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Deja vu…accommodation vs. confrontation, again

Tonight at the Minnesota Atheists Regional Conference I’m participating in a panel discussion on “Atheism and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation“. Sound familiar? Interestingly, they had a hard time finding panelists who are openly in favor of pure accommodationism, although I’m sure there will be nuances between us that will give us lots to talk about. I think that sort of tells you who won the Great Accommodationism Wars that raged on the blogs a few years ago.

Anyway, it’s a panel, so I didn’t have to prepare a talk, but I did put together an introductory statement that I can use to lay out my position. This will be familiar ground to many of you, but seeing as I’ve been neglecting the blog all day, I thought I’d at least throw it online. And here’s what I plan to say:

Let me first strike a note of harmony and unity: we’re all atheists. Those of us who are activists for atheism share a common passion for the cause — the reason why we are activists is that we care very deeply about this cause.

But there are differences. Not just in how we operate, but within our motivations — atheists are a diverse lot.

For instance, for some of us, the passion might be for reconciling our godless communities with the religious default in our society: how can we help people realize that we are people too, and that we can work together?

Others might be driven to correct the deep inequities favored by religion. They don’t want to make friends, they want to see injustices resolved. If that means tearing down institutions that others cherish, then so be it.

Some of us are committed to identifying truths. When we see intellectual laziness and outright lies, we’re appalled. Before we can be friends, they have to realize that what the religious are saying is completely wrong. Don’t ask me to grit my teeth and get along with creationists, for instance: I am constitutionally incapable of allowing that nonsense to pass.

These differences between accommodationists and confrontationists are real. They represent the fact that this isn’t a group of cookie-cutter atheists whose every goal is identical; we share the broader purpose but have different foci and strengths within it. The only way to resolve these differences is to allow individuals to follow their different strategies. You will not catch me telling the kinder, gentler wing of atheism to do exactly as I do; I can see the value in their approach and encourage them to go to it. But you will also not catch me responding well to someone telling me to soften my righteous anger — I do what I do because it achieves MY goals, because it is effective FOR ME, and uses my strengths.

Working together as atheists does not mean that we subordinate the favored tactics of individuals to follow a single line of attack. The accommodationists must accommodate themselves to diversity.

Comments

  1. dogfightwithdogma says

    Could not agree more. What is it about this view that accommodationists can’t seem to understand?

  2. says

    Others might be driven to correct the deep inequities favored by religion. They don’t want to make friends, they want to see injustices resolved. If that means tearing down institutions that others cherish, then so be it.

    (preview doesn’t catch substrike, I’ll try it anyway)

  3. says

    Ok, fuck that. What I meant was to say:

    Others might be driven to correct deep inequities. They don’t want to make friends, they want to see injustices resolved. If that means tearing down institutions that others cherish, then so be it.

    Religion being just one source where from inequities might arise.

  4. anuran says

    How about the various sides acting like adults. Work together if you have a common cause. Oppose each other if someone’s rights are being infringed. Otherwise ignore each other.

    Or would that be too easy?

  5. A Surprise to Many says

    I do a lot of work with kids at a local church, mainly because they are really committed to social justice, know that I’m an atheist (I’m pretty open about my lack of religious beliefs), and still consider me part of their community. They also don’t try to convert me, not even one smallish conversion attempt in a couple years of involvement. It’d be great to have atheist groups in my community to provide the same sort of youth programs, but I don’t have the energy or personality to reinvent the wheel, and this particular liberal Protestant church has programs already in place.

    The disapproval that I get from atheists in more affluent, white communities for working with a church is pretty offensive, as if my atheism is supposed to be more important that tutoring and youth programs for minority kids. I’m really glad confrontational atheists are out there but so often I wish that more of them would try to do more than disproving Bigfoot over and over and over and …

  6. Yuriel says

    You will not catch me telling the kinder, gentler wing of atheism to do exactly as I do; I can see the value in their approach and encourage them to go to it. But you will also not catch me responding well to someone telling me to soften my righteous anger — I do what I do because it achieves MY goals, because it is effective FOR ME, and uses my strengths.

    Also, do NOT try to score cheap, boot-lickin’ points by positioning yourself as the “friendly, understanding” kind of atheist, defender of believer’s feelings, in contrast to those “mean, militant, dogmatic” atheists that are just “hurting the cause! OMG”(for extra douche points, throw around Dawkins’ name).

    I see a lot of that in politics too, with democrats like President Obama taking swing at his most supportive base, liberals and “the Left,” to prop himself as a “moderate.”

    False Equivalence and Perfect Middle fallacies abound.

