in public”? I asked for some of those attacks above, but nobody cited any, and I skimmed Zach Alexander’s post a couple of times without seeing any. I’ve seen nothing but hostility for Stedman from all of the gnus. I’ve seen Stedman mention several times where he agrees with the gnus, have any of the gnus ever done the same? I’ve only seen sarcastic comments from PZ, sort of “yes, we’re both carbon-based life forms, but we don’t have anything else in common”.

  33. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Nobody has posted anything more than this in response to my question above.

    Bubba-no.

    1. My response was not to you, but to georgelocke. Is that unclear to you? Why are you responding as if I’d levelled an accusation at you?

    2. Go back and read the links Salty provided in number 22. That’s the response you were looking for. Why are you saying no one has provided you with substantive critique? When they have, do you understand how that makes people angry and that it’s not a fair accusation?

  34. says

    I have only seen from Stedman discussions that PZ’s (and others’) attacks against Stedman have been bad and counterproductive. Nobody has posted anything more than this in response to my question above.

    …Where do you see Stedman “constantly attacking gnu atheists in public”?

    In addition to what’s discussed in the article linked in the OP (with which I have some problems, but that aside), I linked in #22 to information about two guest posts Stedman hosted and endorsed and one he co-wrote. There are many, many more. Go away, familiarize yourself with the history, and don’t come back until you’re caught up.

  35. BubbaRich says

    SC, you included this quote from Stedman:

    With divisive religious fundamentalism on the rise, reactionary atheism that fixates on making antireligious proclamations is creating even more division. I believe that this so-called New Atheism — the kind that singles out the religious lives of others as its No. 1 target — is toxic, misdirected, and wasteful. Disengaged or antagonistic atheism weakens our community’s claim that an ethical life is possible without a belief in God, supplanting this with an alienating narrative that both distracts us from investing in community-building efforts of our own and prevents us from accomplishing anything outside of our small community.

    I’m not sure that I would agree with him that it is more destructive than many other things, and it might accomplish something, but that is an explicit disagreement with a tactic/strategy. And I agree with him about that, as do many other smart, ethical people.

    In the guest post you quote, Andrew Lovley gives a couple of points that are at least arguable (I tend to agree with him, although I’d like to see a good argument against his points), and your phrasing implies that you think a reasonable person will see the fault in them.

    I live in Georgia. Most of the people I know and to whom I’m related have some sort of religious belief, often quite strong. It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are, nor do I wish to primarily identify with people whose primary message is that all of these people are stupid. Many of these people are excellent doctors and nurses and lawyers and research engineers and scientists. Yes, I think they’ve come to some wrong conclusions, but “this so-called New Atheism — the kind that singles out the religious lives of others as its No. 1 target — is toxic, misdirected, and wasteful.”

    Is your primary point that you define “New Atheism” differently, or that you think this is a valid, worthwhile, and constructive goal? That question goes for everybody here, especially PZ.

  36. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are

    No one does this. Certainly not in any numbers. What are you talking about?

    Will you acknowledge the evidence SC linked in 22?

  37. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are, nor do I wish to primarily identify with people whose primary message is that all of these people are stupid.

    Only those who aren’t paying attention believe that bullshit. Leave your religion in your home and church, and nobody will bother you or get in your face about your religion. What we won’t put up with is them trying to force their religion into the public square with “ostentatious public prayer” (read Matt. 6:6-6:8 for what jesus “said” on the subject) and other attempts to impose religion upon us in a de facto manner. The gnu atheist is more about telling folks to leave us alone. Which they don’t do, so we get in their faces when they get in ours. Ever hear of the golden rule by some guy in a book of mythology?

  38. says

    Everything I had to say about Stedman and the reasons why people dismiss him and are fed up with him have already been said.

    …well, except for one thing that has been lightly touched on but not explicitly spelled out. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know that part of my negative opinion of Stedman is based on his writings, and the rest is based on interacting with him and witnessing how he interacts with others. I’m sure other people here have had more and even less-fulfilling interactions with him than I have.

  39. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Most of the people I know and to whom I’m related have some sort of religious belief, often quite strong. It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are, nor do I wish to primarily identify with people whose primary message is that all of these people are stupid. – BubbaRich

    Do you really think that’s the approach of any significant number of gnu atheists? If so, you should provide evidence. If not, you should apologise.

  40. consciousness razor says

    I’m not sure that I would agree with him [...] And I agree with him about that,

    What? What is “that,” which you’re agreeing with him about?

  41. consciousness razor says

    It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are, nor do I wish to primarily identify with people whose primary message is that all of these people are stupid.

