The Atheist Disillusionment


I’ve been writing about atheism for about 10 years now. What has driven me is a combination of awe at the amazing insights produced by science, so much deeper and more substantial than any collection of myths, and a furious rage at the lies and injustice and corruption of humanity by religion. For a while there, in the middle, there was also an ebullience at the growing success of atheism, and hope that someday we would be able to cast aside the follies of faith. The awe is still here, the rage is still burning, but the optimism is fading and is being consumed by a new anger at the incompetence and betrayal of the self-appointed atheist leadership.

Too many atheists turn out to be just as shallow as the fervent faithful I rail against. Too many see atheism as another useless difference they can use to excuse discrimination against others they are already prejudiced against. I used to have this illusion that an atheist society would be more tolerant, that under it government and education would be secular, but the churches would still exist, if people wanted to attend them — a sort of Scandinavian ideal. But no, what I’m fast learning is that tolerance isn’t automatically a property of abandoning the false tribe of religion, but is more a reflection of the greater culture it is embedded in. Atheists can still hold a “kill the wogs” mentality while babbling about the wonders of science; people who regard women as servile appliances for their gratification don’t seem to become suddenly enlightened once the scales of faith fall from their eyes.

That was a surprise to my naive self. But I could still see value in discarding religion — it is one factor that contributes heavily to world-wide ignorance — and simply saw that the struggle was going to be harder than I had hoped. We’re not only going to have to inspire and inform everyone about the beauty of the natural mechanisms that drive our world, and the error of seeking shortcuts in the falsehoods of antique traditions, but we’re also going to have to educate everyone about the Darwinian concepts of unity and diversity, that there is no higher or lower, that cooperation is as important (I’d say more important) component of our evolution as competition. The absence of a god has profound implications that seem not to be immediately obvious to everyone, so it’s going to take some serious effort to help everyone think through that meaning…and that the most important implication of it all, that we’re all alone with each other and need to develop values base on human meaning, rather than divine revelation, says we need to broaden our reach and open the doors wider. It’s not about wealthy white man meaning, after all, but something more universal.

And that’s OK! Being an American atheist means I’ve been an isolated, tiny, disparaged minority my whole life, living in a sea of people who fundamentally disagree with me, and I have not been discouraged. That just means this goal is going to take a lot of effort to achieve, and I’m not afraid of that. Roll up your sleeves, gang, we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Gang? Where’d you go, gang?

There is the great disappointment. The movement, whose whole premise demands a sweeping change of the culture, has discovered that it is far easier to defend the status quo than to change it. We’re willing to ask other people to think long and hard about their beliefs, to question and change, but all that other stuff that our culture planted in our heads, like beliefs about the sexes and races, like the rigid gender binary, like the suitability of women to thinking critically, like the automatic conferral of status by wealth, like the dehumanization of people who look like they might have had different great-grandparents than us, like the utility of simply killing people who disagree with us…oh, no, don’t ask us to change. We’re just here to promote atheism! One thing at a time! Once we’ve cleared away the deadwood of religion, then maybe we can think about encouraging a rational world that will have those nice things you’re talking about. Atheism is only about separation of church and state issues, or only about science and naturalism, or only about scholarly discussion of the accuracy of ancient texts, or only about fighting the barbarous customs of non-Western peoples…it’s only about the non-existence of gods, we can’t possibly consider side issues, like the harassment of women or the oppression of black communities or the diminishing educational opportunities of the poor, to be part of our brief!

Well, I’ve got news for the atheist movement: it all matters. Just as I’ve been saying for years that you won’t defeat creationism by enforcing laws that restrict the teaching of creationism (laws that too many teachers simply ignore), you won’t make headway until you get deeper into the culture and address the root causes, so too you won’t get people to change by just telling them over and over that god doesn’t exist. We must address the problems that matter, and they’re deep and they’re difficult and some atheists contribute to them.

You won’t get your philosophical atheist utopia at all if that utopia considers the dignity of all human beings to be a secondary matter. You will effectively kneecap the whole movement if you don’t care about social justice, and worse, are more afraid of driving out the hateful and intolerant who are already inside our ranks than of embracing the needs of the many millions outside of them.

It’s already happening, though. The disenchantment with the movement is growing.

Libby Anne wonders, Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion?.

Frankly, I feel used. These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large. They are the sort of people who are eager to use the shooting of young education activist Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban to prove how horrible religion is for women but somehow fail to mention that Malala is a Muslim who speaks of drawing her inspiration to fight for gender equality from the Koran. This is not standing up for women. This is exploiting women as merely a tool in a fight against religion.

I’m done. I’m so, so done.

Katha Pollitt thinks that Atheists Show Their Sexist Side, and are currently having a “sexist tantrum”.

Alas, the ability to take such instruction is in good part something Sam Harris thinks women sadly lack. “There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” said the bestselling author of The End of Faith. “The atheist variable just has this—it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.” It seems to me, judging from recent events, that atheist men are the fragile flowers here—they, not women, are the ones wilting under criticism. Perhaps they can’t stand it that women are withholding that “extra estrogen vibe” that used to make conferences so much fun. (Amanda Marcotte, of the steel-trap mind, has a fine time slapping Harris around at Pandagon. Remind me never to get into a fight with her.)

Why would women join a movement led by sexists and populated by trolls? If this is atheism, I’m becoming a Catholic.

Tauriq Moosa says the reason he became an active atheist is now why he’s not one.

I won’t be part of a movement resolutely more focused on shielding rich, white dudes than by being inclusive of marginalised, non-male, non-white people. Count me out. Call me back when we give a shit about women and you can admit those of us writing in a small corner of the internet actually care about moral action, not money, for what we do.

The only people who can survive off atheist clickbait are people who write books called The God Delusion. It’s not fucking bloggers.

I will make a prediction, right here and now. The number of people identifying as “nones” will grow in this country in coming years, because we’re on the right side of history, and because organized religion is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on other-worldly issues that don’t help people. The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people.

I can’t say that’s a bad thing. The name of atheism has been burdened with unfair and inaccurate stigma for a great many years, and we’re now drifting into an era in which atheism will be burdened with a totally fair and accurate stigma.

Unless we change.

I don’t know that we can.

Comments

  1. simulateddave says

    In hindsight, it’s obvious. Religions are human inventions. Getting rid of hateful and misogynistic religions isn’t just going to wipe out the reasons we made them hateful and misogynistic in the first place. Unfortunately.

  2. Chat_Noir1972 says

    In the beginning it was Gods who were used as the authorities to describe why ‘minorities’ who when stacked up make up the majority should be discriminated against. Now it seems to come in a pseudo-scientific cloth. ‘Evolution’ is why ‘They’ will never truly be equal with some presumed ‘Us’. See ‘The Bell Curve’ and entities visited by the so-called ‘Men’s Rights Activists’.

    I will call myself an atheist and an anti theist because I am a realist. If it’s real, I believe it. If not, I don’t. I am also a Humanist and now apparently a Social Justice something or other according to a rabid subset of privileged gamers.

    I believe in everybody getting a fair share and putting in what they can to make it a better place to live in for everybody.

    In the end, what bloody Atheist Movement. The internal contradictions of a group of people whose only common ground is a lack of belief in gods is apparent now. I would happy to be part of an Atheist Plus world, because it has more in common with my thoughts and feelings than just ‘Not Believing In Gods’.

    Do we need a hashtag #notallatheists?

  3. rq says

    Unless we change.

    I don’t know that we can.

    I can’t afford to believe that we can’t. None of us can (in my opinion). That being said, it’s awfully difficult sometimes. But I refuse to give up all hope, even if I have to force myself to do so with a conscious, bull-headed effort. I can’t afford to.
    Maybe I’m not old or tired or worn out enough yet, but the day I give up all hope will be a day I die a death far more meaningful than the physical one. And I don’t think I will like myself after that day.

  4. uticusprime says

    “my naive self”…. That sums it up.

    “Whaaaa people act like , and I don’t like it!”

    Your last book was good, even helpful to many people, but please grow the fuck up and get off your self righteous high horse.

  5. raven says

    You won’t get your philosophical atheist utopia at all if that utopia considers the dignity of all human beings to be a secondary matter.

    You won’t get an atheist utopia anyway. We humans don’t know how to make real utopias.

    What you will get is a better society on average. Not a lot but noticeable and well worth the effort.

    Atheism isn’t a panacea. But it is better than religion which is often a poison.
    Hitchen’s Rule. Religion poisons everything. This is still true no matter how many atheist slimemolds there are.

  6. R Johnston says

    Praising the atheism of raging misogynistic asshats is of a kind with praising the religious beliefs of people who otherwise seem to be nice folks. Accommodationism is always, always wrong, whether it’s accommodating the religious inanity of people working soup kitchens or it’s accommodating the sexist, racist, classist bullshit of a Sam Harris or a Richard Dawkins.

    People who are selectively willfully ignorant can be allies when it comes to specific projects on which they are not willfully ignorant, but their acceptance of willful ignorance is always a problem that means they can’t be leaders or even participants in the fight for critical thinking. Atheism does not in any way prevent the compartmentalization of reason, and compartmentalized reason isn’t really reason at all; it’s just another tool for motivated post-hoc rationalization. Wherever ignorance is accommodated, ignorance flourishes. Wherever ignorance grows it’s a weed; it might seem harmless or even pleasing at a glance, but you can’t control it once it’s taken seed.

  7. Muggus says

    I wonder whether a shift like you describe – shrinking numbers of religious folk, shrinking numbers of folks identifying as “atheist” – isn’t itself a laudable telos for atheism as a movement. A shifting of the larger cultural view that religion is the norm or default would imply that our compulsion to identify with a rejection of that old status quo shrinks as time progresses, no? It’s difficult to identify with aspects of yourself that aren’t seen as different by society at large (or conversely, don’t necessitate a “following” the way religious doctrine does). The isolation many of us formerly religious folk feel when we abandon the confines of our old faith often compels us to reach out for others who share our experience, to not feel quite so alone. I’d like to think that as generations become progressively more secular and the marginalization of atheism recedes, that our movement won’t primarily exist for the sake of secular fellowship that makes us feel included. After all, the prospect of being rejected by a group with which you identify can yield immense social pressure that quashes disagreement with its leaders, even when rational debate is supposed to be what you have in common. It’s why otherwise decent people don’t stand up against institutionalized hazing, and it’s why fans of prominent people, skeptics and atheists included, often reject criticism of their idols without even considering the content of those criticisms.
    There came a point for me when I realized that I had more in common with the religious folk working alongside me at the Saturday soup kitchen than with prominent atheists arguing about how to not get raped. I wonder whether social justice would not be better served by those interested in it divesting themselves of the atheist label (or at least demoting it slightly on our list of priorities) and focusing on supporting human rights in our own secular fashion. Am I being entirely too naïve here?

  8. raven says

    Libby Anne wonders, Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion?.

    I’m done. I’m so, so done.

    Atheists aren’t some monolithic block marching to the same drummer with the same values and goals. The Nones are around 60 million in the USA, how could they be?

    It would be nice if they were in agreement on the issues I and Libby Anne consider important. But reality is what it is.

    But throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn’t a good solution. While not all atheists agree with Libby Anne, many millions do and those millions matter too. You can’t just take your ball and go home no matter how attractive that is. The game exists and will go on whether you want it to or not and it will effect you whether you want it to or not.

  9. says

    I was never religious in the first place. The God Delusion and all those other books had zero impact on me. My personal decision to become outspoken on matters religious was never influenced by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Thunderfoot or anyone else. It was influenced by my own sense of justice and fairness. The same sense of fairness and justice which leads me to speak up on social-justice matters. I didn’t need the Great Atheist Leaders and their fans in order to make that decision, and I don’t need them now.

  10. says

    The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people.

    QFT!

    Atheism is become a parody. The very worst that right wing fuckers have said about atheism, that is what it is becoming. Because why? Because that is exactly what these fuckers are turning it into. Sociable RWA? Join a church, or the Republican party? Anti-sociable RWA? Become an atheist. That is the way things are going, as each and every Thought Leader ™ abandons their posts.

  11. says

    A lot of social movements have this problem. At first, only people with a shit-ton of social capital can come out and self-identify and BE an activist. Think about environmentalists, the early gay-rights movements. Then some of the original scions turn out to be terrible assholes, those who want to make a difference spread out and continue to address the real issues, the core goes away or mutates into some status-quo minded Washington thinktank.

    It’s the cirrrrrrrrcle of life.

    To me, social change is more like washing the dishes in a restaurant than beating some Final Boss. You have to keep doing it, the work is always piling up the most when you’re successful, and sometimes some plates become broken or so stained and unworkable that you must simply discard them and keep washing the ones that work so that your customers don’t get food poisoning.

  12. ekwhite says

    Posts like this are why I read Pharyngula. PZ has eloquently articulated my feelings about the atheist movement right now. If atheism is supposed to serve only rich white males, you can count me out. I’ll be working with people who are working for a better world, regardless of their religious beliefs.

  13. Al Dente says

    It’s my personal belief, backed by nothing except my disdain for Penn Jillette and others of his kidney, that many atheists embrace atheism because “you can’t tell me what to do and that includes gods.” Many libertarians, most of whom are well-off, middle-aged or older, cis-hetro, white men, dislike social justice because it goes against their natural conservatism.* Since feminism is a hot issue in atheist circles, the libertarians rush to bash it (and women in general) because it challenges the status quo. It doesn’t surprise me that Sam Harris, Michael Shermer and Jillette are all sexists** and libertarians. The two go well together.

    *Sorry, libertarians, but you’re only interested in freedom for yourself. You couldn’t care less about anyone who doesn’t follow your social-politico-economic utopianism.

    **I know Harris claims he’s not sexist. But if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s not likely to be an aardvark.

  14. says

    The movement that you hoped for already exists, except they call themselves ‘humanists.’ You’re trying to get the word atheism to carry way, way too much weight. An atheist can be a perfectly good atheist while espousing nihilistic barbarism; tolerant liberalism isn’t a given. Rather than trying to shoe-horn specific values into atheism as a whole, you might get better results by trying to attract more people to organizations that hold the same values you do. It isn’t atheism per se that promotes misogyny, racism, white male privilege and the whole garbage pile of right-wing nonsense; it’s a collection of assholes.

  15. AndrewD says

    I have been an atheist for at least 50 years, and have never considered myself as part of a “movement”, Dawkins et al helped clarify some of my beliefs but I have never considered them leaders. My beliefs were also strongly influenced by the late Colin Ward but he would have refuted any attempt to call him a leader. I have also been strongly affected by “several dead Russian males”,Bukunin and Kropotkin, who would also have rejected the leader tag
    The problem with the “atheist movement” is that to many it is a single issue movement and suffers from the inherent problems of a single issue movement, fragility and a tendency to self proclaimed leaders. The attempt to move to a more broadly based movement has upset those self proclaimed leaders who see it as a threat to their Power. If we wish to fight for Social justice in the broadest possible way we need to recognise that just being atheists or feminists is not enough. We need to fight for equality, against poverty and above all against the Powerful. That this will cause a serious backlash from the powerful is to be expected.
    Therefore PZ, Ophelia and others Stand firm in the fight for justice for all and really upset your fellow Americans become Socialists. Remember the slogan from ’68-Be reasonable-Demand the Impossible.
    (Yes SC, I know that the slogan wasn’t the socialists)
    cameronkelley @16 Humanism isnt immune from these problems, it was founded in misogyny and raceism but hopefully can outgrow tese things.

  16. Scr... Archivist says

    Five years ago this month, Greta Christina wrote her blog post “Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race” and the follow-up, “Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why”. I think that now would be a good time to assess the state of the movement, to see where we are in the process of change that Greta sought.

    We’re not going to single-handedly fix racism and sexism overnight. Even I’m not enough of a pie-eyed optimist to think that. But we have a chance in the atheist movement to learn from the mistakes of the LGBT movement, and the mistakes of every other progressive movement before ours. Our movement — at least, the current incarnation of our movement, the visible and vocal and activist incarnation of our movement — is still relatively new. We have a unique opportunity to handle this problem early: before these self-perpetuating cycles become entrenched, before decades of ugly history and bad feelings poison the well.

    Let’s take that opportunity.

    Let’s take action on this now.

    A lot of progress has been made in the last five years. There are now policies against sexual harassment at conferences, for example. People have been openly digging up sexist attitudes and shining sunlight on them. There are similar fights happening in neighboring movements and subcultures, and they can all reinforce each other’s progress.

    Unfortunately, I think this ugliness is just something we have to get through to change things. It’s like getting through Mirkwood. You have to get to some pretty dark places before you start walking out of the forest. Greta was right that it’s better to get as much of the nastiness behind us as soon as we can, rather than dealing with it later.

    I still think there will be a later, and I think that it can also be much better.

  17. says

    AndrewD@17. I certainly agree that humanism (like, unfortunately, many other movements of alleged good intentions) has some bad history; to me, the difference is that humanism has stated as its goals ways of thinking and behaving towards others that are in line with what Dr. Myers would like for atheism. I don’t think atheism encourages the specific changes in society that he wants to see. I don’t think it promotes any particular values, other than the value of not believing in ideas that have no evidence to support them. Which is pretty valuable in itself, though, as an enabler of clear thinking.

  18. says

    Yes! On second thought, YAAAAASSSSSS!

    If atheism is about debunking false beliefs, why stop at just supernaturalism? Why not debunk our society’s false beliefs about race, gender, and sexuality?

  19. anbheal says

    This was a fine essay. But the glass is also half-full. If that old arc of the universe ain’t bending toward justice, then my state, Queretaro, wouldn’t be having its first lesbian marriage next week.

    Kerouac (who was often a sexist jerk, acknowledged) once said that one of Nature’s most curious phenomena was how many more horses’ asses there were than horses. Someone else pointed out that, in any group, one out of every two people you pass must be dumber than the average. So it’s impossible for any cohort, movement, value system, revolution, you name it, not to be populated with its share of assholes, incompetents, manipulators, profiteers, hangers-on, fifth columnists, layabouts, roues and cads, and those who don’t quite get it. This certainty speaks little to the ethics, goals, and progress of the movement.

    My late mother used to chide young students around the dinner table, lamenting the decline and fall, that in her 79 years on the planet, a mixed marriage, disapproved of by both sets of parents and their communities, had evolved from Protestant-Catholic to Christian-Jew to GI-Asian to Black-White to Man-Man. Meanwhile, infants in industrialized countries weren’t dying, and our gravestones no longer listed the five or six kids who died within weeks of their birth, and strong countries no longer sent millions of boys out to die in the trenches. There’s still always a lot of shit rolling downhill, but there’s less of it, more bread and less shit in the shit sandwich. Her biggest regret was that she always thought she’d see flying cars before she died.

    So chin up old chap. You spearhead a group called FreeThinkers– Harris and Dawkins and Thunderf00t and trolls don’t really define anything for anyone who actually engages in free thinking.

  20. azhael says

    I have no problem understanding that someone can be an atheist and still be sexist or racist or generally a bigoted arsehole….what i find much more difficult is that a scientist, specially a biologist, can still be all those things. How?
    Anyway, i’ll still identify as an atheist and an anti-theist, because both are entirely correct. I just won’t refer to certain public figures when asked for information sources…
    I also think it’s very likely that atheism as a public phenomenon is going to bounce back, but with new faces and hopefully with better people behind those faces.

