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Simon Davis takes one for the team

He read Faitheist! And he wrote a review!

It seems a very even-handed review, although it does expose some of the biographical details that Stedman trades on to be completely invented. It’s also a review that kills any interest I might have in ever reading the book.

Comments

  1. says

    Doesn’t Faithiness rank up there with Truthiness?

    I don’t suppose so. I believe in science. What I can see, touch, smell, hear and taste I can acknowledge and sometimes enjoy. What has been proven previously (and possibly postulated and later may be proven true) I will accept. For now. Everything else is entertainment.

    I’m being entertained by a “Talk of the Nation” segment on the 2012 whoop-de-doo right now, excuse me.

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    I read the review, which is quite even-handed. Now I’m even less likely to read the book.

  3. Scientismist says

    Chris Stedman in the Washington Post: “I felt in a particularly good position to discuss religion in the lives of non-religious folks: ‘Look, I work with religious people every day and my secularism is stronger than ever!’”

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

    (Emphasis added, in both cases.)

    So which is it? Is it his secularism (which is in no way incompatible with religious belief) that is still strong? Or is it his atheism (which, for most atheists, would indeed be incompatible with religious belief)? By all means, we atheist secularists should work, when and wherever possible, with religious secularists, to build a community and government through which we can agree to take a rational approach to our shared problems.

    But beware of coming to the right conclusions for the wrong reasons. We may agree with Stedman that Dr. King may well have been motivated by his religious beliefs, but others in the Civil Rights Movement (and King himself) were also motivated by more rational considerations; and many on the other side were themselves motivated by their deeply held religious beliefs.

    The crux of the problem is posed by Stedman’s mentor Eboo Patel, who (according to Simon Davis’ review) says in the book’s introduction: “..Whatever compassion and conviction and courage I may have, I believe it comes from God.” That could indeed be the motto for either point of view, one arguing for more inclusive human rights, or one championing something like the strict laws of either the Old Testament or the Koran.

    That is the potential problem with both faith and “faitheism”: the ready-made excuse for the failure of individuals to take personal responsibility for their own moral values, whether they be narrow and bigoted, or inclusive and progressive. While our majority culture continues to fail to recognize the mythical nature of religious stories and the values they enshrine, and the true source of human values in human evolution and experience, so long will the conflicts among those values continue to evade the reach of a shared secular discussion.

  4. mandrellian says

    Shorter Stedman: “My memory isn’t very reliable and sometimes I just invent shit out of the blue (just ask my mum!) – but you must trust that everything I say to you about everything is totes exactly what happened because OMG nasty atheists are ruining it for everyone!

    HUMBUG! Get off my lawn.

  5. brianpansky says

    I’m still entertained by the book cover. Without comprehension of the english words on it, it’s difficult to tell what is going on. A person with a shirt that is emphasized both with color, and converging street lines. That kind of visual effect can have many uses, I’m just not sure why it’s on this book.

    [*art nitpicking judging book by cover etc*]

  6. says

    At the “social time”, Stedman was probably the youngest person, but the dress-code was casual, which raises questions about his claim to have been “fashionably underdressed” (p. 3). Nobody I spoke to had a recollection of hearing the term “faitheist” or any other part of the conversation that Stedman described. Likewise the description of the couple he says he had it with was not recalled, though there were about 30 attendees and there were many conversations going on. Stedman says he “sat down on the couch, carefully balancing a mint julep in one hand and a plate of hors d’oeuvres I couldn’t name in the other” (p.3). There were no mint juleps served, only homemade pizzas, sandwiches, and cookies.

    The mint julep was just the most absurd detail. The only time I’ve ever had mint juleps was at Kentucky Derby parties, and I suspect those who host them (unless they’re from Derby country) have to look up the recipe. The description of the party reads like a 24-year-old religious-college graduate’s idea of what a swanky urban party would be like, with unidentifiable food (even so – he claimed he couldn’t identify cheese – not the type of cheese, but that it was cheese), “exotic” cocktails, women in shimmering brooches, and so on. We don’t even have to know that the dress code was casual to see through the claim that he was “fashionably underdressed,” since he describes a guy he’s talking to as wearing “a denim shirt and a tan corduroy vest.” That’s not exactly formal wear.

    It’s also interesting how reminiscent the words he puts in the mouth of brooch lady – “We have the superior perspective; everyone else is lost” – are of part of the quote he uses from Sagan, criticizing “the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth.”