    It’s not about whether or not they’re stupid. It’s about them having no valid method of justifying their beliefs. We don’t have any common ground when it comes to that.

    For example: if some believe we shouldn’t murder people because God says so, it doesn’t help that they happen to be right (or simply that they agree with us), because people who think God says we should murder people have just as much justification for that belief. They have no way of settling a dispute like that, so they are doing nothing constructive to settle it.

  42. says

    I’m not sure that I would agree with him that it is more destructive than many other things, and it might accomplish something,

    First, “the kind that singles out the religious lives of others as its No. 1 target” would require a number of caveats before it could be accepted as any sort of even partially accurate characterization of our priorities. Several of us have been saying for years that a major priority for us is faith, not “the religious lives of others.” Several other parts of the description – “disengaged”? – are also wrong.

    but that is an explicit disagreement with a tactic/strategy.

    The hell it is. Misrepresenting people’s motives and actions and then calling those straw motives and straw actions “toxic” is not a disagreement with a tactic or strategy. It’s an attack on our values and priorities (which they repeatedly explicitly contrast to positive, humanistic values and priorities).

    There’s obviously a place not just for coexistence but for explicit disagreements about goals, priorities, and tactics. Stedman’s not interested in debating this with us or in simply respecting and acepting that we have different goals and priorities that are also rooted in positive human values; he’s interested in using attacks on us to promote himself and curry favor with the religious.

    And I agree with him about that, as do many other smart, ethical people.

    I don’t know how good or intelligent you are, but it’s totally irrelevant. You have to make actual good-faith (heh) arguments for your position, these have to be based on real facts about the situatuon you’re describing, and you have to engage fairly with critical responses. This is not true of Stedman, Lovley, or McLaren.

    The fact that you accept the definition of gnu atheism as beginning each conversation with a preface about how stupid religious people are and having as its primary message that all religious people are stupid, it doesn’t appear that you’re participating in this discussion in an ethical or intelligent way.

    It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are, nor do I wish to primarily identify with people whose primary message is that all of these people are stupid.

    I want you to provide examples of us doing this, or to apologize and drop this sort of strawman immediately. (You should probably apologize as well.) These are the sorts of misrepresentations I’m talking about Stedman engaging in, and it’s not something people are going to put up with here.

    In the guest post you quote, Andrew Lovley gives a couple of points that are at least arguable (I tend to agree with him, although I’d like to see a good argument against his points), and your phrasing implies that you think a reasonable person will see the fault in them.

    Yes, I think they’ve come to some wrong conclusions, but “this so-called New Atheism — the kind that singles out the religious lives of others as its No. 1 target — is toxic, misdirected, and wasteful.”

    Is your primary point that you define “New Atheism” differently, or that you think this is a valid, worthwhile, and constructive goal? That question goes for everybody here, especially PZ.

    I refer you to the whole of my recent series of posts addressed to James Croft (that’s the first, and the rest are all this month). Note that these are far from the first I’ve written about this, and several times I posted similar things specifically in response to a misrepresenting attack from Stedman, which were all ignored. Note also that I’m far from the only person to have been making these arguments to Stedman and that crowd over the past couple of years. I also recommend Greta Christina’s new book.

    Then try to come back with some actual arguments.

  43. says

    It is not constructive for me to begin each conversation with a preface about how stupid they are, nor do I wish to primarily identify with people whose primary message is that all of these people are stupid.

    Riiiight. Do you think that’s what this post is about? Do you really think that’s the approach the New Atheists typically take when engaging believers? Have you not read anything by Dawkins, and think that’s the message of The God Delusion or The Magic of Reality?

    I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not how I begin conversations with religious people. I don’t think most of them are stupid.

    But a few are. I also think some atheists are very stupid. And right now, I put you & Stedman in that category.

  44. BubbaRich says

    How do you fit this in with PZ’s childish allergic reaction to entering a church building?

  45. says

    How do you fit this in with PZ’s childish allergic reaction to entering a church building?

    More bullshit on your part, considering the “You start entire conversations with ‘RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE ALL FOOLS’” nonsense you were spouting earlier.

    You’re going to need to start supporting statements about what we think, given your clear love of misinformation.

  46. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    BubbaRich@50,

    Evidently you have no evidence for your absurd characterization of New Atheism@41, or you would have presented it. If you were an honest person, you would already have apologised.

  47. consciousness razor says

    How do you fit this in with PZ’s childish allergic reaction to entering a church building?

    God made him that way, Bubba, didn’t you know?

  48. says

    How do you fit this in with PZ’s childish allergic reaction to entering a church building?