  21. brett says

    I think we are making progress, after a fashion. As others pointed out up-thread, sexual harassment policies are now mandatory at an increasing number of atheist conferences, the Leading Lights are getting called out for sexist behavior in some big publications (The Guardian, for example), and just the sheer fact that bad behavior no longer goes unanswered in public is a huge deal. It gives me hope that we can move towards a broader secular movement, and avoid the recurring trap of “Great Man” Atheism (the kind that you see in Ayn Rand books, and the kind that Dawkins, Harris, and their ilk implicitly admire).

    @cameronkelley

    I don’t think atheism encourages the specific changes in society that he wants to see. I don’t think it promotes any particular values, other than the value of not believing in ideas that have no evidence to support them.

    It should make you question the idea – inherent to religion – that there’s anything inherent about the existing society order, anything “predetermined”. Think of the old concept of “divine right of kings” – if the king’s rule is not divine and simply a product of pre-existing norms and repression, then what does that say about the rest of the social order? Are we simply carrying over practices and beliefs because they were what came before us, and the commandment to do so has outlived the old religious mandate?

  22. says

    PZ,

    No matter how disillusioned you get, please know that you are providing an extremely valuable service to society with your website. Here is a recent example:

    Yesterday, I was very pleased to learn that my boss, a prominent professor at my university, is involved in efforts to improve the career prospects of women in STEM fields (and involved at a national level, apparently). We discussed the topic for a few minutes, and he explained that while there may be real differences between men and women, this shouldn’t make any difference – he cited the popular larger variance of mathematical abilities for males. I told him I believed that this had been debunked, and as he was interested he asked if I could provide a reference. I didn’t know any, but I knew how to find one. Within 2 minutes of googling ‘pharyngula, gender variance ratio,’ I’d found what I wanted (via this). If I hadn’t been a regular reader of this site, I wouldn’t even have known there was anything to look for.

    Thank you.

  23. brett says

    @azhael

    I have no problem understanding that someone can be an atheist and still be sexist or racist or generally a bigoted arsehole….what i find much more difficult is that a scientist, specially a biologist, can still be all those things. How?

    People are very good at creating separate categories of thought in their own mind. I always think of Louis Agassiz, a man who played a major role in proving the existence of past ice ages . . . but who was also an ardent creationist his entire life, even to the point where it started to tarnish his reputation even when he was alive. He could question the traditional interpretations of genesis, but it did not lead him to think, “Hmm, if there’s a problem with the biblical story of creation here, then what does that say about the validity of the whole story? What if Mr. Darwin is right?”

  24. Scientismist says

    uticusprime @#6

    “my naive self”…. That sums it up.
    “Whaaaa people act like , and I don’t like it!”
    ..please grow the fuck up and get off your self righteous high horse.

    That’s a couple of the reason I like to read PZ’s blog. He knows he can be uninformed on some matters, and is willing to try to learn; and then, when he thinks he has it right and can defend his point of view, he acts on it. If “growing up” means losing the will to learn and the will to act, then I hope he never grows up, but stays on that horse, even though it may try to buck him off.

    In the latest issue of Freethought Today, the newsletter for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I see that a certain PZ Myers has recently become a life member. It might be our host, as the short list of home states of the new life members includes Minnesota. If so, congratulations, PZ. I like FFRF for much the same reasons — they do the research, and then they act.

  25. tigerlily55 says

    I was not a lifelong atheist. Dawkins, Harris, PZ and others strongly influenced me. Unfortunately we shouldn’t be surprised that these issues of sexism, hateful epithets hurled against courageous women who write about atheism and sexual assault have emerged in the atheist movement. Unless we hear the male, atheist VIPs state that they understand how destructive their statements and actions have been to the movement, we must bring new leaders to the forefront, leaders who reflect the diversity of our culture. We must support them financially and emotionally so they can become the new faces of atheism.

    I’m discouraged too. Don’t give up the fight PZ!

  26. AMM says

    I suppose I might count as a “none.”

    “Atheism” as a belief has never attracted me, partly because I can’t get worked up over the question of whether a God exists. Even if an omniscient, omnipotent, etc., being exists, I have a hard time imagining that She would get Her knickers in a twist over whether some tiny, powerless beings “believe in” Her or not. (I’m reminded of the day when my ex-wife announced to me “I don’t believe in infinity.” As far as I (PhD in math) can tell, Infinity has not lost any sleep over it.)

    But another part is that my experience of atheists hasn’t been all that positive. The few atheists I know in person are (mostly) nice people and share many of my values, but they are rather self-righteous and condescending when the subject of religion comes up. It’s also true of many of the atheists I have encoutered on-line, except that you’d need to drop the “(mostly) nice.” My on-line experience has been that a lot of atheists seem to be attracted to atheism because it gives them an excuse to feel smarter and better than the benighted masses. If you disagree with them or express doubts about the One True Way they are preaching, they call you an idiot. And this having-a-corner-on-wisdom attitude spills over into non-religious areas. If you disagree with their views on sexism or racism or economic disparities or whatever, you’re just wrong and stupid for having views that disagree with theirs. FWIW, I had the impression that Dawkins was that kind long before I had contact with Teh Atheist Movement.

    If I have any positive impression of atheism and atheists, it has come from reading some (not all!) of the FTB bloggers and the Skepchick collective of blogs, and some bloggers I’ve learned about from them, because they seem to share my values (there’s still a lot of self-righteousness, though.) My “religion” is, to describe it simply, “behave decently,” something that some prominent atheists (as well as a lot of prominent non-atheists) evidently don’t believe. My “theology” is that how we treat one another (and that’s all one-anothers, not just your fellow tribespeople) is what matters. And, at least when the topic isn’t “does God exist,” the bloggers I read mostly practice the same “religion.”

    Lately, I’ve been attending a Unitarian congregation, mostly so I can spend some time with people who share my values (my “religion”, as it were.) I’m pretty sure that some people there are atheist and some aren’t (and some follow some religious traditions without believing in a God), but it doesn’t matter. We’re not perfect — in particular, we have a supertanker load of privilege which we aren’t good at overcoming — but at least people there are making an attempt. Something that those who have Attained the One True Truth don’t seem to find necessary.

  27. says

    brett@23 Well, there’s the rub, isn’t it? It should make you question things…but that’s up to the individual to take up that part of it and go out in search of nonsense to destroy. I think an atheist has a more straightforward path to asking those questions, as most religions that I’m familiar with – even the most benign – have some pretty squirrelly beliefs that people have to work around so that they can ask questions that should be asked. That doesn’t mean that he or she is going to go do that, however. I’m not slagging atheism at all, I just think it’s being asked to include a lot of ideas that are not intrinsic to it.

  28. The Mellow Monkey says

    The kyriarchy and bigotry and unfairness we see being perpetuated by some big name atheists and all other supporters of the status quo aren’t the result of any sort of hardwiring, so there should be hope. We have as much potential to change as the Forest Troop Baboons. We’re an especially flexible species from an especially flexible order. So how does a species with so much flexibility keep tending towards such cultural conservation? Why aren’t we rewriting our culture from the ground up every time an awesome new idea to make it better comes along?

    Because we have language. We have internal narratives to remind us of the stories of how things should be. We have oral histories. We have rote memorization of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong.” We grow up hearing feudal folk tales meant to pass on good values for peasants and we’re told this is how to make imaginations soar. We read the stories of iron age tribes and claim they have universal power and messages from a deity. When we base a modern book or movie on the stories of people from centuries ago, we applaud the timelessness of the tale instead of looking hard at what we’re reproducing. We create fantastic fantasy worlds with dragons and zombies and psychic paraplegic heroes…and we reinforce racism and sexism and classism with them.

    Religion is part of it, but if you throw that part out you still have centuries and more of culture that are still embraced and still admired and still influencing us every day. When the new male baboons enter the forest troop, they have to learn from the culture they see and they emulate what they see. But people have language and symbolism. We can’t get rid of the toxic generations before if we’re still repeating their stories and ideas.

    This is why cultural criticism is profoundly important and why it gets such a massive backlash. It’s not petty or silly or overly sensitive to criticize video games and TV shows and comic books. How else can we ever hope to change anything if we don’t change the narratives we’re taught from birth? And people don’t like to have their narratives questioned, because you’re not just questioning a story; you’re questioning their reality. So, sure, people get defensive about the fictionality of their religion being pointed out to them, but Dawkins and others are going to get just as defensive when the sexist, classist, racist, etc, narratives they’ve grown up on are pointed out to them.

    So, yes, we need to tear down gods, but there are far more of them than most people realize. Middle Earth drips in monarchist, sexist, racist fantasies. Shakespeare was–and in many ways still is–a tool of cultural colonialism. Any story that ends with someone getting rewarded with a marriage or a crown on their head is bullshit. Every story about a “chosen one” contains the specter of fascist wish fulfillment. “Work hard and you’ll be rich someday” is a lie to keep us docile.

    We need to be willing to tear down everything we revere when it’s necessary. We need to create new narratives and new ideas, because this is how people learn. This is how babies in the crib are already internalizing the gender binary and five-year-olds will decide “a spiky brown tea set and an angry-looking baby doll dressed in rough black clothing are for boys, while a smiling yellow truck adorned with hearts and a yellow hammer strewn with ribbons are for girls.

    Yes, religion contains harmful fairy tales that need to be discarded. We have to discard all the other ways those fairy tales sneak into our heads, too. And the fact that we can discard the religious fairy tales shows it’s possible.

  29. says

    Tauriq Moosa:

    I won’t be part of a movement resolutely more focused on shielding rich, white dudes than by being inclusive of marginalised, non-male, non-white people. Count me out. Call me back when we give a shit about women and you can admit those of us writing in a small corner of the internet actually care about moral action, not money, for what we do.

    The only people who can survive off atheist clickbait are people who write books called The God Delusion. It’s not fucking bloggers.

    Yes, to every word. I am an atheist, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a social justice activist, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a feminist, for over 40 years, I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a secular humanist, I’m not ashamed of that.

    The Atheist Movement™? Yes, I am ashamed of that.

  30. says

    uticusprime @ 6:

    “Whaaaa people act like , and I don’t like it!”

    Your last book was good, even helpful to many people, but please grow the fuck up and get off your self righteous high horse.

    Part and parcel of growing up is to continue to grow and learn, to become aware of things which don’t necessarily affect you. PZ has done a fine job in that department, and has provided a voice and a haven for many. You might want to try that growing up stuff yourself.

  31. says

    I have no problem understanding that someone can be an atheist and still be sexist or racist or generally a bigoted arsehole….what i find much more difficult is that a scientist, specially a biologist, can still be all those things. How?

    This is why it’s important to study not just science, but also the history of scientific discovery. Knowledge of the ways scientists of the past have manipulated science, the tool, in the service of various bigotries and unsupported beliefs makes such shenanigans not just less shocking, but utterly predictable.

  32. nomuse says

    Same old story, isn’t it. I’m having flashbacks to the Civil Rights Movements. After working so hard alongside the men, there was the inevitable “What, you want rights, too? One thing at a time, babe!”

  33. says

    Also, it would be more surprising to me for science not to be misused in the service of bigotry. We’ve managed to incorporate bigotry into literally every other part of human civilisation, how could we expect differently of scientists? Science invented vaccinations, but it’s at best a poor one itself against the cultural atmosphere of bigotry we all grow up in, from the time of our first breath.

    So far. But we can keep working at it, and we’ll need to.

    This was a good piece, PZ.

  34. says

    It’s my personal belief, backed by nothing except my disdain for Penn Jillette and others of his kidney, that many atheists embrace atheism because “you can’t tell me what to do and that includes gods.”

    I recently described this, though not quite as accurately as I am about to here, as, “My parents told me to take out the trash and not hit my sister, but who the hell is society to tell me the same thing!?”

  35. plutoanimus says

    Aron Ra kindly posted this amazing audio recording of Madalyn Murray O’Hair giving a speech to atheists in 1972.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yflQd2jyp7Y

    Right off the bat, she complains bitterly about the little atheist subgroups whom she loathes. Reminds me a lot of PZ’s post, and this was 42 years ago.

  36. says

    I’m no BigBrainDeepThoughtThinky type. I am a cis white middle class male trying to be a better person. I can’t do much in the way of “activism” for reasons. Because I’m priveleged enough to have a small surplus of income, I throw a few bucks at orgs that I think are helping people. I do identify as an atheist, a humanist, a gamer. I want to see all these, et al, prosper and progress. My contribution to “the cause”? Trying to raise three children to be better than I was/am. Calling out misogyny, rasicm, privelge, etc when I see it. Teaching my kids to “not be like that person” and why.

    I dont know if the current atheist movement will survive, in the long run. I know that it cant prosper as it is going now. I’m hoping we can change it. If not, then maybe our kids can.

    /my $.02

  37. see_the_galaxy says

    The problem is that we are under attack by conservatives, basically. Who are the people who are threatening women, disrupting the movement, sowing dissension, and preventing the emergence of solidarity and a sense that we are all on the same team? As far as I can tell, they are libertarians and conservatives, almost entirely. Causing us to become demoralized, disunified, disillusioned, inactive is not a bug–it’s a feature. It is the whole point of their effort. Don’t think for a moment that a conservative atheist can ever be a friend of our movement. Conservatives (aside from an occasional maverick maybe) care first, last, forever and only about conservatism (more power and money for the elites). And conservatism is powerfully allied with religion in the USA for the forseeable future.

  38. Scientismist says

    cameronkelley @#19:

    I don’t think it [atheism] promotes any particular values, other than the value of not believing in ideas that have no evidence to support them. Which is pretty valuable in itself, though, as an enabler of clear thinking.

    I agree that “lacking a belief in God” doesn’t promote much in the way of values; in fact, I also would go further and say that atheism, per se, doesn’t even promote the value of respect for evidence. It really depends on how you get to your atheism. When I was a young atheist/humanist, I met many religious atheists, for whom disbelief in God was a matter of faith; and philosophical altheists for whom God was merely a logical contradiction in an intellectual game. And I was told more than once that humanism should distance itself from science, as it was just another authority that needed to be rejected.

    Having come to my own atheism through science, I always thought that an atheist position must carry with it the same ethical committment as does science. And while I came to understand that many philosophers don’t think that science has any ethical component, I have always had to disagree (along with Jaques Monod, and Jacob Bronowski, among others): Science is a social committment to the ethic of truth-telling. A lot follows from that, including, I believe, an understanding of the value of diversity and inclusiveness. Your science is not going to get very far if you buy into the lie that most of humanity is unsuited (wrong gender, wrong race, wrong sexual orientation, etc) and unfit to contribute to the communal effort of trying to build an understanding of the probable truths of our world.

    So it no longer surprises me that atheists, humanists, and free-thinkers of all kinds can still miss the boat on social justice. When I see that happening, I always wonder how they came to think that they are atheists. And coming to atheism through science is no guarantee of enlightenment, either. SallyStrange (@#36) is right, we need to be aware of the social history of science, and its successes and failures. As Bronowski pointed out, for many science is just a loose-leaf notebook of facts. That’s not enough; to make it work for humanity, “We need to touch people.”

  39. see_the_galaxy says

    Moreover, it’s important to remember that there are people out there who study how to disrupt online networks. A few years back there was a paper about how the CIA was using trolls to try to disrupt Islamic radical networks (and I have no problem with that of course). There are folks whose job it is to simulate how networks behave. It can take a remarkably small number of loudmouths to disrupt everything for everybody, and to spread toxic conservamemes around that others who are not conservatives can start spreading. For instance, Maher apparently came out with some complaint that “liberals” aren’t opposing Islamic extremism properly; I don’t know who he’s talking about. This is a typical conservatrope. It’s right up there with whining about “political correctness”; I consider Dawkins to be someone who is also being pulled along a bit by the loudmouths, despite the fact that Dawkins is in no way a libertarian, a conservative, or an anti-feminist as far as I can tell. But he’s sure not been helping lately.

  40. vasquek says

    Overall, I appreciate the sentiment, and the clarity with which is it expressed. If you are aiming to root out even subtle demonstrations of inequality, could I draw your attention to your phrasing “people who view women as…” The phrasing suggests there are two categories, 1) people, and 2) women. Daniel Dennett made a similar comment at TAM this year, discussing a scenario in which “people and their wives” would seek refuge at community shelters.

    I’m not trying to be “PC” here, and I’m not offended by the statement. I am pointing out that language can matter, especially when you’re trying to be inclusive.

  41. see_the_galaxy says

    @47 “people who view women as…”, “people who are threatening women…”
    the point regarding language is well taken.

  42. consciousness razor says

    plutoanimus, #42:

    Right off the bat, she complains bitterly about the little atheist subgroups whom she loathes. Reminds me a lot of PZ’s post, and this was 42 years ago.

    Fuck, I sure hope it doesn’t sound like that load of garbage to anybody else. I mean, PZ’s post isn’t perfect either, but damn….

    vasquek, #47:

    If you are aiming to root out even subtle demonstrations of inequality, could I draw your attention to your phrasing “people who view women as…” The phrasing suggests there are two categories, 1) people, and 2) women. Daniel Dennett made a similar comment at TAM this year, discussing a scenario in which “people and their wives” would seek refuge at community shelters.

    Based on your own phrasing and lack of context, I would’ve said it doesn’t necessarily imply that. One is a subject while the other is an object (both in the grammatical sense), and women may well be among the people who view women as … a certain way, but which way? I tried to search for that phrase. It turns out an actual full quote is better than a made-up partial one:

    Atheists can still hold a “kill the wogs” mentality while babbling about the wonders of science; people who regard women as servile appliances for their gratification don’t seem to become suddenly enlightened once the scales of faith fall from their eyes.

    So, yeah, there you have it. He is talking about men who regard women that way, or “(specific?) people who regard (specific?) people” which would be an especially vague and awkward way to put it.

  43. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    vasquek @ 47

    Actually I think the sentence you’re referring to:

    people who regard women as servile appliances for their gratification

    Would be fixed by changing “their” to “men’s” rather than by changing “people” to “men.” In this particular context, men are not the only ones who regard women as servile so “people” is absolutely the right word there.

    In general though, I agree. That’s definitely something to be careful of.

  44. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    Actually even with regard specifically to Dennett’s phrasing, men aren’t the only people who have wives. Granted I’d be willing to bet Dennett didn’t actually have women or non-binary people in mind when he said it, but still. It’s very context dependent.

  45. blbt5 says

    As most aheists know, everyone is an atheist in the sense that if there are at least 99 gods, that would make even the most fervent believer at least 99% atheist. Unfortunately that also means that atheists are only 1% different from the rest of the culture! Also unfortunately libertarians are also drawn to the atheist banner, those who read Reason magazine and vote in lockstep for the Republicans. Join FTB, Skepchick or atheism+ and you won’t be disillusioned, because these are not really skeptic or atheist movements but socialist movements. And socialism has not grown beyond the basics yet, like social security, Medicare and Obamacare. But the amazing blossoming of all the single-issue movements that have broadened beyond their single issue to embrace a socialist agenda, such as FTB are cause for great optimism and hope.