  7. didgen says

    I have never understood the people who just want someone to tell them what to believe or think. I want to know things, and to know that they are as close to the actual truth as possible. I’d be fine with god, if someone could show me something, anything. Until then, I’ll go with what has the most demonstrated data points. You’ll need more than an old book, and a lot of “Have faith.”

  8. Azuma Hazuki says

    When you see too many horrors, you either fight them or die insane. THAT is why, despite not being an atheist but a deist or spiritist, I come down on organized religion as hard as Hitchens ever did if not worse.

    We can brook no co-existence with ideas like that (notice, IDEAS, not people). Strip away all the touchy-feely bullshit: the essence of Christianity is “We are all so horribly evil and unworthy and wretched that every picosecond we suffer less than we would in Hell is an act of undeserved and infinite mercy from a God who will soon, as eternity is counted, stop being merciful.”

    This is, of course, leaving aside all the trouble with languages and the corruption of ideas that happened at Nicea, let alone the earlier forgeries and pseudepigraphia. I think if Alexandria or Antioch had become the center of the Christian world instead of Carthage (later Rome), the religion would be very different; for one thing it would be Universalist, after the teachings of, respectively, Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia. There would also be a lot of what gets called mediumship involved; leave aside whether that stuff is real or not, if you can understand the language and context, the Jews constantly “inquired of the Lord” through the temple equivalent of a sacred Ouija board (Urim and Thummim), Saul had a low medium “bring up Samuel,” and even Latin-speaking Tertullian makes references to materialization in “De Anima.”

    So what we have as “Christianity” today is not only hideously vile, not only mistranslated, not only shot through with pseudepigraphia, but it’s 1700 years of Roman propaganda and likely wouldn’t contain ANYTHING Jesus would recognize.

    THAT. Is why. I fight. Because this horrible memetic monster is not only vile and tortuous and cruel, but it’s not even consistent with its own roots. And now I see it destroying the world around me. And the accomodationists would have us ignore all this in the name of civility!

  9. DLC says

    I just don’t understand why all you angry militant Anti-Christians have to be so angry and militant and anti-christian.
    Remember — the Cake is made of lies!

  10. says

    Applause from me, PZ. I like every bit of it.

    I can’t resist noting:

    Interestingly, they had a hard time finding panelists who are openly in favor of pure accommodationism, although I’m sure there will be nuances between us that will give us lots to talk about. I think that sort of tells you who won the Great Accommodationism Wars that raged on the blogs a few years ago.

    And saying Yay, Gnus!

  11. tuibguy says

    During the “Framing Wars” I observed that the adherence to accommodationism is in fact patronizing towards religious people. It is a form of dishonesty, if you ask me. I worked at the time as a volunteer for more than a few political campaigns, so I had common cause with many liberal Christians and Jews and religion wasn’t a common issue. When the question came up of which religion I was, I felt free to just tell them that I am an atheist. Some invited me to their church because they were “almost atheist,” but when I asked them what the point of that would be, they really had no answer.

    Me being an atheist, and being honest about it, led to a few discussions, but I swear I hurt no feelings or scared anybody away from evolution nor caused anybody to turn Republican because of the one Atheist Democrat who wasn’t afraid to talk about it.

    The accommodationists who angered me the most were the ones who placed themselves at the front, explaining that only they knew how to approach theists and keep them comforted that evolution wouldn’t harm their relationship with God. “All for the greater good!”

    To each of us our own way in expressing our atheism, or not, in working with charities whose focus is on faith, or not. We are all adults here, we get to make our decisions.

  12. says

    When they want us to shut up and behave? Gee, thanks, dad!

    How much of a thing is this still? PZ implies that Gnus won the ‘Framing Wars’, after all.

  13. llbguy says

    A word about being too positional. Us/them in whatever form is not very productive, so who really cares what form of it one should take. Rather, prioritize and simplify the main interests at stake. Can these be agreed upon? I can think of a few candidates:

    -harmony
    -equality
    -reasonableness
    -logical soundness
    -evidence-based thinking
    -respect
    -scoring “points” / winning
    -truth
    -diversity
    -vindictiveness

    The debate will be shaped by whatever interest is propped up. So unless you have an objective method of determining which interests are “better” than others, you’re just going to be vacillating forever. I’m not saying running on a treadmill isn’t exhilarating. I only observe one doesn’t actually achieve any movement.

    Moreover, the does not have to be finality about what absolute stance one should take. One can be more situational. Just as in war – a time for force, for appeasement, for diplomacy, for armistice. To be inflexible is to invite unnecessary conflict.