    Oh you believe everything on face value then? *Bites knuckles to suppress giggles* oh what a fine specimen you are, oh yes you are! *rubs behind the ears*

  49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    How do you fit this in with PZ’s childish allergic reaction to entering a church building?

    How do you fit your attitude into that of an evidence based rational person. Of course, the real question is why should a church be used for public elections and gatherings? It shouldn’t. That’s what government buildings, schools, libraries, and park district buildings are for.

  50. says

    And PZ,

    I know you’ve had a lot of negative experiences with Chris, and one blog comment probably isn’t going to change your mind, but for the record, I don’t think it’s necessary to be cynical about Chris’s motives. Be slow to attribute to malice what is adequately explained by ignorance, to paraphrase Hanlon’s Razor.

    I think the reason Chris attacks “meanie-head atheists” is because he just doesn’t see the value in what we’re doing. If you’re colorblind, watching your peers criticize people for indiscretions of color probably seems unnecessarily mean and spiteful. Whereas if you can see color, you understand that there’s a reason for it, because colors matter (at traffic lights, for example).

    I think Chris is mostly like someone who can’t see color — who doesn’t experience the epistemic dimension of life very strongly, and thus doesn’t value it highly, and thus see it as unnecessarily means and spiteful for us to criticize people for epistemic indiscretions.

    I think he happens to be wrong about this — but I think he’s sincere, and is motivated by good intentions (the goals you praise in your post). The amount of grief he causes for himself and others is so great that I find it hard to believe he would be doing all this on purpose as part of some cynical ploy for notoriety.

  51. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Zach:

    Many of us have had experience with Stedman for a couple of years. Obviously I’m not speaking for PZ, but I’m long past the point of extending the benefit of the doubt. I think Stedman has a fundamental character flaw and that it’s wrapped up in ingrained narcissism (not just “incipient,” though I was glad you mentioned it in your review). Whether Stedman consciously tries to undercut competitors doesn’t matter.

    This is pure speculation about his motives, and it’s justified. They may not be conscious motives, but they’re there.

  52. says

    BubbaRich,

    I think you’re onto something, but the following is an overstatement (at least of what I’m saying):

    But his final point, and one that I think summarizes your and the Pharyngulites hatred of Stedman, is that Stedman doesn’t give primary and overwhelming moral consideration to epistemic value, or “truthiness.”

    I’m not saying his doesn’t give *primary* consisderation to epistemic values. Nor do I think everyone should, nor even that every skeptic-type atheist should. I just think it should, you know, be somewhere on your list of priorities, and not at the bottom of the list. Hell, I wouldn’t even say epistemic values are of primary importance for me. Definitely in my top three, but not necessarily primary.

    I think the issue is that for Chris, these are just so far down on his list of priorities that it makes of feel like we have very little in common, and hence springs all this drama.

    On Neil deGrasse Tyson, I’m totally fine with him criticizing more strident atheists, precisely because I feel like we’re still on the same team, because I know he shares my values. Intramural debate is healthy. But I’m not sure Chris is on that same team. To be clear, we do have other teams in common, like atheism, compassion, appreciation of tattoos, whatever – but I don’t think we share a concern for rationality or things epistemological.

  53. Rodney Nelson says

    zachalexander #54

    , I don’t think it’s necessary to be cynical about Chris’s motives. Be slow to attribute to malice what is adequately explained by ignorance, to paraphrase Hanlon’s Razor.

    I’ve seen Stedman in action. He’s neither ignorant nor stupid (to continue Hanlon’s Razor). He misrepresents gnu atheists, he accuses us of outright hatred of theists, and he refuses to acknowledge our motivations. He’s done this for years. Plus he doesn’t address his criticisms to gnu atheists but rather to theists: “See how nasty those people are, not like me at all, I’m your friend, they’re your enemy and deserve all the vitriol you and I can cast on them.” These are not the actions of an honest person expressing his observations about a group of people. He is a soapbox orator censuring his opponents.

    I have no problem with Stedman interacting with theists. It gives him pleasure, makes him feel wanted, and gets his ego stroked. As far as I’m concerned he can suck up to theists every day and twice on Sundays. I do object to his relentless calumny. I’m willing to leave him alone to do his thing but he’s not willing to extend the same courtesy to me.

    I think the reason Chris attacks “meanie-head atheists” is because he just doesn’t see the value in what we’re doing.

    He not only doesn’t see it, he refuses to accept it might possibly exist.

  54. says

    How do you fit this in with PZ’s childish allergic reaction to entering a church building?

    I am? I’ve actually been to church painfully often — I chase creationists, you know, and that’s their natural habitat. Also, every election, I’m forced to enter one because our secular government sits their polling places in churches.