  46. says

    see_the_galaxy @ 44:

    The problem is that we are under attack by conservatives, basically.

    That isn’t near the problem that’s at the core of the Atheist Movement™. The big ol’ elephant in the room is privilege, which is leading to very dug in attitudes and a determination to protect the status quo. The ongoing backlash against feminism ain’t helping either.

    By the way, haven’t seen you for a long time, glad you’re back.

  47. says

    Vasquek @ 47:

    The phrasing suggests there are two categories, 1) people, and 2) women.

    People and women* is the foundation of misogyny, and it’s been a place for a very long time.
     
    *People: men, human beings with autonomy.
    Women: not so much.

  48. says

    @47, vasquek

    If you are aiming to root out even subtle demonstrations of inequality, could I draw your attention to your phrasing “people who view women as…” The phrasing suggests there are two categories, 1) people, and 2) women.

    Given that there are, indeed, women who regard other women as being essentially servile appliances for their gratification (Camille Paglia comes to mind as a recent example, but any major female conservative figure fits the bill), I don’t think you can really either claim that “people” isn’t correct (because there are both men and women doing it) or that “women” as a target isn’t correct, either.

  49. neurobio says

    Oh, come on. You are one of my favorite voices out there, but this particular drumbeat is starting to get annoying.

    Of COURSE atheism is going to disappoint you, if you insist that the word does not mean what it does. I mean, STALIN was an atheist – we can bring up examples of him using the Orthodox Church, we can talk about the religion of communism, but the man quite firmly did not believe in God. There is no way around that without an invocation of No True Scotsman fallacy. Objectivists are atheists, very firm ones, even though their belief system is based on as much delusion as any religion one could pick from the throng. You and I don’t get to claim they aren’t atheists because of that.

    And if you don’t believe in existence of gods, you are an atheist as well. You don’t get to “not be” an atheist, if that is what you are. You can’t escape the meaning of the words that define the truth of your condition.

    You and I are both feminists. We are both, as far as I can see, humanists. These additional words form the “plus” in your “Atheism plus” concept – the one you yourself took part in creating, when it became obvious to you that atheism alone isn’t enough.

    You, or anyone else, can choose to remove themselves from the movement for public promotion of atheism. I think that is shooting yourself in the foot (are Christians stopping their proselytizing because WBC is saying and doing repulsive stuff?), but it is a valid choice one can pick. Or you can realize that you can’t change the meaning of the word, and instead coopt it as part of a greater definition. For me, “humanist” works pretty well, as it incorporates both atheism and feminism, as well as other forms of equality. But if you don’t like that one, you actually have the clout to start a discussion about a new term, a new word which will mean what you want it to mean.

    I suggest picking one of those options. Otherwise, if you base your entire approach on redefining the word “atheism” itself… yes, I agree with your final words. You will fail. And we will keep losing people, for no reason other than abuse of definitions.

  50. David Marjanović says

    Your last book was good, even helpful to many people, but please grow the fuck up and get off your self righteous high horse.

    Do you feel offended by the OP, uticusprime?

    we must bring new leaders to the forefront, leaders who reflect the diversity of our culture. We must support them financially and emotionally so they can become the new faces of atheism.

    *eyeroll*

    No. Please, no!

    Look at the current leaders: they didn’t get into their leadership positions by financial or emotional support either. Dawkins was already famous – and rich – for talking to the public about evolutionary biology, science in general and implications for society before started talking about atheism; the media made him a leader figure before they made him a leader figure of atheism. The foundation and website and forum (later destroyed by Josh Timonen) came later. Hitchens (no god rest his lack of a soul) and Harris wrote books and became famous for them, so the media decided they must be leader figures, too… Dennett wrote a book that fewer people have read, so he only gets mentioned when four shall be the number unto which thou countest (five is right out).

    “What do you call a revolution without a leader?”
    “A cultural change.”

    1968 didn’t have a leader either.

    So how does a species with so much flexibility keep tending towards such cultural conservation? Why aren’t we rewriting our culture from the ground up every time an awesome new idea to make it better comes along?

    Because we have language. We have internal narratives to remind us of the stories of how things should be. We have oral histories. We have rote memorization of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong.” We grow up hearing feudal folk tales meant to pass on good values for peasants and we’re told this is how to make imaginations soar. We read

    Language alone isn’t enough for that. The Pirahã have a language – it’s unusual in several respects, but not exactly alien –, and they don’t have tales of ancient times. They have no oral history.

    “This Jesus you keep talking about, what did he look like? Pale like you, or tan like us?”
    “I’ve actually never seen him…”
    “Well, what did your parents say? They must have seen him?”
    “They haven’t either.”
    “…Why are you telling us about him, then?!?”

    This is why it’s important to study not just science, but also the history of scientific discovery.

    More science theory would also help. In my experience, there’s really not much in a highschool or university education that would make it explicit to people how we know anything to any particular degree of certainty; you basically have to happen to catch the right elective course, or you read up on it all on your own. Lots of scientists don’t know or care much about science theory, because that issue simply doesn’t come up in their daily work.

    “people and their wives”

    o_O
    O_o
    o_o
    O_O

    And socialism has not grown beyond the basics yet, like social security, Medicare and Obamacare.

    …The OP isn’t specifically about the US.

  51. says

    PZ, this is a beautiful post. I can’t seem to find words as easily as I once did. Thank you for writing this.

    I’m sure not going to start believing in gods because a bunch of atheists are sexist yobs. I’m stuck as an atheist whatever the “movement” does. So I could
    disavow atheism and embrace “humanism” (which is too kind to religion for my taste)
    Keep my head down and still my voice.
    Identify as a humanist atheist or an A+ or something else which says “Keep your gods and your oppressive culture too.”

  52. says

    neurobio #56

    In which you acknowledge that PZ realises that descriptors need to be added to the word “atheist” in order to describe what he believes the atheist movement should stand for:

    These additional words form the “plus” in your “Atheism plus” concept

    In which you accuse PZ of trying to change the definition of the word “atheist” in order that it alone describes what he believes the atheist movement should stand for:

    Or you can realize that you can’t change the meaning of the word, and instead coopt it as part of a greater definition. … if you base your entire approach on redefining the word “atheism” itself

    What, exactly, are you objecting to?

  53. consciousness razor says

    blbt5, #52:

    As most aheists know, everyone is an atheist in the sense that if there are at least 99 gods, that would make even the most fervent believer at least 99% atheist.

    If there are 99 gods, somebody might believe (fervently or not) in all of them, making that person 0% atheist.

    Unfortunately that also means that atheists are only 1% different from the rest of the culture!

    This also doesn’t follow. Multiple cultural differences can trace back to a single “cause.” The existence of a god doesn’t just imply one thing (itself) but possibly many other things about reality, which anybody may or may not believe in.

    Join FTB, Skepchick or atheism+ and you won’t be disillusioned, because these are not really skeptic or atheist movements but socialist movements.

    But they “really are” about skepticism and atheism. It’s not as if they aren’t “really” about that.

    And socialism has not grown beyond the basics yet, like social security, Medicare and Obamacare.

    That’s not even what “the basics” of socialism are.

    ——

    neurobio, #55:

    Of COURSE atheism is going to disappoint you, if you insist that the word does not mean what it does.

    When did anybody insist it doesn’t mean what it means?

    For me, “humanist” works pretty well, as it incorporates both atheism and feminism, as well as other forms of equality. But if you don’t like that one, you actually have the clout to start a discussion about a new term, a new word which will mean what you want it to mean.

    So, is it the case that there are no “humanists” who don’t live up to what “humanism” entails?

    And doesn’t the nonexistence of gods entail (whether specific people understand it or not) that we’re responsible for coming up with our own morality ourselves, and in general have to solve our own problems, in the only life anybody has? Yeah, it’s totally true that you will not find this sort of “entailment” or “implication” or “meaning” in a dictionary — because dictionaries never do that. We do not have to argue with dictionary “meanings” to make the point that we’re actually making. We have to argue with people like you who can only beat up this idiotic strawman.

  54. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    we can bring up examples of him using the Orthodox Church, we can talk about the religion of communism, but the man quite firmly did not believe in God.

    Any evidence to back this assertion up? I haven’t seen any.

    I suggest picking one of those options. Otherwise, if you base your entire approach on redefining the word “atheism” itself… yes, I agree with your final words. You will fail. And we will keep losing people, for no reason other than abuse of definitions.

    The abuse is by people who use the dictionary definition only, and refuse to see the consequences of the decision to declare that there are no gods. That is what they can’t acknowledge. Adults make a decision and live with consequences of that decision. Dictionary atheists avoid those consequences….

  55. chimera says

    I’m just chiming in to agree with Mellow Monkey @33. If all human nastiness somehow hung on the belief in the supernatural, then taking that down might destroy the nastiness. But it doesn’t. Story and stories of all kinds are incredibly important to human beings, more important really than their lives, than living. People die for stories and because of stories constantly, die and live for them, feel bereft when they don’t have a story to account for their life and decisions. They call it “meaning”.

    And beyond the need for story, there is also the conservatism and steamrolling of institutions, of the way things are organized, laws, all sorts of segregations and false freedoms.

    Gotta go, no time to finish these thoughts.

  56. says

    neurobio:

    And we will keep losing people, for no reason other than abuse of definitions.

    I wouldn’t be upset at all at the thought of losing people like you. I’d rather be on the other side of the crack in the world (also known as Deep Rifts™).

  57. consciousness razor says

    As most aheists know, everyone is an atheist in the sense that if there are at least 99 gods, that would make even the most fervent believer at least 99% atheist.

    If there are 99 gods, somebody might believe (fervently or not) in all of them, making that person 0% atheist.

    Also, because it’s a stupid thing to say on so many levels…. there plenty of nonexistent gods that I don’t believe in. It makes no difference that they don’t exist. I’m in fact still here not believing in them, because those are two different questions.

  58. mnb0 says

    “Too many atheists turn out to be just as shallow as the fervent faithful I rail against.”
    Your mistake. You shouldn’t have assumed that atheism improves the morals of people. For one thing scientific (specifically psychological) evidence suggests that on average atheists are as moral as theists. Quite some irony: you are disappointed because you didn’t rely enough on scientific evidence.

    “that under it government and education would be secular”
    Again you neglect the facts. On paper countries like Germany and The Netherlands are less secular than the USA. CDU – the Christian Democratic Union – has 40% of the seats in German parliament. Only 30 % of the Dutch are non-believers (ie including agnosts). Still atheists in Germany and The Netherlands are way better off than in the USA.
    How come? Dutch and German christians – especially the politicians – are secularists as well and generally dislike religious authorities intervening in politics.
    Before you point at former East-Germany, the most atheist region in the world:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/press-review-on-the-german-far-right-20-years-after-the-rostock-riots-a-851193.html

    “it is one factor that contributes heavily to world-wide ignorance”
    Well, yes, sort of. Except that in The Netherlands orthodox-christian schools teach evolution in biology class as well – and creationism in religion class.

    “it all matters”
    So what are you going to do if you meet some christians who advocate LBGT rights? Telling them how irrational their belief system might not be that smart ….

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/03/31/uk-leading-black-pentecostal-pastor-backs-equal-marriage-for-same-sex-couples/

    PS: I’m a 7 on the scale of Dawkins. I just happen to think that people are defined by much more than (a)theism.

  59. David Marjanović says

    If there are 99 gods, somebody might believe (fervently or not) in all of them, making that person 0% atheist.

    Also… many American fundamentalists, like their Roman-age predecessors, believe in every deity anyone has ever claimed to worship; they just believe that all except one of them are evil demons who only pretend to be gods like the true one and are therefore actively dangerous.

  60. consciousness razor says

    If all human nastiness somehow hung on the belief in the supernatural, then taking that down might destroy the nastiness. But it doesn’t.

    I think that’s getting hung up on the wrong idea. We should* all realize, as atheists, that we have to take it upon ourselves to make the world a better place. No benevolent magic being is going to do it for us, and there also aren’t demons or some such which we can blame the bad stuff on. And there are no other (not god-like) mysterious, purposeful forces at work, which guides things toward a certain end. And we don’t get second chances, because death isn’t a real thing that happens but only a transition to some other kind of reality. So there really is no other good option. That’s our job as good rational human beings, because we cannot consistently come up with a good excuse for not doing it. If you’re not buying into that, yet call yourself an “atheist” anyway, what legitimate reason do you actually have to justify any of it?

    *But obviously, we don’t all in fact do what we should. That’s not surprising in the least, or any reason to be “disillusioned.”

  61. consciousness razor says

    Strike that; reverse it:

    And we don’t get second chances, because death isn’t is a real thing that happens but not only a transition to some other kind of reality.

  62. says

    Query: are the atheist movements in non-English-speaking nations plagued with the same set of intellectual baggage? Or is the stereotypical fedora-complex mostly in the US, UK, Canada, and the like? I don’t know, but would like to.

  63. consciousness razor says

    Thomas Holtz, I can’t think of any reason why it would be an issue just for Anglophones. It would be nice, but I seriously doubt it doesn’t translate. On the other hand, we do like to isolate ourselves a lot from everyone else, so maybe other people don’t face quite the same issues or not as much.

  64. The Mellow Monkey says

    David Marjanović @ 57

    Language alone isn’t enough for that. The Pirahã have a language – it’s unusual in several respects, but not exactly alien –, and they don’t have tales of ancient times. They have no oral history.

    I was speaking poetically about the power of storytelling and not making a linguistic argument, but that’s interesting to know: The Pirahã people.

    chimera @ 62

    And beyond the need for story, there is also the conservatism and steamrolling of institutions, of the way things are organized, laws, all sorts of segregations and false freedoms.

    Yes. It’s so important to never lose sight of the fact that people are benefiting from power imbalances. It isn’t just something that happens and there are people who will fight–with malice and calculation–to keep their privilege. The higher up the privilege scale someone is, the more they stand to lose with an even playing field.

    consciousness razor @ 68

    We should* all realize, as atheists, that we have to take it upon ourselves to make the world a better place. No benevolent magic being is going to do it for us, and there also aren’t demons or some such which we can blame the bad stuff on. And there are no other (not god-like) mysterious, purposeful forces at work, which guides things toward a certain end.

    QFT

    This is all we have.

  65. Goblinman says

    I think it’s about time we took a crowbar to those “Deep Rifts” and pried them the rest of the way apart. Atheism has been two movements for a while now.

    I know, the division will make us “weaker”. But if unified atheism isn’t going to bother trying to be better than religion, what’s the point of it?

  66. unclefrogy says

    for me at least the fact that there are no gods to believe in is a conclusion. It is one result of some other process that has been going on for a very long time in my life.
    might be related to my having always felt empathy for other people. Might be the result of questioning things all the time. Might be from understanding the explanations by science for what things are and how things work. Might be the result of seldom accepting mostly doubting some magical answers which always had the smell of BS some one was trying push off on me.
    I found this blog with that frame of mind not looking for some leader or some movement. I like the discussions here even when they go all shouty and dim.
    I was attracted to the social justice issues before I really questioned the existence of gods. I know for years I tried to reconcile what I learned about christianity and natural history and it was the social justice issues that helped me move away from western religious thought and belief along with scientific understanding of course that lead me to be comfortable here.
    The only movement I see as a movement is the social justice movement which has been lead by religious people from time to time but no exclusively in fact the conservative elements always are in conflict with any social change. So it is with the atheist movement but the push of history has been moving toward equality and democracy for a very long time now. At least it is possible to see things that way so therefore I can have some hope for in the long term
    if we indeed have a long term
    uncle frogy

  67. HappyNat says

    see_the galaxy @46

    despite the fact that Dawkins is in no way a libertarian, a conservative, or an anti-feminist as far as I can tell

    Citation needed. Being on the other side of the pond, I don’t follow his political stances, but everything he has said about the middle east and women sure sounds conservative/libertarian to me. He likes to shit on women and degrade Muslims, which is half of the Fox news formula.

    Just because he is an outspoken atheist doesn’t mean he is liberal in any way. Maybe he is just conservative in regards to women and foreign policy, which is not inconsequential by itself. Has he said anything about the the current class warfare or raising minimum wage?

  68. consciousness razor says

    despite the fact that Dawkins is in no way a libertarian, a conservative, or an anti-feminist as far as I can tell

    Citation needed.

    I need it too. Much wrongness on the thread, and only so much SIWOTI to go around, but this certainly deserves it.

    But maybe see_the_galaxy really can’t tell. It’s hard to believe, but that part at least has a chance of being true.

  69. see_the_galaxy says

    HI–I thought Richard Dawkins was a member of the British Liberal Democratic party (which does not have the same meaning as “liberal democratic” in the USA), but which still seems quite different from conservatism or libertarianism (at least if Wikipedia is right). That’s from something called “hollowverse.com”, whatever that is… Let me look for something better.

  70. dhall says

    It may or may not be useful to know that, historically, it seems as if an awful lot of attempts to retool culture and/or society found itself mired in these kinds of internal struggles. In the west, when Protestants broke from the Catholic Church, they thought it would end a lot of problems, and eventually, there were great changes, but a lot of warfare too, while many of the old issues refused to go away. One thing that the religious wars helped to trigger was growing secularism–which was also spurred by the Scientific Revolution–and that led to the Enlightenment, which was probably the first time in some 1500 years that religion was demoted from its usual position. The period of the Enlightenment was also about the first time that civil rights were advocated for all white men, regardless of economic status, the first calls for the abolition of slavery, and the first calls for more rights and opportunities for white women. All of those calls continued to sound, but it was still decades before all white men in the UK or US could vote, or for slavery to finally end, and even then, that required a nasty war in the US. After that, the struggle for civil rights for minorities and women continued, and at one point, the women’s movement split between those who thought getting the right to vote was enough, and those who wanted more of what we’d call social justice. But they all discovered that just getting the right to vote wasn’t enough–and that was profoundly disillusioning. That led to regrouping and rededication to the causes, and a renewed fight that began in the late 1950s, and continues to this day. It’s a more extensive and inclusive fight now in some ways, with more groups struggling for equal status and equal rights, but the women’s movement is far from monolithic in terms of goals now. Not all of those who consider themselves activists for minority rights or environmental sustainability agree on everything either.
    But regardless, I think you have to look at these kinds of struggles in terms of the very long haul–much longer than anyone’s lifetime–and not expect permanent changes to happen any faster than that. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about equal rights and respect for women in the 1790s, after all, and here we are. We’ve made some gains, but only in some parts of the world, while sexism still comes too easily and automatically to too many, in nations where women are supposed to be equal to men. Same with racism, anti-gay bigotry and other forms of bigotry, including the hatred and fear too many people feel toward atheists, to say nothing of the contempt and neglect the wealthy conservatives feel toward anyone other than their own kind. Ever since we elected Obama here in the US, the open racism has been both a shock and a disappointment to me–I thought we’d actually made progress since the early 1970s. But that was apparently just a veneer painted over a massive segment of society that would be just as home in the 19th century as it is here and now. For the atheist/humanist movement, I’d guess that it’s going to be the same story. We’re struggling against concepts, traditions and expectations that have been around for millennia. We’re also struggling with ignorance, fear and hatred that has been fostered by those in power for millennia.
    Beyond that, it’s no surprise that many of those who seem to be on our side in so many ways nevertheless find it impossible to break from all of those old habits–especially if they don’t even understand that those habits are part of the problem, and even more so if they’ve been held up as leaders, fawned over and are already members of the group that has been the privileged one for ages. I guess that every movement needs leadership, but leaders can also come and go without damaging the movement itself, especially when those leaders seem self-appointed.
    It may be better for this particular movement if, instead of worrying too much about leaders, we just keep doing what we do and make what progress we can, in our little corners of the world. Slow, steady and incremental–that’s historically how the real changes come.
    Sorry to ramble. Hope I made some sense.