    ***

    With this in mind, how much should the veracity of Stedman’s account matter to the reader? Given that the incident is presented as illustrative of a wider phenomenon that he wishes to combat and that the dialogue contains the title of his book, I would say that accuracy is important.

    Even more important in that he’s (mis)characterizing a group of people who face prejudice and discrimination in our society, and thus contributing to that.

    He could have written the whole book about his positive vision, and left out the gnu atheist bashing. But he lives for bashing us and presenting himself as the positive, compassionate one.

  7. vaiyt says

    “..Whatever compassion and conviction and courage I may have, I believe it comes from God.”

    But the guys over there believe their hate and fanaticism comes from God as well; good luck in convincing them your God is righter than theirs.

  8. says

    The mint julep was just the most absurd detail. The only time I’ve ever had mint juleps was at Kentucky Derby parties, and I suspect those who host them (unless they’re from Derby country) have to look up the recipe…

    I have just been informed there will be canapés at the upcoming Eschaton thing. This makes me happy. Pictures. There will be pictures of gnus, with canapés. Perfect.

    I dunno that I even want to suggest mint juleps, though. Not really my thing on days when it might be appropriate, and it just seems really wrong for December in Ottawa.

    Maybe a sprig of mint as a garnish in a shot of Canadian Club? As a sorta regionally/seasonally appropriate substitute?

    (/I’ll have to get back to you on the corduroy vest, too.)

  9. F says

    I won’t lie, exactly, I’ll just dish out a lot of just-so stories to support my position, claims, and self-portrait of a faithiest as a young man.

    Anyone ever read the interview over at Kylie’s blog? It was claimed, in the comments section of another blog, that it would address some mean arguments and stuff atheists were making there (because they hadn’t even read his book yet! – never minding that one gets plenty exposed to Stedman, even unintentionally). It didn’t address any of those things some of us have concluded about Stedman. AFAICT, it didn’t address anything at all.

  10. chigau (無) says

    We made Mint Juleps once, following The Joy of Cooking.
    They were fucking awful.
    But they contained alcohol so they were not wasted.

  11. joachim says

    Well, JT Eberhard did call Stedman a “dishonest little shit” over on the “Friendly” Atheist blog.

    One little shit slamming another.

    I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning!!

  12. joachim says

    Well, JT Eberhad did call Stedman a “dishonest little shit” over at the “Friendly” Atheist blog.

    One little shit slamming another.

    I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning!!

  13. John Morales says

    [meta]

    joachim, so, you are not an atheist?

    (Tell us more about your magical sky being with a penis)

  14. raymoscow says

    Hmmm … as I was present in the WEIT thread which gave birth to the term ‘Faitheist’, and even suggested it a couple of hours after someone beat me to it, I just assumed that Stedman’s assertion that it was already a general term of derision a few months later was total BS. One hardly even saw the term used outside of WEIT comments for a long time afterwards.

    I also assumed that the rest of Stedman’s book was BS.

  15. judithsanders says

    There’s something fundamentally awry with a person who attends a religious college, decides they’re an atheist as a freshman, and goes ahead and graduates from that college.

  16. says

    I’m going to do my best to tell my story honestly, but I haven’t the best head for facts, names, dates, or anniversaries. (Ask my mom how many years she has received a Mother’s Day card on time.) In other words, I’m a big-picture kind of guy; the details slip through the cracks in my floorboards. Moreover, my mom swears up and down that several of the few vivid memories I’ve retained from childhood simply didn’t happen.

    Leaving aside the (suspect) claim that he’s a “big-picture guy,” it’s pretty funny that an author would describe himself like this on page 14 of what purports to be a memoir. He doesn’t seem suited to the genre, to put it mildly.

  17. sharculese says

    <blockquoteStedman in Salon: “I pictured myself saying with a well-meaning grin, ‘Hey, I work with religious people every day and my atheism is stronger than ever!’”

    Based on the review and that Salon excerpt, this seems to pretty much sum up Stedman. He dreams of himself as the wry observer dropping the witty bon mots that make the faithful swoon and those mean old new atheists sputter, and he’s written a book-length argument for why he deserves to be that guy.

  18. chigau (無) says

    joachim

    Moral, no. 16, are you obsessed with penises because you have a short one?

    Oh snap!
    Zing!
    Kapow!
    Wow, you sure showed him!
    Poor John Moral probably had to lie down after that one.