    But I cannot enter a church without being conscious of their ugly history and the dangerous nonsense they preach. No atheist should be afraid to enter a church, but every atheist should condemn the awful lies and unearned privilege that those buildings represent.

  55. georgelocke says

    #35 SC (Salty Current), OM wrote

    If you read PZ’s posts on the subject and come away with the impression that he’s been saying that – something equivalent to Stedman’s attacks – you need to work on your reading comprehension.

    the implication is that PZ’s beef with Stedman is substantive whereas Stedman’s beef with Gnus is bullshit. While you and I may disagree with Stedman on his criticisms of us, they are indeed substantive criticisms regarding our tendency to alienate people who share our goals.

    PZ pointed out, quite sensibly, that one central goal (perhaps the central goal) of New Atheism is to get people to think critically about received truths. Our group is unusual in the priority we place on this, and it’s right and good for us to call people out when they fail to live up to it.

    I read a few Socratic Dialogues recently, and I came away with this observation: Socrates was right, but he didn’t have to be such a prick about it.

  56. says

    the implication

    ‘implication’?

    While you and I may disagree with Stedman on his criticisms of us, they are indeed substantive criticisms regarding our tendency to alienate people who share our goals.

    The only people I’ve alienated are assholes who put the sanctity of the catholic church above my rights; IE people who don’t share my goals.

    Our group is unusual in the priority we place on this, and it’s right and good for us to call people out when they fail to live up to it.

    Which is why you uncritically accept Stedman’s characterization?

    Socrates was right

    Reminder: Socrates thought a republic of philosophers was a great idea and was pro slavery, off the top of my head.

  57. georgelocke says

    ‘implication’?

    Yes, implication.

    The only people I’ve alienated

    Stedman’s criticisms are not directed at you, personally.

    Which is why you uncritically accept Stedman’s characterization?

    Huh? Which characterization are you referring to? (Note above where I said that I disagree with Stedman.)

    Socrates thought…

    My point wasn’t about Socrates’s ideas, but about his messaging, which resulted in his being ostracized.

  58. Ichthyic says

    they are indeed substantive criticisms regarding our tendency to alienate people who share our goals.

    but, you fail to state what those goals actually ARE.

    once you do, you will find that there is a reason behind the criticism, which you and stedman mistakenly classify as alienation.

    in short, you fail.

    but then, you’ll probably take that criticism as alienating.

    oh well.

  59. says

    Yes, implication.

    Text is not subtext.

    Stedman’s criticisms are not directed at you, personally.

    And? They’re directed at people like me, and he’s not exactly demonstrating we’re shedding anything at all.

    Huh? Which characterization are you referring to? (Note above where I said that I disagree with Stedman.)

    Was that before, or after you treated those complaints as the unvarnished truth just the same?

    My point wasn’t about Socrates’s ideas, but about his messaging, which resulted in his being ostracized.

    Do you have someone a little more real to make policy claims off of? Because I mean, Donald Duck is pretty fucking popular, unless ‘nigh-fictional’ is fine but ‘totally fictional’ is not.

    Even within the narrative, he wasn’t executed solely or even primarily because he was caustic, so I don’t know where the fuck you got this shit you’re peddling.

  60. georgelocke says

    but, you fail to state what those goals actually ARE.

    once you do, you will find that there is a reason behind the criticism, which you and stedman mistakenly classify as alienation.

    PZ wrote, “Our goals as atheists and skeptics ought to be, not to convince others of the virtues of St Carl Sagan, but to teach them to think and analyze and criticize.” I have been pretty clear in affirming our need to call out Stedman for failing to live up to this goal.

    However, PZ is also a leading proponent of Atheism+, whose goals, beyond the one I’ve just quoted, are basically in line with those promoted by Stedman.

  61. georgelocke says

    Text is not subtext.

    So, aside from quibbling about the word “implication”, you agree with my paraphrase of Salty’s remarks?

    Was that before, or after you treated those complaints as the unvarnished truth just the same?

    I still need you to explain what you mean. What characterization?

    Do you have someone a little more real to make policy claims off of?

    Again, my only point was that bad messaging won’t produce desired results even when the content of the message is important and true. I am not using Socrates’s case as evidence, I’m only using it as an illustrative example that most people are familiar with.

  62. georgelocke says

    in short, you fail.

    but then, you’ll probably take that criticism as alienating.

    oh well.

    First, let me say that I appreciate what’s written above this quotation as honest criticism. However, this quote serves no practical purpose. What person who disagreed with you could possibly find this “criticism” anything but alienating? Seriously, what is it you think talk like this accomplishes?