  71. F.O. says

    When asked if I believe in god I answer that I am an atheist.
    When asked what my beliefs are, I answer that I am a secular humanist.
    I believe in humans, and in empathy and in compassion.
    I believe we succeed and thrive when we stand for each other.

    I love the philosophical wankery that comes with atheism, but if it doesn’t help me being a better human being, if it doesn’t help challenge my beliefs, break my ideas and grow up then it’s just that.
    Wankery.

  72. consciousness razor says

    I love the philosophical wankery that comes with atheism, but if it doesn’t help me being a better human being, if it doesn’t help challenge my beliefs, break my ideas and grow up then it’s just that.
    Wankery.

    Or you’re a wanker who doesn’t want to be helped or challenged and blames it on an abstraction. One or the other.

  73. HappyNat says

    see_the_galaxy @80

    I would be surprised if Dawkins didn’t consider himself a liberal and he would hate to be compared to FOX News. I’m just saying I from what he has written recently I can’t tell the difference. From talking about PC Thought Police, comparing getting drunk to getting raped, his response to any criticism, he might as well be Bill O’Reilly as far as I’m concerned. Although Bill-O probably couldn’t come up with the gem “Verbal Jackboots”.

  74. neurobio says

    @Daz #59

    What, exactly, are you objecting to?

    The incoherence of PZ accepting the fact that “atheism” is insufficient to cover everything that matters to him, while simultaneously being “disillusioned” that people who are atheists without those other additions are behaving in a way he disagrees with – to the point where abandonment of the term “atheist” is suggested as a reasonable solution.

    @consciousness razor

    When did anybody insist it doesn’t mean what it means?

    When any person says that they are “leaving atheism” because, say, Dawkins is being sexist. Unless they decide that Dawkins’ sexism is evidence for existence of gods, they aren’t leaving atheism. They are just confusing issues.

    So, is it the case that there are no “humanists” who don’t live up to what “humanism” entails?

    Of course not. However, I think you can make a much stronger case for support of feminist/equality causes under humanism than under atheism. Atheism is, at its core, non-prescriptive; “I do not believe in existence of gods” is a statement that can be in perfect agreement with communism, libertarianism, objectivism, sexism, and many other ideologies. It is much more difficult to reconcile sexism and humanism.

    And doesn’t the nonexistence of gods entail (whether specific people understand it or not) that we’re responsible for coming up with our own morality ourselves, and in general have to solve our own problems, in the only life anybody has?

    Yes, it does. What you skip here is that it provides no guidance whatsoever as to what kind of morality you should develop.

    By itself, without other premises, you can as easily use atheism to justify, say, the objectivist “I got mine, screw everyone else” mentality. Or sexism: there is nothing about existence or nonexistence of god that informs you whether you should treat people equally. Atheism by itself is not enough. Absence of gods does not, by itself, dictate a moral structure which implies equality and/or justice.

    >We have to argue with people like you who can only beat up this idiotic strawman.

    Not quite. You are having a knee-jerk reaction, in which you assume that many of people who argue about this point are automatically just idiots who insist on “dictionary definitions.” As if definitions of words are not important, and as if we can just dispense with them whenever they become insufficient. And as if you can actually hold any kind of a reasoned discussion if you don’t have well-defined terms that everyone who takes part in the debate agrees with.

    The simple truth is this: people disagree with you what the consequences of atheism actually are. You and a lot of people here just assume that atheism automatically and inevitably, through a chain of logic, leads to a lot of other things – such as, say, equality. Which a lot of people argue is patently untrue. I for instance agree with pretty much all of the values PZ promotes; but I can’t agree that they are a natural consequence of atheism itself. There are many other premises besides “there are no gods” that go into constructing such higher-level moral structures.

    If you ignore this need for other premises, you’ll fail. And here’s the thing – as an atheist, as a feminist, and as a humanist, I think that this particular strain of atheism here is the best one, and should succeed. Which is why I commented in the first place.

  75. neurobio says

    @Nerd of Redhead, #61

    Any evidence to back this assertion up? I haven’t seen any.

    ? Have you tried? The guy gave speeches on atheism, held congresses on the subject, and discussed it in great detail in his public and private writings. His commitment to communism is closely tied to his abandonment of Georgian Orthodox Church. He openly declares himself an atheist repeatedly in his private writings, he repeats Marx’s “religion as an opiate for the masses” many times, and is repeatedly extremely scornful towards believers. Some biographers have suggested that he retained some vague Einsteinian concept of a “God of Nature,” but I find that a weak case.

    The abuse is by people who use the dictionary definition only, and refuse to see the consequences of the decision to declare that there are no gods. That is what they can’t acknowledge. Adults make a decision and live with consequences of that decision. Dictionary atheists avoid those consequences….

    The central problem here is that adults can disagree what those consequences actually are. Insisting that atheism somehow implies we should all work for equality does not make it so.

    Check out my previous comment (#85) for a more thorough discussion of this point. I will also note that instant dismissal as “dictionary atheist” applied to anyone who attempts to discuss this point with any nuance… does not help the discourse.

  76. MHiggo says

    Thomas Holtz @ 71

    Query: are the atheist movements in non-English-speaking nations plagued with the same set of intellectual baggage? Or is the stereotypical fedora-complex mostly in the US, UK, Canada, and the like? I don’t know, but would like to.

    At the risk of misunderstanding your qualifier about “intellectual baggage”, I know for a fact there is a (very quiet) atheist movement in Indonesia and fairly sure there is one in the Philippines, too. India has the rationalist movement with the likes of Narendra Dabholkar and Sanal Edamaruku at the forefront, but calling it an atheist movement might be a step too far.

  77. says

    neurobio @ 85:

    You are having a knee-jerk reaction, in which you assume that many of people who argue about this point are automatically just idiots who insist on “dictionary definitions.” As if definitions of words are not important

    This, from a person who used the word abuse in regard to definitions. Yes, definitions matter. What also matters is context, and how words and their definitions are not only used, but how they change.

    You and a lot of people here just assume that atheism automatically and inevitably, through a chain of logic, leads to a lot of other things

    No, they don’t make that assumption. We’ve long said that atheism is not enough. For someone who is so very intent on what words mean, you don’t use them very well.

    And as if you can actually hold any kind of a reasoned discussion if you don’t have well-defined terms that everyone who takes part in the debate agrees with.

    Who in the fuck is having a debate? This is not a debate, and it’s certainly not a formal one, where every little rule is laid down first. I have little interest in debating anything with someone who has little use for the values of being a decent human being. Way back in ‘012, in a discussion of atheism +, I said:

    Splintered/polarized/divided etc. are becoming the new idiot signal. I’d like anyone who uses these words to describe the growth of the atheist movement to effectively demonstrate the great and cohesive whole of atheism which was happening prior to egate, the harassment issue and the blossoming of misogynists climbing out from under every rock.

    Where was this most harmonious and vast movement where all atheists hummed in agreement?

    I’m damn tired of this stupid characterization. The discovery of skepticism/atheism sheltering a wealth of misogynist, sexist, privileged thought and attitude, while not pleasant, has been a good thing. Change is a good thing. Growth is a good thing. Refusing to give shelter and quarter to those who stubbornly hang on to their bigotry is a good thing. Having a solid foundation is a good thing. Having more inclusive, safer spaces is a good thing. Working for social justice – good thing.

    I still feel the same way, more so even. You want to debate over the definitions of words, and their oh-so-tremendous importance? Fine, I suggest you track down Dawkins on twitter and have at it. I have no doubt you’ll be able to make him see the error of his ways in no time at all.

  78. annie55 says

    When I first started exploring the Freethought movement a couple of years ago, it seemed best to stay quiet, and just hang out here at FTB. I was disheartened back then by the conduct of certain factions… for all the reasons hashed out time and again.

    But I would also add that I fear what those factions would do if in some alternative universe, power was bestowed on them. Absent an unshakeable commitment to social justice, what principles would shape this brave new world?

    Is this really what atheists would want? A survival of the nastiest free for all?

    I do not understand.

  79. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The central problem here is that adults can disagree what those consequences actually are. Insisting that atheism somehow implies we should all work for equality does not make it so.

    Who says that? One consequence of declaring atheism is where does one get their morality from? The consequence of declaring atheism is the implication you are also rejecting religious based morality. Why use it, if it is based on an imaginary deity? A consequence many ignore based on their cultural indoctrination, and lack of intellect to fully explore their decision.

  80. says

    @dhall

    I’ve only read the start of your huge post so far, and it seems rather nice, but it seemed to have an odd equivocation in it.

    Equivocation between religious wars that (I think) have been rather fruitless pointless disputes, and the revolutionary wars that led to real progress in the western world.

    Of course, I don’t know enough about the subjects to be totally sure of my thoughts here.

  81. neurobio says

    @Iyéska, #88

    Who in the fuck is having a debate?

    I am. Are you trying to forbid me from having one? Good luck with that.

    I have little interest in debating anything with someone who has little use for the values of being a decent human being.

    Hm. Tell me something. People who make no attempt to understand what their opponent is trying to say, but instead immediately classify them as “other” or “enemy” if any trace of disagreement is detected – do they fall into “decent human being” category?

    Way back in ‘012, in a discussion of atheism +, I said

    And you said it very nicely. I agree with what you said there. As you would know if you actually read what I wrote, instead of just jumping from assumption to assumption.

    Let me try to reword my opinion in a confrontational way, since you seem to prefer that style:

    Everyone who is disillusioned with atheism, or decides to “leave atheist activism” over the actions of the supposed leaders is missing the point. We are atheists – and we are also feminists, and humanists. The fact that there are other people who are atheists and sexists does not change my beliefs. It also does not make them not atheists, it makes them sexist atheists.

    They don’t get to take the descriptor away, however. I won’t stop being an atheist, or “leave atheism” because of some bullshit that Dawkins (whom I consider to be arrogant, philosophically sloppy, and generally overblown) spewed on Twitter (which I don’t follow at all). I also don’t get to take atheism away from them, sadly. They are atheists, and will remain so, no matter how many sexist things they say.

    I will join you, with gusto, in stomping down sexists, whether they are atheists or not. But I will also criticize you when you tell me that you have become “disillusioned with atheism” because of some sexist thing that came out of Sam Harris’ mouth (in fact, after his writings on war and morality, I will ask you why the hell do you even care?).

    Got that? If you don’t like it, here, let me play you the world’s smallest violin.
    /confrontational style

  82. says

    @93 neurobio

    While I agree with you on stuff like this:

    The fact that there are other people who are atheists and sexists does not change my beliefs. It also does not make them not atheists, it makes them sexist atheists.

    (And I’m not sure what everyone else is having difficulty understanding about this)

    I have to point out that people here care what Sam Harris says because of his popularity and influence.

  83. neurobio says

    @Nerd of Redhead, #90

    Who says that? One consequence of declaring atheism is where does one get their morality from? The consequence of declaring atheism is the implication you are also rejecting religious based morality. Why use it, if it is based on an imaginary deity? A consequence many ignore based on their cultural indoctrination, and lack of intellect to fully explore their decision.

    Not quite sure I’m parsing your question right, but: who says it? The commenters who responded to me, including yourself. You seem to draw a straight line between atheism, rejection of religious moral norms, and moral structure we all prefer (equality for all included). Again, remember that I agree with you on values: we should strive for a world without religion, but also without sexism, and where people are treated equally regardless of race, etc.

    What I’m pointing out is that this line is not straight at all. It is possible to completely reject religion and religious values, then build an utterly despicable moral structure on the foundation of firm atheism – just look at objectivism. Or communism. Nonexistence of gods does not automatically give you a basis for a good moral system, it is just the first step.

    We can’t, and should not, expect that once people turn to atheism, they will also become decent human beings. Atheism is not sufficient. If we want to build a just moral and social system without religion, we must take into account premises other than “gods do not exist.”

  84. Tad Callin says

    PZ – please don’t lose heart.

    I don’t usually have time to join the comments on your blog, but I’ve kept you in my RSS feed for several years now for a simple reason: you challenge me. You’ve pointed me towards a lot of rewarding new ideas & people, and your blogs & speeches (and especially the actions & words of those responding to them) have helped me decide how to approach my own exploration of atheism & humanism.

    In a way, you’ve done as much as anyone to show me how to fit feminism into my worldview – sometimes simply by being the lightening rod for folks whose behavior demonstrates their flawed judgment.

    Admittedly, my participation is almost invisible to a community like Pharyngula. I certainly don’t contribute to the world the way you might hope I would. But if your desire is to change minds and be a positive influence, then as far as I’m concerned, you’re succeeding.

  85. says

    brianpansky @ 96:

    I have to point out that people here care what Sam Harris says because of his popularity and influence.

    It’s deeper than that. Yes, people like Dawkins and Harris do widespread damage and harm because of their popularity and influence. That said, even if they weren’t popular and influential, they’d still be shoring up rape culture, systemic sexism, and toxic masculinity, by saying the same shit on the ‘net, saying the same shit to their circle of friends, saying the same shit to co-workers, etc., just like thousands upon thousands of people already do, many of them proudly sticking to their dictionary atheism, using it as an excuse to continue holding up the status quo.

  86. says

    neurobio #85

    The incoherence of PZ accepting the fact that “atheism” is insufficient to cover everything that matters to him, while simultaneously being “disillusioned” that people who are atheists without those other additions are behaving in a way he disagrees with – to the point where abandonment of the term “atheist” is suggested as a reasonable solution.

    But those “atheists without those other additions” have an impact on how all atheists will be perceived. Especially as they include people who are regularly touted in the media as being representative of all atheists. Pointing out that the very word is becoming tainted by association with misogyny and other anti-social-justice positions is merely acknowledging a fact. It in no way contradicts his position that we need the atheism movement to be inclusive, and that to do so we need to address other issues besides “pure” atheism.

  87. neurobio says

    @brianpansky, #96

    I have to point out that people here care what Sam Harris says because of his popularity and influence.

    That is not a problem at all! By all means, when a prominent public figure says something sexist, give them all the verbal slaps they deserve. That’s how we change the culture.

    The part where I’m rolling my eyes is the “I will leave atheism” or “I am disillusioned with atheism” sentiment. Unless Harris’ sexist remarks made you suddenly believe in existence of gods, this is just nonsense.

  88. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yes, and atheism also doesn’t provide the answer to that.

    Not that I noticed, it meant you had to take responsibility for it, not just say nothing is happening. If you sign up for an internet service, you can’t say you won’t pay the bill, or take care of your end of the connection. Responsibilities come with decisions. You claim the decision to be an atheist is without an consequences, and I have pointed one out. It has consequences.
    You may not pay your internet connection bill and they cut you off. You don’t decide how to decide what your morality is, based on reasonable principles, you are doing the same thing as not paying your bill.
    I’m not saying what your decision is, just that you must make one, and live with the consequences.
    Oh, and science, in the form of sociological and anthropological studies, can give on an idea of what works and what doesn’t. There is information available.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The problem with the liberturd/MRA/PUA fuckwits is they never got over the concept of “don’t tell me what to do”. They refuse to accept consequences for their decisions.

  90. says

    Content warning: long diatribe!

    It’s interesting how (what I consider to be) the initial phase of New Atheism in the mid-noughts proudly considered itself somewhat radical, game-changey and fighting the establishment, only to turn around and itself become the establishment, as resistant to introspection and self-reflection and the admission of error or misjudgement as the hierarchy of any religious target they would’ve railed against (scarlet “A” banner flapping proudly in the breeze as they charged). Subject matter to one side, the behaviour of the self-described global thought leaders has, as we’ve all seen, been just the same as any Old Boys’ Club’s inner circle (and their outer circles of wannabes) who are faced with inconvenient questions or impertinent highlighting of problematic behaviour or attitudes: deny, defend, deflect, denigrate, double down.

    The transition was relatively rapid, too: one minute everyone’s apparently (I’ll get to that) on the same page and looking in the same direction, the next – as soon as women identify problematic behaviour and request that we guys not do that then start talking about harassment policies – there’s an instant rift dug by people who for some reason viciously resent being told that some behaviour makes others uncomfortable. Then a few visible “leaders” say some thoughtless or petulant things, one blogger wonders if atheism can be about a little more than debunking myths and is vilified at length for the mere suggestion, a blogger or ‘tuber or two reveal themselves to be unapologetic misogynists, a parallel atheist community is born for the sole purpose of harassing and obsessively monitoring two blog networks and before you know it, women are being threatened with rape and death. With rape and death. And others are laughing at it. Including other women.

    And now the “apparently”: as various discussions progress it turns out that no, we weren’t all on the same page and sexist and creepy behaviour didn’t just spring into existence ex nihilo in a lift early one morning; it’s been a problem nobody (especially insulated white chaps like me) really had much idea about for years – except those directly involved and in some cases, disappointingly, at the executive level of some organisations, where active decisions were made to do nothing to support employees who’d been victimised or harassed. It also turned out that there had been for years (like there is in other conference circuits) a grapevine, a back-channel utilised by women attendees and speakers to stay informed about infamous creeps and sexual predators.

    And with every revelation and accusation, the rift got wider and deeper, the apologetics got louder and more (dare I say) strident, the responses got more toxic and hateful and the leadership became ever more focused on prioritising the preservation of their position at the cost of making what movement there was more welcoming to people who didn’t resemble them physically. Not only that, but the misogynist ragers, the hateful threateners, the doc-droppers and the entrenched old boys then had the unmitigated gall to accuse those advocating for a more welcoming and diverse community of being “divisive”. As if, somehow, women and feminists pointing out sexist attitudes and harassment so as to raise awareness and start a discussion about solutions was something unexpected, a gross heresy, an unforgiveable sin, all part of a plot to – well, God only knows what. It has never been adequately explained how atheism as a cause might be irreparably harmed by making better and more meaningful efforts to welcome the other half of the population to atheism.

    And now that many women, feminists, non-male people and now many non-white people are throwing up their hands and saying “fuck it, you want your goddamn “movement” to be pure, you can have it,” I fully expect the apologists and the old boys themselves to further blame us for being divisive and ruining the party.

    Finally, I find it highly ironic that the leadership/s that brought us the scarlet letter “A” logo, a repurposing or “taking back” of the old tactic of publicly humiliating women who dared step out of the social boundaries prescribed by the men who essentially owned them, would be so solidly behind enabling and defending a sexist status quo, and in some cases being openly hostile to all women who accuse “leaders” of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour. In light of the last three years, that scarlet letter is more appropriate than ever.

  91. neurobio says

    @Daz, #100

    But those “atheists without those other additions” have an impact on how all atheists will be perceived. Especially as they include people who are regularly touted in the media as being representative of all atheists. Pointing out that the very word is becoming tainted by association with misogyny and other anti-social-justice positions is merely acknowledging a fact.

    Of course they are having an impact on how atheists are perceived. And the philosophical shallowness of Dawkins and Harris has been sufficiently infuriating (for me, at least) when they act as my representative in the media, even before the sexist comments.

    But is the response here to say “ok, well, I guess now we’re going to start believing in gods?” No? Then we aren’t disillusioned with atheism, nor are we abandoning atheism. Frankly, talk like that makes us seem childish and angsty. And while angsty is better than sexist, it is not something to strive for.

    We have a huge problem: there are many atheists who are also sexists. This is a reflection of the wider society, which also has a huge sexism problem We are not going to abandon atheism, any more than we are going to abandon society. We are not going to become “disillusioned” by atheism, any more than we are going to be “disillusioned” by the society we live in. There are problems: we will work to solve them.

  92. says

    Hank_Says @ 107:

    Great post, thank you.

    Finally, I find it highly ironic that the leadership/s that brought us the scarlet letter “A” logo, a repurposing or “taking back” of the old tactic of publicly humiliating women who dared step out of the social boundaries prescribed by the men who essentially owned them, would be so solidly behind enabling and defending a sexist status quo, and in some cases being openly hostile to all women who accuse “leaders” of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour. In light of the last three years, that scarlet letter is more appropriate than ever.

    *Clenched Tentacle Salute*

  93. says

    I guess maybe this is just another one of those terminology gap confusions that are so common.

    When saying “disillusioned with atheism” PZ isn’t using “atheism” just to mean lack of belief in gods. He’s just using that as a shorthand for the bulk activist atheist movement/whatever.

  94. says

    neurobio #108

    I think we’re basically disagreeing over a label. I have no problem with switching to the label “secular humanist,” maybe combined with “anti-theist” or “non-believer,” to describe my position vis-a-vis religion, if that means I get to talk about anti-religion topics without the misogyny-baggage I fear will soon be attached to “atheist.” Doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly believe in gods or even pay lip-service to belief; just that I’ll be choosing a label that’s not been damned by my alleged allies.

  95. says

    Well, at least my interpretation would be a sensible way to use the phrase “dissilusioned with atheism”. Though the OP does seem to be dissilusioned with the idea that lack of belief in gods itself would basically automaticall be all the good stuff.

  96. says

    Thanks Iyéska, mal omnifarious (@109 re: 107)!

    Turned out longer than expected though! Maybe I should’ve just blogged it D:

    *Raised tentacle in air like Judd Nelson at the end of Breakfast Club (hey, hey, hey, heeey)*

  97. says

    neurobio @ 102:

    The part where I’m rolling my eyes is the “I will leave atheism” or “I am disillusioned with atheism” sentiment. Unless Harris’ sexist remarks made you suddenly believe in existence of gods, this is just nonsense.

    No, it’s not nonsense. It’s a matter of people saying “I am disillusioned with the atheist movement” or “I want nothing to do with the atheist movement” Or “I want nothing to do with the public face of atheism”. It’s interesting to me that the majority of people on the latter part of this thread are men. It’s a matter of privilege to be able to shrug off the sexist things a Harris, Dawkins, Shermer, Grothe, et al., toss out there. It’s a matter of privilege to sit around and split hairs, rather than addressing the big ol’ elephant in the room. In post #34, I wrote:

    I am an atheist, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a social justice activist, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a feminist, for over 40 years, I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a secular humanist, I’m not ashamed of that.

    The Atheist Movement™? Yes, I am ashamed of that.

    It’s difficult for me to read this hair splitting as if it’s pertinent. It also makes me want even more distance from the Atheist Movement and those who embrace it.

  98. annie55 says

    Nerd of Redhead,

    I’m not disillusioned with Atheism. I’m disheartened because the only place I feel safe is among A+ers. All of you have been so kind when I made a mistake, never judging me for my lack of “much” higher education, and directing me to resources when I have questions.

    I’m in, come what may.

  99. Chat_Noir1972 says

    Way back when I commented, I was unclear on a few things. Sleeping on it has brought one thing out into the open. I don’t Identify as an ATHEIST, rather atheism is part of my identity as is my politics and my position on the LGBT spectrum.
    I think that’s where many go wrong, building their picture of their self on one big issue, rather than looking at it as part of the whole. We are more than the lack of belief in Gods/supernatural, much, much more.

  100. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    He’s just using that as a shorthand for the bulk activist atheist movement/whatever.

    He’s using it as a shorthand for the decision not to believe in gods, and the resulting consequences of that decision. Consequences many of the loudmouths opposing things like A+ ignore, and then mock those who conclude that joining that is a consequence of their decision to be an atheist. No matter what you say, it goes beyond the dictionary definition, even if you don’t want it to.

  101. says

    neurobio @102:

    The part where I’m rolling my eyes is the “I will leave atheism” or “I am disillusioned with atheism” sentiment. Unless Harris’ sexist remarks made you suddenly believe in existence of gods, this is just nonsense.

    Have you been paying attention to the craptastic happenings in the atheist movement in the last few years?
    • the response to ‘Guys don’t do that’
    • the response to requests to think about how sexist language and gendered slurs can harm others
    • the opposition to anti-harassment policies at conventions
    • the shielding of high profile atheists from criticism and inquiry
    • the denial of the very real problem of sexism in the atheist movement to the extent that many dissenters have engaged in online harassment and sent rape and/or death threats

    All of this and more has been going on in the atheist movement for years.
    All of this and more have affected People of Color, women, and LGBT people.
    All of this and more have resulted in many people being turned off to the atheist movement.

    When people like PZ or Tauriq Moosa, or even myself are talking about our dissatisfaction with the atheist movement, we’re talking about the refusal of people in the movement to question their own biases. We’re talking about how ready these people are (some of them the biggest names in atheism) to utilize all the tools at their disposal to analyze and criticize religious views. They’re ready, willing, and able to confront religious beliefs. They have no problem examining peoples’ religious views with a critical eye and saying “this shit isn’t right and here is why”.

    But when asked to take those same tools and apply them to their own actions, what do these same people do? They whine about being attacked. They complain about the mean old FtBloggers. They moan about how we’re the ‘thought police’.

    They display a mind-boggling inability to confront and reexamine their own biases and prejudices. They refuse in some cases to even admit they *have* biases and prejudices (see Sam Harris’ “I’m not the sexist pig…” bullshit post). They won’t allow for the fact that they could be wrong (see Dawkins’ horrid views on rape and Rape Culture). They won’t allow for the fact that allowing known MRA’s and anti-feminists to clog up your blog drowns out the people asking for better representation in the atheist movement-people you claim to want to reach out to (see Michael Nugent’s blog-or, rather DON’T; it’s infested). They make excuses for people accused of sexual assault (see Michael Shermer).
    This is what we’re talking about when we say “we’re disillusioned with the atheist movement”.
    I hope that clears things up for ya.

  102. says

    Chat_Noir1972 @116

    Way back when I commented, I was unclear on a few things. Sleeping on it has brought one thing out into the open. I don’t Identify as an ATHEIST, rather atheism is part of my identity as is my politics and my position on the LGBT spectrum.
    I think that’s where many go wrong, building their picture of their self on one big issue, rather than looking at it as part of the whole. We are more than the lack of belief in Gods/supernatural, much, much more.

    I’m really trying hard to read this in a way that doesn’t sound patronizing, but I’m having a hard time.

  103. says

    Also, neurobio, if you bother to stop back by, this comment by Dianne highlights the problem:

    The more Dawkins opens his mouth or pushes keys on his keyboard, the more convinced I am that religion is not the problem. Sure, religion has been associated with oppression, especially sexism, for centuries, but Dawkins seems bent on proving that atheists would be just as bad if they’re put in charge. I’m almost certainly never not going to be an atheist (barring brain damage), but I have no interest at this point in any atheism movement or supporting anyone (i.e. a candidate for public office) because they’re an atheist.

  104. says

    @118 Tony

    Way to completely miss the point of what you were responding to. You are responding to someone talking about “atheism” meaning lack of belief in gods, not meaning the movement of atheist people. So you aren’t delivering a contradiction, and neuroguy has been paying attention to such things, which you would know if you actually read what they wrote.

  105. says

    Tony @ 119:

    I’m really trying hard to read this in a way that doesn’t sound patronizing, but I’m having a hard time.

    I don’t read Chat_Noir as being patronizing, just clarifying how a lot of people look at being an atheist, as simply one part of their identity, not the whole of it, and not the forefront identifier. And yeah, I know, that could be said about all of us, but I find that people generally use one thing as a prime identifier.

    Also, Chat_Noir, are you the same person who used to post here as Black Cat?

  106. says

    Brianpansky:

    I’m pretty sure neuroguy agrees with that sentiment, so I’m not sure why you are inplying that quote should teach neuroguy something.

    It’s neurobio. Neuroguy is a different person. If you don’t understand why I posted that, then you don’t understand the point of #114 either, and I’m not in the mood to explain it, okay?

  107. consciousness razor says

    neurobio, #85:

    Atheism is, at its core, non-prescriptive; “I do not believe in existence of gods” is a statement that can be in perfect agreement with communism, libertarianism, objectivism, sexism, and many other ideologies. It is much more difficult to reconcile sexism and humanism.

    Not seeing any reasoning or facts behind this, just assertions. I already pointed out some contradictions above. You call that “perfect agreement”? Or is it “not a straight line”? Do you just get to pick whatever description you like, and change them around as it’s convenient to you? Aren’t you the one who cares so very deeply about the meanings of words, how they are being abused by figments of your imagination?

    Yes, it does. What you skip here is that it provides no guidance whatsoever as to what kind of morality you should develop.

    By itself, without other premises, you can as easily use atheism to justify, say, the objectivist “I got mine, screw everyone else” mentality.

    No, I can’t easily do that. Neither can anyone else. There’s no justification for it; whether or not you “use atheism,” that is not something which can actually be done.

    And what’s this bullshit about “atheism by itself”? Is there any person who’s only an atheist and nothing else? No? Then why imagine such a fantastical being?

    Not quite. You are having a knee-jerk reaction, in which you assume that many of people who argue about this point are automatically just idiots who insist on “dictionary definitions.” As if definitions of words are not important, and as if we can just dispense with them whenever they become insufficient. And as if you can actually hold any kind of a reasoned discussion if you don’t have well-defined terms that everyone who takes part in the debate agrees with.

    Nobody is dispensing with them. However, there are more things to do than just repeat definitions at ourselves. Indeed, spelling out the implications what atheism really means in someone’s actual life is a part of understanding what this well-defined term is doing in the arguments PZ is making. What’s not happening is “redefining” the word to mean something else. And one thing that’s not under debate are basic facts, like “women are human beings,” and it’s utterly fucking absurd to believe anybody could justify treating them any differently.

    The simple truth is this: people disagree with you what the consequences of atheism actually are.

    And they’re wrong. (You even say you agree that they’re wrong!) Yet another simple truth. Do we care about what’s right now, not just any old false or confused or bullshitting thing a person claims? (Like “sexism can be justified” for example.) Or is it only the patently fucking obvious “simple truths” that you have in your mind, which you think we really don’t get somehow?

    There are many other premises besides “there are no gods” that go into constructing such higher-level moral structures.

    Nobody said there are no other premises. The strawmen just keep piling up….

  108. says

    brianpansky @121:

    Way to completely miss the point of what you were responding to. You are responding to someone talking about “atheism” meaning lack of belief in gods, not meaning the movement of atheist people. So you aren’t delivering a contradiction, and neuroguy has been paying attention to such things, which you would know if you actually read what they wrote.

    Ok, I’ll re-read what xe wrote…

    The part where I’m rolling my eyes is the “I will leave atheism” or “I am disillusioned with atheism” sentiment. Unless Harris’ sexist remarks made you suddenly believe in existence of gods, this is just nonsense.

    That reads like “why would you be disillusioned with the atheist movement?” If neurobio followed the events of the last few years, they’d know why people are making that statement, and there shouldn’t be any eye rolling. It’s not nonsense to be fed up with the atheist movement which is what the disillusionment is referring to. I’m not seeing the point you say I’m missing. Perhaps you misunderstood what xe was saying.

  109. says

    Iyéska @123:

    I don’t read Chat_Noir as being patronizing, just clarifying how a lot of people look at being an atheist, as simply one part of their identity, not the whole of it, and not the forefront identifier. And yeah, I know, that could be said about all of us, but I find that people generally use one thing as a prime identifier.

    Hmmm, let me go re-read that comment then…
    …yeah, I can see what you’re saying. Reading comprehension loss on my part. I took this:

    We are more than the lack of belief in Gods/supernatural, much, much more.

    completely wrong.
    Apologies Chat_Noir.

  110. says

    And in my 128, that should probably read:

    @124 Iyéska, mal omnifarious

    not:

    @Iyéska, mal omnifarious 125

    as if “125” is in your name or something.

  111. consciousness razor says

    I’m not seeing the point you say I’m missing. Perhaps you misunderstood what xe was saying.

    There is a distinction between “leaving atheism”* and “leaving the movement.” One’s made of a group of people interacting socially to achieve something, while the other is simply an individual’s belief or set of beliefs. When you’re pissed off at Dawkins/Harris/slymepitters/whoever enough that you want nothing to do with the group or the goals they want, it doesn’t mean you start believing in any gods.

    *That may be another strawman. I’ve got no idea if anyone actually says that, unless they’re actually converting to a religion (in which case it isn’t ‘nonsense’ at all, just an accurate statement). Or if they do say it, but their meaning is clear in context** despite that, it’s still not anything worth ranting about.

    **But not in the dictionary! Dictionaries don’t do “context.”

  112. says

    cr @132:

    When you’re pissed off at Dawkins/Harris/slymepitters/whoever enough that you want nothing to do with the group or the goals they want, it doesn’t mean you start believing in any gods.

    Very true.
    I guess I’m going to continue being confused until if/when neurobio clears things up. Hir ‘eyerolling’ at ‘disillusionment with atheism’ strikes me as bizarre, bc no one is saying they’re going to start believing in gods. They/we are talking about movement atheism.

  113. says

    neurobio #85

    The simple truth is this: people disagree with you what the consequences of atheism actually are.

    And therein lies the problem. If their idea of the consequences of atheism become what the public perceive to be “what all atheists think,” then I would no longer wish to associate myself with the word, no matter how much I may be, by dictionary-definition, an atheist. It would, to say the least, be counter-productive to cling to a toxic label, when there is real cause for that label to have some toxicity.

  114. says

    So, okay. I’ve been completely done with the Atheist Movement for a good few years now (the beginning of the end was Elevatorgate) and the longer this shit goes on, the happier I am that I got out before sinking too much time or money into it.

    Honestly, I have far more in common with social-justice oriented believers than Dawkins, Harris and their fan base.

  115. consciousness razor says

    I guess I’m going to continue being confused until if/when neurobio clears things up. Hir ‘eyerolling’ at ‘disillusionment with atheism’ strikes me as bizarre, bc no one is saying they’re going to start believing in gods. They/we are talking about movement atheism.

    I’m pretty sure that’s how to interpret it.

    I guess some people just don’t grok thinking about atheists as human beings, in movements, doing things, having motivations…. The ideal “atheist” (if it’s not a rock or a baby — though I’ve heard both!) is apparently a Boltzmann Brain which popped into existence out of nowhere, only has one thought which is lacking in god-belief, then promptly starts disintegrating. I guess the nicest thing to say is that at least they don’t set the bar too high.

  116. says

    CR:

    There is a distinction between “leaving atheism”* and “leaving the movement.” One’s made of a group of people interacting socially to achieve something, while the other is simply an individual’s belief or set of beliefs. When you’re pissed off at Dawkins/Harris/slymepitters/whoever enough that you want nothing to do with the group or the goals they want, it doesn’t mean you start believing in any gods.

    Yes. Back in July of 2012, when this was being discussed, PZ made the point that more people will choose a different identifier/label/descriptor, such as none or non-theist. People who simply want to split hairs, like neurobio, are actively ignoring all the toxic attitudes and beliefs being attached to atheism by those who are, to a large extent, the public faces of atheism.

  117. says

    It’s a point I make here, too: I predict an increase in “nones”, and the decline in popularity of “atheists”. Not that they’ll be any less atheist…they just won’t want to be associated with the label.

  118. consciousness razor says

    I think you’re making the wrong prediction, PZ. It seems like the assholes are already losing, and in the long run they will have lost the fight over what the movement’s about. I don’t think this is just optimism, but admittedly that’s pretty foreign to me so maybe I just don’t recognize the symptoms. It looks like the situation already is changing for the better, which is definitely beyond saying it “can” change. (Honestly, I just don’t get what there is to doubt there.)

  119. carlie says

    They’ve lost some already, just because we’re talking about this. They lost the “make them shut up and ignore it” battle. I don’t know if that means they’ll lose more, but at least there’s that.

  120. says

    CR:

    It seems like the assholes are already losing,

    It seems like the assholes are multiplying to me.

    It looks like the situation already is changing for the better, which is definitely beyond saying it “can” change.

    The situation looks much worse to me. As Alexandra said at #136, Egate was the beginning of the end, and it was that way for me too. As bad as Dear Muslima was (and is), things which have been said recently, and things which have come to light (such as a high profile atheist who raped and sexually assaulted people was being given cover, for years, by other high profile atheists) all look way worse to me. Spending even a small amount of time on twitter, reading atheists who are becoming increasingly vocal about identifying as anti-feminist looks way worse to me.

  121. neurobio says

    With apologies for the delay.

    @brianpansky, #110

    When saying “disillusioned with atheism” PZ isn’t using “atheism” just to mean lack of belief in gods. He’s just using that as a shorthand for the bulk activist atheist movement/whatever.

    While that makes the general idea slightly more understandable (although, for instance, it would make me a non-atheist, since I never really took part in the “movement”), the central point still stands: we are atheists. We can’t just change that, short of starting to believe in gods. So if the movement that has grown behind the name is not representing most of us (and it seems like some of the leaders are bent on rejecting at least half of us), we can’t abandon it.

    Even if we change the label, it will continue to stick with us. Because it is what we are – we people who don’t believe in gods. We are atheists. If we start calling ourselves qwertyzists, all the public will get is that there is now this weird group of atheists called qwertyzists. And, besides, how long before some leader of qwertyzism goes off the beaten path and starts associating that concept with something unpalatable for many members? I can’t think of a single group which existed for any reasonably long period of time, where there wasn’t an issue such as this.

    We don’t have a choice of giving up. We have to continue fighting for the word. With full understanding that some idiot out there will always be tarnishing it.

  122. sadmar says

    Where DOES one get morality from? That’s a damn good question. I’ve been an atheist for 45 of my 60 years, yet I consider myself a moral person. ‘Morality’ obviously means different types of things to different people. Religious conservatives seem to interpret it as a set of specific instructions regarding specific behaviors handed down from God that one must obey to avoid eternal damnation. I don’t find that ‘moral’ at all. On the other hand, I can think of people I would consider highly moral in a commendable way who have adopted a set of general principles they would say derive from religious faith — e.g. the nuns working for social justice in El Salvador who were murdered by CIA sponsored and trained fascists. But do these laudable moral stances actually come from ‘religion’ or are they merely understood and expressed in religious terms by certain individuals?