    You write “oh well” as though you don’t care what I think. Do you care? If so, then what do you think writing “oh well” says to me? If not…

  63. says

    However, PZ is also a leading proponent of Atheism+,
    If that were true, we’d be fucked; although he supports A+, he is not specifically part of it.

    whose goals, beyond the one I’ve just quoted, are basically in line with those promoted by Stedman.

    You keep saying this. The only thing I’ve really seen Stedman support is Stedman. And you’re not being very forthcoming in giving us reasons to not continue thinking this.

    I still need you to explain what you mean. What characterization?

    “Oh those angry gnus just keep driving off everyone who agrees with them and get nothing done.”

    Again, my only point was that bad messaging won’t produce desired results.

    And that presupposes our messaging is bad. Statement assumes facts not in evidence.

    I am not using Socrates’s case as evidence

    Oh, so you don’t feel like producing evidence *at all*. Alrighty then.

  64. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh, so you don’t feel like producing evidence *at all*. Alrighty then.

    And all its unevidenced blathering can *POOF* be dismissed as inane fuckwittery. Which is why evidence beats OPINION every day of the week.

  65. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    George,
    The issue, ultimately, is whether we can convince people of faith to work with us without pandering to their beliefs.

    Voltaire said, “If they can make you believe absurdities, they can make you commit atrocities.”

    I consider the belief in a “soul” absurd. You are positing an entirely separate type of reality (spiritual) for the simple purpose of avoiding confrontation of our own mortality. It is the belief in a “soul” that leads to the assertion of a fetus’s rights over those of the mother. It is the belief in a soul that prevents xtians and other people of faith from embracing death with dignity–or stem cells or a range of other common sense positions. Indeed it is the “soul” that endows humans with a special place in nature that undermines our understanding of ecology.

    Ultimately, truth matters, and to the extent that individuals delude themselves, they will be unreliable partners, whether our goal is serving the poor or saving the planet.

  66. georgelocke says

    You are positing…

    I’m not sure where you got the idea that I believe in souls. I’m a physicalist.

  67. georgelocke says

    The only thing I’ve really seen Stedman support is Stedman.

    Really?

    Stedman is a flawed human, and he is a poor friend to new atheists, but he is very obviously working hard to make the world a better, more tolerant place to live – especially vis a vis religious tolerance and gay rights. I presume you agree that these problems need attention, even if they’re not your #1 priority, even if religious tolerance probably means something different to you than it does to Stedman. When people approach problems you agree are important in ways you disagree with, assassinating their character ought to be low on your list of responses.

    This is the problem I was trying to address.

  68. georgelocke says

    I’m probably talking to an empty room at this point, but this lengthy review of Stedman’s book explains a lot about Stedman and the Gnu response to him: http://www.zachalexander.com/2012/11/10/faitheist-heal-thyself/

    In particular, Alexander that Stedman cares deeply about justice issues, but not so much truth. “In sum, Chris does not merely have a different take on religion – much more deeply, he seems to only superficially share the epistemic values that are important to most people in the atheist and humanist movements, and central for many of them. In this he is like a restaurant critic who is mostly indifferent to the quality of food.”

    Though lengthy, this is the most incisive piece I’ve ever read on Stedman.

  69. BubbaRich says

    georgelocke, that was the review that PZ mentions in the original post.

    And I said a couple of times that I don’t think that is a fair analysis, or meaningful. I know that _I_ care strongly about truth. In particular, I go to great lengths to avoid saying anything that isn’t true, I don’t support or endorse anyone else saying things that aren’t true, and someone saying something that isn’t true is a mark against them for me.

    But saying something that is not true (or especially arguably not true) is not a trump card over all other things. We’ve been attending a UU congregation in Atlanta for a while. Although most of the congregation is atheist, including a large secular Jewish contingent, there are few people who believe some crazy stuff. In a couple of years there, though, I’ve only heard one non-completely humanist sermon from the front (he shared the possibility of reincarnation), and only a couple of other people have said any weird believer stuff around me. Something about weird medicine or the healing power of vibrations or something like that. They haven’t mentioned it again, though.

    I work together with all of these people on very humanist goals. I would rather work with these people for humanist goals than with most of the Pharynguloids (not an accurate neologism as far as I know, but cute). I think that many of the things the commenters in here think about how to deal with people and how to deal with disagreement are wrong, and are, in fact, more wrong in a very meaningful way than, say, a humanist who believes in Jesus or in tunicorns.

    The epistemic value of truth is extremely important to me, personally. But I don’t evaluate everyone else primarily on whether everything they believe is true (and I think the Gnus do that very dishonestly, making particular beliefs out-of-bounds irrespective of actual consequences).