    Going back to the Enlightenment, we see the two most important American proponents of the doctrine of Natural Rights — Jefferson and Paine — adhered to no religion, but were not atheists either. They were deists. Leaving aside however those two made the coonection, I wonder how the concept “endowed by their creator with inalienable rights” works. Does the idea that the universe had to come from somewhere lead to the idea that there must have been a creator who had a purpose for creation, and the notion of ‘purpose’ lead to the idea that it must somehow be benign, which then leads to the conclusion that the creator meant all of us to be free to enjoy life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or does it work the other way around? Does ‘experience of the human condition’ lead some people to believe we all deserve these rights to a decent life, and does that lead to belief that life has purpose, in turn leading to the belief that some divine force must have made it so?

    Certainly, atheism and a moral code centered on social justice have never been mutually exclusive. (The obvious example being Marx, or as one of my Grad School profs called him, ‘Chuck’ in an effort to separate his ideas from the demonic connotations commonly attached to his surname.) Not being versed in intellectual history enough to do more than guess, I’d guess that most of these folks started from a notion of inherent human rights that had nothing to do with a deity, but just self-evident to them from experience, and worked back from there. Maybe ideas can spring from pure ‘experience,’ but anyone born in the 19th Century West would have been influenced by ideas spread by Christianity, though by that point any of them could have become detached from religion in any form, and circulated in the form of ‘common sense’ morality. Is “Do unto others…” etc., somehow hard-wired into homo sapiens sapiens? I doubt it.

    I have no answers here, just questions. But in thinking about answers (multiple), I will want to keep this thought in mind:

    All of us like to think that we reign supreme in our own consciousness, that we are masters of what our minds accept or reject. The last refuge we can take from the catastrophic world at large seems to be our own minds. Where else can we expect to withstand the daily siege, if not within ourselves? The mind of the individual is considered a kind of last citadel and hotly defended, though this imaginary fortress may have been long since taken over by an ingenious enemy.
    No illusion is more stubbornly upheld than the sovereignty of the mind. The idea that human beings can “make up their minds” individually and by themselves is essentially secondhand Descartes, rundown Husserl, armchair idealism; and all it amounts to is a sort of metaphysical do-it-yourself. We might do worse, I think, than dust off an admirably laconic statement made more than a century ago: “What is going on in our minds has always been, and will always be, a product of society.”

    Adapted from “The Industrialization of the Mind”, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 1962

  123. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    I have identified myself as an atheist for over three decades. I am sure I am been an atheist longer then many of the yowling anti-feminist has been alive. And I will become a practicing Catholic before I let those assholes make me stop calling myself an atheist.

    That said, I want nothing to do with most mainstream atheist groups. And I avoid people who thing that being an atheist is the most important thing about themselves. And I also avoid people who use “atheist” as part of their online moniker.

  124. says

    Daz:

    Sod fighting for a word. The English language is stuffed full of synonyms. I’d rather fight for a fairer, better-informed world.

    Word. To riff on Flavia Dzodan, MY FEMINISM ATHEISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT!

  125. neurobio says

    @Daz, #111

    if that means I get to talk about anti-religion topics without the misogyny-baggage I fear will soon be attached to “atheist.”

    and in #135

    And therein lies the problem. If their idea of the consequences of atheism become what the public perceive to be “what all atheists think,” then I would no longer wish to associate myself with the word, no matter how much I may be, by dictionary-definition, an atheist.

    You… don’t really have that choice. I’m sorry.

    Hey, I understand your sentiment. I really do! Although I have lived my entire adult life in the US, I was born and raised in Serbia.

    Now tell me, what are the first associations that come with the words “Serbian” to you? Sarajevo? Srebrenica? Genocide? I don’t get to change that. Actions of people who were completely beyond my control altered a word that defines a core aspect of my identity, tarnishing it so thoroughly that it will take generations for it to be washed off even partially.

    But it doesn’t make it any less a part of my identity. And the same thing applies to “atheist.” Unless I start believing in gods, this word describes me. Unless I change, this label will be associated with me, whether I want it or not.

    You can keep running from label to label, letting others dictate what you call yourself. Or you can fight for the meaning of the words that describe you – and will keep describing you, whether you want it or not. You can say “sod fighting for the words” and call yourself a “none” – but you will still be an atheist, and you will still seethe whenever you get attacked for being something you are not, based on the words of some popular talking head.

  126. says

    neurobio @144:
    You still appear to be conflating being an atheist with participating in the atheist movement. They’re not the same thing. As I’ve said, the disillusionment felt by many is a result of the actions of various people in the atheist movement. None of the people talking about being disillusioned are saying they’re going to start believing in gods, so your eyerolling makes little sense.

    We don’t have a choice of giving up. We have to continue fighting for the word. With full understanding that some idiot out there will always be tarnishing it.

    I’m not sure you realize that people are talking about movement atheism-stuff like blogs, meetings, conventions, etc. People have every right to choose to give up on that. Doesn’t mean they’ve thrown in the towel and decided to believe in deities. Nor does it mean that those who fight for church/state separation, or who speak out against the evils of religion will stop doing either.

  127. says

    neurobio @149:

    You can keep running from label to label, letting others dictate what you call yourself. Or you can fight for the meaning of the words that describe you – and will keep describing you, whether you want it or not. You can say “sod fighting for the words” and call yourself a “none” – but you will still be an atheist, and you will still seethe whenever you get attacked for being something you are not, based on the words of some popular talking head.

    Daz can do what he damn well pleases. I’ll thank you to stop telling people how they can self-identify.

  128. says

    neurobio @ 149:

    You can keep running

    You keep running from any perspective coming from a woman, and it’s women who are the most affected by the assholery and toxic shit being flung about by atheists, and dominating way too much of the atheist movement. It’s not worth my time to fight over a word, and while none/non-theist/secular and so on still imply a lack of belief in gods, they have the benefit of being at a remove from atheist and the atheist movement. That’s a benefit I appreciate, and I’ve recently found that not describing as an atheist has led to people being willing to discuss certain issues with me, because the toxicity now attached to atheism has led a lot of people to believe anyone so self-describing is an asshole of the first water.

  129. Goblinman says

    @140

    The fact that Dawkins, who is basically the atheist pope, is publicly flaming out seems to me like the end of the first wave of the so-called New Atheism. I don’t think it means atheism itself is over, but it’s going to need to take a new form and maybe even a new name in order to continue growing. And it definitely needs new leadership.

  130. says

    neurobio:

    We don’t have a choice of giving up. We have to continue fighting for the word.

    Y’know, that’s enough. Of course we have a choice, and no, we do not have to continue fighting for a fucking word. For all your talk of being onboard with feminism, equal rights, and all that, you aren’t. You’re full of shit and privilege, and it’s now showing in a very ugly way.

  131. neurobio says

    @Iyéska, #114

    It’s a matter of people saying “I am disillusioned with the atheist movement” or “I want nothing to do with the atheist movement” Or “I want nothing to do with the public face of atheism”.

    As long as you are aware your words translate into “I will let Dawkins and Harris define words that describe me,” this is your right and privilege.

    I choose to continue to fight them over it. The word has existed for more than two thousand years. Perhaps it is like swastika, an ancient symbol tarnished beyond reparation, in a span of a few years. But I don’t think so. I think the atheist sexists are just the part of the overall society sexism, and are on the wrong side of history. They will eventually lose, if they keep being fought back.

    It’s interesting to me that the majority of people on the latter part of this thread are men. It’s a matter of privilege to be able to shrug off the sexist things a Harris, Dawkins, Shermer, Grothe, et al., toss out there.

    I cannot discount that. Perhaps this fight is, indeed, a lot easier for me than it is for you. I would still like to have your help. But if you just can’t do it, hey – I’m not the boss of you, and you don’t have to be a part of a fight you don’t want any part of.

    And this, from #120:

    Sure, religion has been associated with oppression, especially sexism, for centuries, but Dawkins seems bent on proving that atheists would be just as bad if they’re put in charge. I’m almost certainly never not going to be an atheist (barring brain damage), but I have no interest at this point in any atheism movement or supporting anyone (i.e. a candidate for public office) because they’re an atheist.

    I will again invoke Stalin as an example that atheists can not only be just as bad, but possibly worse. Growing up in communist country, with many atheists in power, oh boy – the notion that anyone should be supported for public office because they are atheist strikes me as almost terminally naive.

    I always thought that we are fighting against people being disqualified from public office just because they are atheists. At least I was: my stance was “you can’t assume that someone is a bad or immoral person because they are atheist.”

    Do I have this wrong? Was there an expectation that we are working to elect people on the basis of their atheism? That we are making a positive statement: “you can assume that someone is a good or moral person because they are atheist?”

    If so, oh boy. That’s just silly.

  132. says

    Goblinman @ 153:

    And it definitely needs new leadership.

    No, it damn well does not. This notion that leaders are required has already led to very nasty shit, and no, we don’t need more of that crap. We don’t need hierarchies. We don’t need someone to pontificate. We don’t need to emulate religious ideas. Seriously, fuck that noise with bells on.

    Also, please use people’s nyms when replying. This isn’t twitter.

  133. consciousness razor says

    What makes you think this?

    It’s hard to say. I certainly don’t like the way things are now. But a lot of things put together just seem like they’re telling a different story. Demographics, for example: stubborn old bigots are gradually dying off, and younger generations don’t seem to be too tainted by their nonsense or any of the other shit that made the twentieth century so fucking awful. On the other hand, younger people haven’t had time to be especially thoughtful about this sort of stuff either.

    Also, like carlie said (I think it’s the intent), people are actually talking about this stuff! Rights still aren’t “up for debate,” but what I mean is that simply having very open and very public criticism directed at these shitheads (especially the “high profile” ones like Dawkins) is an enormous improvement. And the criticism isn’t just coming “from the outside” — it’s a healthy sign when people on the inside are some of the most vocal critics (in contrast to, say, the RCC, which can’t seem to do anything but defend its “leaders” and justify their “loyalty” to each other).

    I’m reminded of my parents: just about every time I talk to them, current events usually come up, and they decide we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, of course. Their little town had a robbery the other day! (As if that never happened before… and never mind what that says about our society as a whole: focus entirely on the actions of a single baddy and how bad it is that they’re here on your turf.) No matter how many times I say it, they just don’t seem to appreciate just how fucking awful it was in the past, how their personal memories and anecdotes aren’t reliable, how they’re getting a biased picture from what the news reports and what they choose to listen to. And on top of all that they don’t even seem to be comparing it to anything else in particular. It’s just “bad,” but they’re saying it’s “worse” than … well … something, but I don’t know what. The way things used to be, apparently, in some golden age, which they know well enough never actually existed.

  134. says

    neurobio:

    As long as you are aware your words translate into “I will let Dawkins and Harris define words that describe me,” this is your right and privilege.

    Jesus Fucking Christ. You are being willfully obtuse here, and you’re an asshole to boot. I’m not going to waste any more time on you. Fuck off.

  135. 2kittehs says

    PZ, a fine post, and I’m sad that you and so many people are having to go through this disillusionment.

    Once we’ve cleared away the deadwood of religion, then maybe we can think about encouraging a rational world that will have those nice things you’re talking about.

    Even that’s more optimistic than I’d be about the White Man’s Burden types who seem to be the loudest voices of movement atheism. I don’t think they want to change anything except getting rid of religion – or mocking those whose inner lives are different from their own, even if organised religion’s power disappeared. Social justice? That’s only for white men pissed off at not being boss cocky everywhere. I could just see Dawkins wanting to swan around in a cope like an atheist Archbishop of Canterbury, telling his flock what to think and what not to think and whose problems are real problems.

    Why would women join a movement led by sexists and populated by trolls? If this is atheism, I’m becoming a Catholic.

    Katha Pollit echoes my impressions from years back, before I knew much about the atheist movement. Then it was all talk about New Atheism, which to me boiled down to the Horseapples showing what repellent fellows they were, and tainting the whole thing by association.

    simulateddave
    @1

    In hindsight, it’s obvious. Religions are human inventions. Getting rid of hateful and misogynistic religions isn’t just going to wipe out the reasons we made them hateful and misogynistic in the first place. Unfortunately.

    Bingo. The prejudices are far older: how else did the religions displaying them develop that way, and take hold, in the first place? Pretending religion is to blame for human shittiness is nonsense. Sure, it’s a hell of a vicious circle now, and has been centuries, but it isn’t the starting point.

    uticusprime
    @6

    “Whaaaa people act like , and I don’t like it!”

    Oh, so the atheist “leaders” who tell us how great and fine and right atheism is, and have unremitting contempt for people who’re religious, then demonstrate that they, the morally superior thinky-brain atheist dudes, are racists, misogynists and in some cases rapists, is just something to ignore, and PZ should “grow up”? Fuck you.

    Al Dente @15

    It’s my personal belief, backed by nothing except my disdain for Penn Jillette and others of his kidney, that many atheists embrace atheism because “you can’t tell me what to do and that includes gods.” Many libertarians, most of whom are well-off, middle-aged or older, cis-hetro, white men, dislike social justice because it goes against their natural conservatism.* Since feminism is a hot issue in atheist circles, the libertarians rush to bash it (and women in general) because it challenges the status quo. It doesn’t surprise me that Sam Harris, Michael Shermer and Jillette are all sexists** and libertarians. The two go well together.

    *Sorry, libertarians, but you’re only interested in freedom for yourself. You couldn’t care less about anyone who doesn’t follow your social-politico-economic utopianism.

    **I know Harris claims he’s not sexist. But if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s not likely to be an aardvark.

    QFFT. That’s the impression I have of so many of these guys. It’s like they’re stuck in stereotypical adolescent mode.

  136. says

    CR @ 158:

    Demographics, for example: stubborn old bigots are gradually dying off, and younger generations don’t seem to be too tainted by their nonsense or any of the other shit that made the twentieth century so fucking awful. On the other hand, younger people haven’t had time to be especially thoughtful about this sort of stuff either.

    An awful lot of younger people are happily buying into anti-feminism, especially as it’s being endorsed by Dawkins. An awful lot of younger people are buying into the idea that being concerned about social issues is just PC bullshit, especially as it’s being endorsed by many high profile atheists. An awful lot of younger people are buying into the idea that there’s no such thing as rape culture, especially as it’s being endorsed by many high profile atheists. An awful lot of younger people think being libertarian is smart and grand, especially as it’s being endorsed by a number of high profile atheists. And this goes on. And on.

    Oh, and racism? Not dying out, just re-named and re-framed. HBD.

  137. says

    I always thought that we are fighting against people being disqualified from public office just because they are atheists. At least I was: my stance was “you can’t assume that someone is a bad or immoral person because they are atheist.”

    Why did you pick that one aspect of many? Church/state is not, by far, the only reason for active atheism. Just to pick the obviously apt for this conversation—I’m also against the religious subjugation of women and minorities; it therefore behoves me, if for no other reason than to not be seen as a hypocrite,* to be against any subjugation of women and minorities. And if the label “atheist” gets in the way of that, then I will happily ditch the label. It’s just a fucking word.

    *No, that’s not my reason. Those who are hypocrites in that fashion, though, are, to my mind, guilty of using women and minorities as nothing more than pawns. They have no real interest in the problems caused or exacerbated by religion, but are using people’s suffering in order to score points in some sort of philosophical pissing match.

  138. neurobio says

    Tony! (one answer for several different comments)

    You still appear to be conflating being an atheist with participating in the atheist movement.

    and

    Daz can do what he damn well pleases. I’ll thank you to stop telling people how they can self-identify.

    And you seem to be missing my point entirely. Of course Daz can do whatever he or she pleases. Who am I to tell her how to self-identify. And I’m not conflating being an atheist and being a part of the atheist movement – quite the opposite, actually; but even that is not the point.

    Let’s use an example here. I am going to use the picture you have next to your name, and add an assumption that you are from the US (possibly wrong, but please indulge me for just a second; this is a thought experiment). Imagine this: imagine that you have a ton of African American leaders and people prominent in the media doing things that you find completely repulsive. So much so, you become really repulsed by the label “African American.” So you decide to use a different label.

    Of course you have the right to do that. And of course nobody can forbid you to abandon the label “African American” if you wish to do so.

    But tell me, is the public perception of you, you as a person, going to change? Are people you meet going to be less affected by the public figures and their antics? If you decide to run for office, is your run going to be less tarnished by what they did?

    This is my point. We can pretend otherwise, but words define us. If I the word “atheism” remains in the hands of Dawkins et al, and becomes tarnished with sexism, can you really escape it? If you run for office, and you get asked “do you believe in God?” what will you answer? If you answer “no,” and the press publishes “Tony! is an atheist” in the next edition, what will you do? Sue them for slander? Or will you somehow be magically immune to the tarnishment of sexism?

    I’m sorry. I’m not trying to deny you or anyone else the right to label yourself as you wish. But I honestly think this is simply pretending that problems will then cease to exist. We can choose the labels we call ourselves, but we don’t get to choose labels others use to describe us. That requires a cultural shift: we have to take the label away from them.

    You can think about it this way: what would have happened if the early gay rights leaders decided that the word “gay” was too damaged, too associated with negative stereotypes and homophobic propaganda? What about the word “homosexual?” It was defined by the entire psychiatric profession as a disease! And yet, it was taken back, and redefined to be perfectly acceptable, a point of identity and pride.

    And after witnessing that achievement, I just have to believe that the likes of Dawkins and Harris have managed to make the word “atheist” irrecoverable?

  139. says

    neurobio:

    I always thought that we are fighting against people being disqualified from public office just because they are atheists. At least I was: my stance was “you can’t assume that someone is a bad or immoral person because they are atheist.”

    That sort of thing is easily covered by secular/secularism. If this is what you thought though, you haven’t paid attention to anything anyone else has had to say in this thread.

  140. Goblinman says

    @ Iyéska, 159

    “Leadership”, not “leaders”. I’ll admit I could have phrased that better, but I was in a rush. Trust me, I’m no fan of hierarchy either.

    “Leadership” in the sense of public faces of the movement. People we can trust to speak for us to the general public. We could use some better ones.

    To be bitterly honest, we atheists like to say we’re a movement without leaders, but damn to some of us ever freak out when our supposed non-leaders get called out on their behavior. We’re sure acting like they’re our leaders.

  141. neurobio says

    @Daz, #162

    Why did you pick that one aspect of many?

    As an example – one aspect pulled out as representative, since this is a short blog comment.

    And if the label “atheist” gets in the way of that, then I will happily ditch the label. It’s just a fucking word.

    Sigh. Read my response to Tony! above. That is the clearest I can put this into words. If we disagree still after that, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree. But tl,dr: you can choose labels you apply for yourself, but you can’t choose the labels others will apply to you.

    If you are asked if you believe in gods, and you respond truthfully, the society will label you as “atheist.” If you don’t have any control over what that word means, many will assume you simply hold the same opinions as the most prominent members of the movement in the media. If those people are sexist, that will rub off on you, whether you want it or not.

  142. says

    neurobio @163:
    Thanks, I was starting to feel invisible.

    I see what you’re saying, but you’re not addressing the substance of PZ’s post: that movement atheism has a problem and PZ (as well as others) are not happy with this. Some people have gone so far as to distance themselves from the movement. They have not shed their atheism though. The just want nothing to do with the movement.

    This is my point. We can pretend otherwise, but words define us. If I the word “atheism” remains in the hands of Dawkins et al, and becomes tarnished with sexism, can you really escape it? If you run for office, and you get asked “do you believe in God?” what will you answer? If you answer “no,” and the press publishes “Tony! is an atheist” in the next edition, what will you do? Sue them for slander? Or will you somehow be magically immune to the tarnishment of sexism?

    I *get* your point. But you’re not arguing against what’s being discussed. You’re still conflating shit. Dawkins is an atheist. I’m an atheist. PZ is an atheist. A great many people here are atheists. But we’re not talking about stopping being atheists. Why can’t you see that?
    The atheist movement is not the same thing as being an atheist. One can very easily reject the former and still identify as the latter.

  143. consciousness razor says

    I always thought that we are fighting against people being disqualified from public office just because they are atheists. At least I was: my stance was “you can’t assume that someone is a bad or immoral person because they are atheist.”

    Do I have this wrong? Was there an expectation that we are working to elect people on the basis of their atheism? That we are making a positive statement: “you can assume that someone is a good or moral person because they are atheist?”

    If so, oh boy. That’s just silly.

    Consider me confused, with the rest of them. What does electing people have to do with anything? And what does that have to do with speculating about their moral potential? And what does the latter have to do with anything?

  144. says

    but you can’t choose the labels others will apply to you.

    I’ve been called many things in my life. If the person calling me something is right, then I need to own that and decide if being what they called me is something to be ashamed of or to be proud of, and then try to change if the former. If they’re wrong, then I don’t really care.

    If someone makes assumptions about me based on a label they applied to me, then that’s their problem, not mine. It’s unfortunate, but there’s little I can do about it.

    If I’m stupid enough to give myself a label which I know will lead to wrongful assumptions then, yeah, I can hold my head up and be all proud about my trivial principle regarding a label—whilst instantly losing the vastly more important battle before I’ve done more than put the nice shiny uniform on. Bravo me.

  145. 2kittehs says

    Damn! Hit post comment when I shouldna. Try that last bit again:

    Al Dente @15

    It’s my personal belief, backed by nothing except my disdain for Penn Jillette and others of his kidney, that many atheists embrace atheism because “you can’t tell me what to do and that includes gods.” Many libertarians, most of whom are well-off, middle-aged or older, cis-hetro, white men, dislike social justice because it goes against their natural conservatism.* Since feminism is a hot issue in atheist circles, the libertarians rush to bash it (and women in general) because it challenges the status quo. It doesn’t surprise me that Sam Harris, Michael Shermer and Jillette are all sexists** and libertarians. The two go well together.

    *Sorry, libertarians, but you’re only interested in freedom for yourself. You couldn’t care less about anyone who doesn’t follow your social-politico-economic utopianism.

    **I know Harris claims he’s not sexist. But if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s not likely to be an aardvark.

    QFFT. That’s the impression I have of so many of these guys. It’s like they’re stuck in stereotypical adolescent mode.

    Harris would be vastly improved as an aardvark, imo. Baby aardvarks are cute.

    Hank_Says
    @107 – great comment, thank you.

    General minor question: I take it “None” is in answer to things like census questions on “Do you have a religion”? Because if that’s what it is, None and Atheist don’t necessarily mean the same thing. I have no religion, but I am not an atheist. Of course if it means something like “How many gods do you believe in” then it’s a different matter.

  146. says

    Goblinman @ 165:

    “Leadership” in the sense of public faces of the movement. People we can trust to speak for us to the general public. We could use some better ones.

    I don’t think we need that, even. There are already terrific people speaking up and out, in and out of science fields. People who aren’t ignoring the need for big tent atheism to be inclusive.

    To be bitterly honest, we atheists like to say we’re a movement without leaders, but damn to some of us ever freak out when our supposed non-leaders get called out on their behavior. We’re sure acting like they’re our leaders.

    Yes, too many people do consider many high profile atheists to be leaders. And whether or not one does think of them of leaders, they are, very much, the public face of Atheism™.

  147. 2kittehs says

    Iyéska @172

    Yes, too many people do consider many high profile atheists to be leaders. And whether or not one does think of them of leaders, they are, very much, the public face of Atheism™.

    Hammer, nail, head. These are the guys whose every message says to me, as a woman and not one of Their Approved Atheists, “I hold you in contempt.”

  148. says

    neurobio:

    but you can’t choose the labels others will apply to you.

    Rats below, are you honestly that thick? What in the fuckety fuck does it matter, what labels someone else sticks on you? I am all these things: female, childfree, bisexual, mixed race, godless, genderfluid, hippie, older, liberal, artist, half-assed gardener, photographer, rape survivor, needlesmith, feminist, advocate (and many more).

    Do you really think that those things have not led to people applying labels to me, whether negative or positive? If I cared about that overmuch, I’d never get one damn thing done. And as for choosing to eschew a label which has overarchingly negative connotations? Daz said it perfectly at #170:

    If I’m stupid enough to give myself a label which I know will lead to wrongful assumptions then, yeah, I can hold my head up and be all proud about my trivial principle regarding a label—whilst instantly losing the vastly more important battle before I’ve done more than put the nice shiny uniform on. Bravo me.

    2kittehs @ 171:

    I take it “None” is in answer to things like census questions on “Do you have a religion”? Because if that’s what it is, None and Atheist don’t necessarily mean the same thing. I have no religion, but I am not an atheist.

    Yes, it means I have no religion or religious affiliation.

  149. consciousness razor says

    General minor question: I take it “None” is in answer to things like census questions on “Do you have a religion”? Because if that’s what it is, None and Atheist don’t necessarily mean the same thing. I have no religion, but I am not an atheist. Of course if it means something like “How many gods do you believe in” then it’s a different matter.

    Right, “nones” are something like that: not part of an organized (or disorganized) religious group of people. Whatever that means. Some people will say things like that about themselves, even though they are believers in Christianity or some other religious tradition. It could mean they have some or all of the beliefs of some specific sect, but they are not active “in the movement” (as we’ve been saying about atheism), don’t attend its services/meetings (regularly), don’t donate time/money/labor to them (very much), have better ways to spend their lives on a Sunday morning (or whenever), and so forth. But yeah, whatever the case may be for different individuals, “nones” as a group are not to be confused with “atheists/non-believers” as a group.

  150. neurobio says

    @Tony!, #168

    I see what you’re saying, but you’re not addressing the substance of PZ’s post: that movement atheism has a problem and PZ (as well as others) are not happy with this. Some people have gone so far as to distance themselves from the movement. They have not shed their atheism though.

    I am also not happy about it! The entire point I’m trying to make, however, is that we should work very hard to avoid the future PZ predicts: the one in which atheists remain few, while there are more “nones.” Because all you need to do is ask a “none” a simple question – do you believe in God – and they become “atheist” for anyone else. And then, the label they attempted to escape is still apply, with the added bonus that they now have no say whatsoever in how that label is applied.

  151. neurobio says

    @2kittehs, #173

    You’re using race as an analogy to someone’s belief system?

    No. I’m using race as an example of how a label imposed by society does not go away if a subgroup chooses to relabel itself. You can abandon atheism and call yourself “none.” When you go to run for office, you get asked about your religion, and poof – no distinction anymore. You can’t win, because you are now tarnished by the fact that other nonbelievers are sexist and/or racist.

    Is this really such a surprising and anger-inducing idea? That changing labels is very difficult?

  152. 2kittehs says

    Iyéska @176

    2kittehs @ 171:

    I take it “None” is in answer to things like census questions on “Do you have a religion”? Because if that’s what it is, None and Atheist don’t necessarily mean the same thing. I have no religion, but I am not an atheist

    .

    Yes, it means I have no religion or religious affiliation.

    Cool, thanks – I thought so, from the wording of our census forms here.

    and @178

    2kittehs @ 175:

    These are the guys whose every message says to me, as a woman and not one of Their Approved Atheists, “I hold you in contempt.”

    Amen, sister.

    Fistbumps, hugs or high fives, depending on yer preference!

  153. consciousness razor says

    I am also not happy about it! The entire point I’m trying to make, however, is that we should work very hard to avoid the future PZ predicts: the one in which atheists remain few, while there are more “nones.” Because all you need to do is ask a “none” a simple question – do you believe in God – and they become “atheist” for anyone else. And then, the label they attempted to escape is still apply, with the added bonus that they now have no say whatsoever in how that label is applied.

    A good follow-up to my last comment. There are quite a few atheists who are “part of an organized religion.” (They’re called “priests” … but I kid.) It’s not clear what to call them. Are those people “nones”? Are they “atheists”? Are they “Mormons” or something? Do they call themselves whatever they want? I think they do. And I don’t think insisting they must fit into one of your little boxes, getting bogged down with the necessary and sufficient conditions for any single label, is not going to clarify what reality is like… or really do anything useful, except maybe piss people off.

  154. consciousness razor says

    Whoops. Unintentional double-negative there, for the second time in this thread. I don’t think it is going to do anything useful.

  155. says

    neurobio:
    Who cares how other people label us?
    I guess I know the answer to that: You do.
    I don’t.
    Or, alternately, see Daz’s @170 and Iyeska’s @176.

    Not everyone feels the label ‘atheist’ is all that important. For some people, their beliefs and actions are far more important.

  156. neurobio says

    @Daz, #170

    If someone makes assumptions about me based on a label they applied to me, then that’s their problem, not mine. It’s unfortunate, but there’s little I can do about it.

    and

    @Iyéska, #176

    Rats below, are you honestly that thick? What in the fuckety fuck does it matter, what labels someone else sticks on you?

    Oh, nothing. Unless you, say, run for office. Atheists are currently unelectable. Hey, here’s a brilliant idea: we’ll just switch to “none.” Problem solved, right? Nones are so much more electable than atheists, right?

    Or take the current war over the word “feminism.” You have dudebros trying to define feminists as man-haters who claim that false rape accusations never happen, who label all men as child molesters, and who fight for women to always get custody in divorces. They are tarnishing the word so much that we now have entire sites full of images of women “explaining” why they “don’t need feminism.” Because, hey, they really don’t need what dudebros say feminism is; nobody does.

    But hey, that does not affect women at all, right? The fact that there is this false label in society applied to feminists – it doesn’t matter. It’s not like it produces enormous amounts of hate speech directed at everyone who calls themselves feminist in public, or entire crusades when someone attempts a feminist analysis of a male-dominated field? Right?

    Or we can go with the word “homosexual.” What does it matter if the psychiatrists have “homosexuality” defined as a disease. You’ll just call yourself gay, and not worry about it. And when the police show up to drag you for “treatment,” that will come as a surprise.

    Of course it fucking matters what other people label you. Unless you are a hermit living somewhere in a cave, what other people label you can affect your life a great deal. It limits your ability to have a career you choose, it can cause you to lose social networks or jobs, and it can fuck up your family. It can cause you to be arrested, or lose custody over your children, or even lose your life.

    Am I speaking with teenagers here? Are you two seriously adults who honestly believe that you can ignore what the rest of the world thinks about you? Even if you live in an area where this is true (and given primate psychology, I can’t imagine such a place), are you that unaware of the rest of the world – and how much this can cost you in many countries, or even states within the US?

  157. says

    neurobio @192:

    Of course it fucking matters what other people label you. Unless you are a hermit living somewhere in a cave, what other people label you can affect your life a great deal. It limits your ability to have a career you choose, it can cause you to lose social networks or jobs, and it can fuck up your family. It can cause you to be arrested, or lose custody over your children, or even lose your life.

    And for some people, how they label themselves is an act of self-determination and empowerment that is more important than how others label them.

  158. says

    neurobio:

    No. I’m using race as an example of how a label imposed by society does not go away if a subgroup chooses to relabel itself.

    Oh FFS, do you honestly have no idea how change takes place? Many labels have been lost, due to changes in social attitudes, which were made clear by people actively rejecting a certain label.

    That changing labels is very difficult?

    Who in the fuck said it wasn’t difficult? That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, nor does it mean it shouldn’t be done. You’re willing to be an offensive, insulting asshole who is blithely ignoring all the major issues at stake, in order to cling to a label. From where I sit, that makes you not only an offensive, insulting asshole, it makes you irrelevant. Go ahead, cling to your label, no one is going to try and take it away from you – many of us don’t want the Atheist™ label*, which has been made more than clear at this point. Given your love for atheist, why don’t you run off to twitter, and give Dawkins hell for partially funding the Openly Secular project?
     
    *And I’m damn tired of you refusing to grok the difference between big tent atheism and atheist. All you’ve done is make me dislike the label even more.

  159. says

    Jesus H Christ on a kawasaki

    Of course it fucking matters what other people label you.

    It doesn’t matter to me, what people assume about me. It doesn’t matter what labels they apply to me. As a matter of political expediency, I am perfectly happy to forgo the label atheist, if that means someone might actually listen to me instead of writing me off based on an erroneous reading of a label I give myself. The people who will apply a label I don’t give myself; they’re likely too fucking prejudiced to listen anyway.

    The people who claim feminist=manhater: they’re likely too fucking prejudiced to listen anyway.

    People in danger of being hunted by the police for their sexuality: they’re too fucking busy staying alive and out of jail to be bothered by petty things like what fucking label they should apply to themselves.

    Fuck off.

  160. says

    neurobio:

    Of course it fucking matters what other people label you.

    I don’t worry overmuch about what other people think of me. I can’t force people to put me in the ‘nice label’ box, and if someone is determined to put me in the ‘bad label’ box, then they will. I can choose to eschew a self identifier which is largely negative and toxic. I’ve had 56.5 years to consider things, and I’m fine with choosing labels which, as Tony says, are an act of self-determination and empowerment. I’ve had 40 plus years of activism on more than one front that I don’t much give a fuck about epithets people may toss about.

    Here’s an example of something I do worry about: it can come out that a high profile atheist is a rapist, and has been sexually assaulting and raping women for a number of years, and other high profile atheists have covered for this person over the years. Here at Pharyngula, we’ve engaged in one lengthy discussion after another on this issue, and heard many cries of “you’ll ruin his life! You’ll ruin his career!” and so on. Going by you, being labeled a rapist would be one of those things that would ruin someone’s life and career. I have news for you – it didn’t ruin his life, and it didn’t ruin his career, and he still has a fanbase which thinks he didn’t do a single thing wrong. This is the Atheism™ you love. Labels aren’t all that.

  161. Scr... Archivist says

    consciousness razor @140,

    It seems like the assholes are already losing…

    Iyeska @143,

    It seems like the assholes are multiplying to me.

    I wonder, can this be measured? And is it just a question of numbers or is it more a matter of who is louder?

    To those of you who have been around for some time: Do you think that, among those who identify as atheists/agnostics/freethinkers/nones, there are a larger proportion of women and people of color and LGBT non-believers now than there was 20, 30, or 40 years ago? I ask because of one of Mark Oppenheimer’s speculations in his recent article that internet communication has helped increase the presence of women in the movement since the 1990’s (to which we are now seeing a backlash).

    Looking forward, do people here think that the demographic proportions within the atheist population will grow to match those of the overall society? And will that happen simply because non-belief becomes more widespread and just “how things are done”, and not because of identification with atheism as a movement?

    Maybe secularization is now self-perpetuating, and our kind of progressive, egalitarian atheists can reduce their focus on organizing as atheists. Maybe we can just become atheist contingents within other movements, maintaining contact with others who identify as atheists to facilitate a kind of intersectional cross-pollination.

  162. neurobio says

    All right. It seems that we live in two very different worlds. In my world, there is a chain of inexorable logic:

    1. I don’t believe in God.
    2. When people learn about this, they apply the label “atheist” to me. I don’t get a say in this, and it often does not involve any conversation or exchange of ideas. As soon as they hear “doesn’t believe in God,” the label applies.
    3. When a label is applied, it carries its associations with it. There is a perception that atheists are immoral and angry, which is being successfully pushed down (thankfully); but now, this may get replaced by “sexist” and “racist,” which is not an improvement.
    4. The associations of the label applied to me will also be applied to me. I don’t get a say in this. It also rarely involves thought, much less conversation or an exchange of ideas where I could alter the perception.
    5. This will have an impact on my daily life, sometimes in rather unpleasant ways.

    All of you here obviously live somewhere where one or more of these steps aren’t true. Even more, some of you live in places where you can “not care what others think about you.” It must be nice. I think about all the people (and the similar situations from my own past) who have to hide their lack of belief, as revealing it can be dangerous to their jobs and livelihoods, or to their life.

    Since I don’t have a choice, I’ll continue fighting for the word. When Dawkins or Harris come out with a new piece of BS, I’ll comment, and I’ll cajole, and I’ll try to show as much as I can that their words don’t apply to many of us. And you, I guess, are going to go off and try to relabel yourself. Good luck – I’ll be following very closely how that works out for you.

    And now, I will do as you requested, and fuck off. Have a pleasant rest of your lives.

  163. says

    I don’t give a damn about “atheism”.

    “Atheism” is nothing. “Atheism” is a label. “Atheism” is an accusation, a pathway people take, first and foremost to get you, oh poets who think and feel, stuffed into a particular box and tracking along a statistical mode. “Atheism” is the charge and the crime against the (illegitimate and unthinking) State. Ask Socrates, if you’re unsure about what all of that means.

    It is fashionable among a particular demographic to “wear it as a badge of honor”, but it doesn’t make the label, “atheist”, anything more significant or meaningful than that which is simply expedient or momentarily self-flattering.

    Here’s a scenario:

    You don’t believe the charter of your neighborhood’s Big Club ™, nor it’s assumptions nor conclusions about what you should do, to whom you may do it, and where; more importantly how you should spend your time and/or money and if you don’t, what (they say) will be the consequences.

    You don’t think it’s true, of course. You don’t want to participate. Why would you? You resent their constant efforts to force you to acknowledge them.

    None of this makes you anything with respect to their organization and conception of “reality” (such as it is).

    The label is theirs, not yours.

    They are obsessed with labeling you with respect to their framework.

    By the way, the “club” I was thinking about just now wasn’t the “god club” or some-or-another “—-tianity”; it was the club of “Men are Superior to Women and Can Discount their Complaints Because ~X~“; it was the club of “I fucking love Science” (which, in most cases, seems to amount to little more than a self-absorbed fetishization of pretty space pictures and “miraculous” technologies); it is the club of “Uncritical Veneration of the Founders of This Modern Enlightened Era of Reason and Science”.

    “Atheism” is their obsession, not mine.

    I can think of a many things I am and simultaneously am not: I am a citizen, but not by my own choosing. I am a man, but only by birth. My essential nature is nothing I decided and is something I can barely influence from moment to moment, if at all. If at all! I have been taught by osmosis so many “Truths” (capital “T”) which now I can only take as granted, so much so that I don’t even know what I know already and what (unknown) knowledge therefore controls me (to turn the Lacanian phrase).

    Were I to do one thing to assert some simple point of fact or demand for consistency, then suddenly the world would decide that I am now and forevermore to be called “atheist”.

    No, I’m sorry, but that’s on the world. I don’t give a damn about “atheism”.

  164. says

    Scr…Archivist @ 199:

    Do you think that, among those who identify as atheists/agnostics/freethinkers/nones, there are a larger proportion of women and people of color and LGBT non-believers now than there was 20, 30, or 40 years ago?

    Yes.

    I ask because of one of Mark Oppenheimer’s speculations in his recent article that internet communication has helped increase the presence of women in the movement since the 1990’s (to which we are now seeing a backlash).

    That’s true. What we’re seeing a lot of now though, is women being hounded off the ‘net, for the crime of being female on the internet. To an extent, the amount of death and rape threats have dropped, but the second a woman does or says something which is not liked, they amp right back up again. And remember, it took four years for Dawkins to finally say that sending death and rape threats was wrong (his ‘accord’ with Ophelia Benson, which was just this year), and it was almost immediately after that, that he started saying all the horrible, vile things about rape.

    Daz:

    I have a hairy-eared dwarf lemur of atheism.

    There you go, trying to out-cute me. Remember, I also have The Plague of Rats of Atheism™.

  165. says

    Amateur @ 203:

    By the way, the “club” I was thinking about just now wasn’t the “god club” or some-or-another “—-tianity”; it was the club of “Men are Superior to Women and Can Discount their Complaints Because ~X~“; it was the club of “I fucking love Science” (which, in most cases, seems to amount to little more than a self-absorbed fetishization of pretty space pictures and “miraculous” technologies); it is the club of “Uncritical Veneration of the Founders of This Modern Enlightened Era of Reason and Science”.

    My badger of atheism ♥’s you. Me too.

  166. says

    Hopefully xe has fucked right off.

    Since I don’t have a choice, I’ll continue fighting for the word. When Dawkins or Harris come out with a new piece of BS, I’ll comment, and I’ll cajole, and I’ll try to show as much as I can that their words don’t apply to many of us. And you, I guess, are going to go off and try to relabel yourself. Good luck – I’ll be following very closely how that works out for you.

    This right here shows a severe lack of understanding of what this discussion is about.
    The discussion has not been about relabeling ourselves. Neurobio would have people believe that, but it’s not the case. As mentioned upthread-multiple times-xe is conflating the atheist movement with atheism. No one, but no one has said they will stop being an atheist. I don’t see anyone saying “I will no longer be an atheist”. I see people saying “I don’t want to participate in movement atheism”.

  167. Eristae says

    @neurobio/200

    #2 emphatically does not hold where I am. When I tell people I don’t believe in god, they do not apply the label “atheist” to me. Maybe you think they should, but they don’t. In the event that anyone identifies me as an atheist, it is because I told them, “I am an atheist” and even that sometimes isn’t good enough; sometimes they will insist I am still not an atheist. I could get out of massive loads of shit by defining myself as “Buddhist” or “spiritual” or “agnostic” or “seeking” or blah blah blah blah blah.

    I don’t have to identify as an atheist, so I am much less invested in the atheist label than some people are. If the atheism treats me like shit, I can stop fighting for it with no negative consequences at all. In fact, I would probably have positive results. So it rarely goes well when someone insists that I must be involved in the atheist movement for my own good. No, I don’t.

  168. says

    Neurobio:

    When Dawkins or Harris come out with a new piece of BS, I’ll comment, and I’ll cajole, and I’ll try to show as much as I can that their words don’t apply to many of us.

    Yeah, it’s not like we ever thought of commenting, cajoling, or fighting back! Nope, not ever. We have been fighting that crap for years, you craven, beetle-headed asshole. And recently:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/16/richard-dawkins-the-wrongering/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/18/oh-no-thought-leaders-are-being-picked-on/comment-page-1/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/20/call-the-police-or-gtfo/comment-page-1/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/21/alison-smith-clarifies-a-few-matters/comment-page-1/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/23/perception-matters/

  169. says

    And more, neurobio:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/12/sam-harris-too-is-this-attitude-contagious/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/12/the-crooked-twisted-story-of-the-wanton-kid/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/04/more-words-from-jref/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/01/holy-crap-major-shakeup-at-the-jref/

    And I’ll let the eloquence of Chris Clarke be the coda:

    10 reasons you should stop being so irrationally upset about your hair being repeatedly set on fire

    1. Because having your hair set on fire once is upsetting, and twice is an unfortunate coincidence, but after the third time your hair was set on fire, perhaps you should have asked yourself what the common factor was in each of these so-called “hair set on fire” incidents.
    2. Because fire is good. Fire is our friend.
    3. Because Webster’s Dictionary defines “fire” as “a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.” I see neither light, heat, nor flame, but merely a progressive singeing, reddening of the scalp, and a sulfurous smell. Your hair is therefore not on fire by any definition of “fire” of which I am aware.
    4. Because the end result of having your hair set on fire is not having any remaining hair. Meanwhile, men suffer from male pattern baldness, yet who gets irrationally upset about their plight? The deck is stacked against them.
    5. Because until we have the results of the forensic examination and several signed affidavits, we really have no way to be certain whether that’s just a Brazilian blowout gone horribly wrong.
    6. Because some people prefer their hair bright red, and they deserve respect and not shaming.
    7. Because that man’s head is cold and he says that if someone set his hair on fire he would take it as a compliment.
    8. Because if we just start putting out every fire we see without going through a calm and measured deliberative process in which we consider all the facts at hand, we will eventually be unable to cook food or smelt useful alloys.
    9. Because you really ought to be used to it by now. It’s just the way life works in an oxygenated atmosphere.
    10. Because my hair has never been set on fire.

    I’ll repeat number three for you:

    3. Because Webster’s Dictionary defines “fire” as “a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.” I see neither light, heat, nor flame, but merely a progressive singeing, reddening of the scalp, and a sulfurous smell. Your hair is therefore not on fire by any definition of “fire” of which I am aware.

  170. says

    Tony:

    And lying in reserve, you also have The Monster Dogs of Atheism too, IIRC.

    Yes. They are the Enthusiast Atheists. I also have The Fab Five Felines of Dictionary Atheism™, because they can’t be arsed with anything more.

    Daz:

    Ah, but I also have the flea-circus of agnosticism, the peanut of scepticism and the small unidentifiable gooey lump of reason. They’re not cute, but they do break the ice at parties.

    Well, now I’m jealous. I have to get one of those small, unidentifiable gooey lumps of reason – there are all these atheists who keep pointing out that I don’t have one, because I’m a woman.

  171. consciousness razor says

    3. When a label is applied, it carries its associations with it. There is a perception that atheists are immoral and angry, which is being successfully pushed down (thankfully); but now, this may get replaced by “sexist” and “racist,” which is not an improvement.

    How the fuck would that be a replacement? Do you know a lot of sexists and racists who are moral and not angry when it comes to gender or race?

    And now that you’ve flounced, I guess I’ll never get a reply…. Do these same people “justify” their ideologies in a way that’s in “perfect agreement” with reality? That seems like a huge load of bullshit to me, because, well…. it is.

    The best I can do is conclude that you might not have such a great grasp of the meanings of words, or how communication works or what it’s for, as you think you do. Or else you’re way more of a shithead than you’d like to admit, to us, to yourself, etc.

    All of you here obviously live somewhere where one or more of these steps aren’t true.

    There’s at least one other step which you didn’t take into account: you can have more than one label. The associations people loosely make based on what they assume about various groups don’t need to be consistent. They’re just categories people made up, not reality, and there has never been any need for those to carve nature at its joints. It’s nice when they do, but you can’t always get what you want.

  172. says

    All of you here obviously live somewhere where one or more of these steps aren’t true.

    Oh yes, this shit. I live in North Dakota, United States. Hardly a bastion of godlessness. I don’t hide, in any way, that I’m godless. People have not given me grief over this.

  173. Chat_Noir1972 says

    @Iyeska, sorry I don’t know how to accent the e. I am not Black Cat. I chose it from my favourite poster (the wall kind).

    I wasn’t trying to be patronising. I may be being clumsy as I have only recently begun posting and am still sorting things out.
    I believe for good or ill we are all more than one specific label. Some can be atheist, humanist and egalitarian, some can be atheist, racist and sexist or somewhere in-between. Not to mention gender and other critical pieces of identity
    To say I am an atheist alone is as valid as saying I am christian alone. In fact I tend to think of those who identify themselves with one label as heading towards zealotry, but that may be my failing.

  174. Scr... Archivist says

    Thank you, folks, particularly Iyeska, for your replies. I have found this OP and thread disappointing, so I have tried to stir up some constructive dialogue.

    To that end, here is another question: Why does there have to be one “atheist movement”?

    It seems that in practice there may be at least two in the U.S. right now, both in terms of who the members are and in how they are trying to reach out to different publics. One is conservative (if not plainly right-wing) and trying to bring in the already-privileged, and the other is liberal (or progressive?) and trying to “share the good news” with people who have hitherto been ignored by organized atheism. (I would say that one is authoritarian and the other is “libertarian”, but that latter word has been co-opted by people who are authoritarians in some important ways.)

    Would adjectives make better descriptors of this branch? Is this the “progressive atheist movement” or “egalitarian atheist movement” or “social democratic atheist movement” or something else? And are our opponents the “conservative atheist movement” or “elite atheism movement” or “neo-reactionary atheist movement”? Are there more than two factions, each with its own adjectives?

    Second, I wonder if we actually do have to surrender any part of organized atheism to the Right. Do we really know how many members of atheist groups, such as the Secular Student Alliance, the FFRF, the state and provincial atheist associations, and other, you know, organizations, are on the wrong side of the present conflict? Maybe the bigoted peanut brigade we see online merely appears to have a large participation away from their keyboards.

    Has anyone conducted a reliable poll of social and political attitudes within atheist organizations?

  175. says

    Chat_Noir @220:

    @Iyeska, sorry I don’t know how to accent the e. I am not Black Cat. I chose it from my favourite poster (the wall kind).
    I wasn’t trying to be patronising. I may be being clumsy as I have only recently begun posting and am still sorting things out.

    My reading comprehension failed when I read your post upthread and I mistook it for being patronizing. I’m sorry about that.

    Oh, and if you copy/paste her nym, you should be able to get Iyéska (you just have to avoid clicking on her nym).

  176. says

    Chat_Noir:

    @Iyeska, sorry I don’t know how to accent the e.

    Don’t worry about that, please. It’s not a big deal. The way to do accents with html is to type the letter you want accentuated, then &a­cute; frinst., to do my nym, type Iy&ea­cute;ska to get Iyéska. That is a pain in the arse though, I may just remove the accent altogether.

  177. says

    Daz & Tony, I’ve been following Scalzi’s thread, too. As always, Scalzi says what needs to be said:

    I assure you there are enough assholes in just about every assemblage to make particular ratios less material. It doesn’t matter how big the turd in the punchbowl is, it still ruins the punch.

  178. georgebean says

    I’m sorry the movement let you and so many others down. But as someone who’s watched a lot of inexcusable BS coming from the atheist community for years now, it warms my heart some to see a growing segment of them express their disgust about it.

    I’m an atheist who’s never felt personally aggrieved much for being one. That’s probably because I thought secularism was what it was all about anyway, not atheism. On every social issue I care about, I see religious and nonreligious advocates both. And I could better deal most of the time with fervid religious nuts the same way I’d deal with most any other kind of delusional person, and all of us who pay any attention to the Real World know it’s nearly impossible to “cure” another of their delusions by shooting each of them down with logical arguments.

    So for me the atheist movement’s been pissing me off for a Long Time. Sam Harris most of all. He’s been humiliatingly obtuse imo when it comes to post 9-11 type issues. The Moral Landscape was every bit as regrettable, forgettable horseshit as the horseshit, regrettableforgettable debris I’ve stumbled upon uttered by Deepak Chopra. And he’s penned another 3?? even more woowoo books since that one? He’s not even a decent empirical thinker, fercryssakes. So what if he’s an atheist? Once you attempt sifting through all the wannabeSocratese scaffolding supporting his arguments, the “I think we can all agree X” (whah? of course we can’t all agree) and “certainly no one would argue Y” (except we do find that very argument here, here, here, here, … and here!) you come away thinking he is, deep down inside, hungering to replace the dogmatic religious First Principles deductive reasoning approach with his own half-baked, atheist branded First Principles bullshit calculus.

    I think atheists need to stop trying to convert the religious to atheism and focus on these two things: a) full civil rights/acceptance for atheists and b) promoting an empiricist mode of thinking. If a) and b) are achieved, the atheism/religion thing will naturally diminish and become more of a pirates/ninjas kind of thing imo. Who cares if people believe in God if they also believe in following the science, equality, freedom of conscience, church/state separation etcetera?

  179. 2kittehs says

    Iyéska and Daz

    Badgers? Badgers and lemurs and cats and rats and dogs of atheism? THIS IS A TRICK YOU ARE TRYING TO LURE ME WITH YOUR WILES OF CUTENESS YOU DEVILS

    Also, if assholes are multiplying, is this the great unacknowledged source of global warming? It is not the cows and their methane farts at all!

    Amateur @203

    It is fashionable among a particular demographic to “wear it as a badge of honor”, but it doesn’t make the label, “atheist”, anything more significant or meaningful than that which is simply expedient or momentarily self-flattering.

    Yes to all your comment, plus the note that there really are countries where being atheist is just not an issue for most people. It’s not the martyr’s crown. It’s almost like the world neurobio described @200 really is their world and doesn’t necessarily describe other people’s.

    georgebean @227

    Who cares if people believe in God if they also believe in following the science, equality, freedom of conscience, church/state separation etcetera?

    Everything you said, especially this.

  180. ansatz says

    I never joined the atheism movement because I didn’t feel like atheism should be anything more than its dictionary form. I can be a humanist, I can be a secularist, I can be a feminist, I can be an egalitarian, and I can be an atheist, and I didn’t need to mix or match any of them to have my actions and behaviors match my thoughts.

    In part, it’s precisely because of this problem that the atheism movement is having currently, now mired in scandals after scandals of harassment and sexism, and perhaps inexorably twisted with that stigma too, unfair or not. In part it was because of the, ironically, holier than thou attitudes characterized by some of the faces of the movement, the black or white, us or them, the sentiment that if only religion didn’t exist, then everything would be better.

    People are terrible, atheists or not. And this applies to all other labels as well.

    I’m highly pessimistic on the odds that similar problems aren’t/won’t plague any current or future movements, whether it’s the social justice vogue or anything for tolerance, secularism, equality, and all that jazz. It’s not going to be fun reading the next post detailing the failings of yet another movement in the next 10 years.

    It all seems pretty much inevitable.

  181. Chat_Noir1972 says

    PZ, I am not a regular commenter, but a long time lurker and what I say below is my opinion only. You may take it on board or discard it at will.
    I have had trouble with what I thought was the rationale behind Atheism Plus in the past. The idea that Atheism has natural flow on consequences to reveal a better way of life, or at least that is what it seemed to mean to me.
    PZ you have a great compassion and a passion for social justice and I believe that is where you may have gone wrong. It seems to me that you assumed that everyone shared, deep down those feelings and thoughts and embracing Atheism would reveal the path to a better way of living with each other.
    If that were the case then Atheism Plus would be a no-brainer. However in my experience there are very few truly beneficent people, very few malevolent people with most people bouncing around in between.
    If this were true then Atheism would reveal a different path to different people. Paths that swing from beneficial through to malevolent. While I have no science to back me, it seems to me that this is the case.
    The only thing I can think of to lose ‘faith’ in is the original assumptions. Lick your wounds, smooth your fu… tentacles and try to work out how to communicate your values.
    I don’t believe that rejecting gods and religions alone will bring about transformation. We need to articulate the need for humanist values in a manner to replace the gods and religions that have been taken away.

  182. 2kittehs says

    Scalzi’s thread is a good one indeed. I just left a comment under my everywhere-else-nym (hey, it’s not my fault FTB refuses to log me in that way!)

  183. Maureen Brian says

    Chat_Noir1972 @ 231,

    It is simpler than that. All we argue is that after a person has very sensibly come to the conclusion that there is no god, ordinary good conscience would say that – at a pace they are comfortable with – each should ask him or herself how much of the stuff left lying about in their minds was planted there by religion, either directly or dragged along by the society in which they grew up.

    Sometimes it is a painful project but if it is not done your end up, essentially, with a religiously acting person claiming extra kudos for being an atheist. This is what PZ argues (and so would I argue) is actively harmful to atheism and to individuals.

    We can’t all be perfectly rational all the time: we’re not built that way. But we do have the capacity to turn our attention to our own assumptions and ask whether we are a credit to ourselves. That’s all. And it keeps coming up because often we are not.

  184. sadmar says

    Spent FIVE HOURS!! writing post on this thread. Firefox ate it. All gone. A few quick points.

    Liking Tony’s POV, Neurobio not so much. NB has a bit of a point about retrieving a label from asshats, but it’s not that important. Atheism shouldn’t be anyone’s priority. It’s way more important to stand against injustice, not in the abstract, but where actual human beings are harmed or exploited by those with more money and power. Put your ass on the line for that, and whatever you believe is secondary. It’s more about what we do than what we think. Sub in a different comparable issue as the subject if you like, but my question of the moment: if a cop in your town shoots someone for Existing While Black, are you sitting at home or out in the street?

    ‘Truth’ in it’s various manifestations matter, as does ‘poetry’ in all it’s verbal, visual and sonic forms, but if I’m taking a label, that stuff is the ‘Plus”. “Social Justice Plus+” for me.

    Been an atheist for 45 of my 60 years. Would like not to be shit-on for it, but never felt a need to tell anyone not to believe. “Be nice” works, or “Don’t be a Dick!” Speaking of race, I’m wondering why no one in this thread has noted that casting out believers is gonna leave your movement a little pale, what with African-American participation in Social Justice Movements (for good or ill) being inseparable from the Black Church. I’m not gonna dis Cornell West’s belief in God, and having grown up a white boy in Minnesota, I’m not about to tell Native Americans their beliefs are stupid either.

    Speaking of social injustice, and not having a dick in the pissing contest above, I still have to note a couple WTFs:
    1.
    “In my world, there is a chain of inexorable logic.”
    In my world, when people claim to present “a chain of inexorable logic” it’s time to get earplugs or run for the hills, depending on whether or not they have guns.
    2.
    “What in the fuckety fuck does it matter, what labels someone else sticks on you?”
    Not sure I’m prepared to answer, but I’ll pass on the questions to all the redskins, jigaboos, spics, gooks, towelheads, kikes, faggots, cunts, commies, retards, mentals, trailer-trash and sorry if I left out whatever epithet people have used to fuck you over. “Oh, people are so easily offended. Sticks and stones will break by bones but names will never hurt me. First Amendment! Yeah!” Uh, could somebody tell all the little limbaughs we’re not talking about being offended, we’re talking about ideologies of oppression. Urban Dictionary is full of offensive things you can call me which I’ll survive just fine, But now that I think of it, middle-middle-class white boy of Protestant lineage though I am, I’ve been tagged by no less than four of those categories of bigotry in my life, and though I’ve never even had any of the terms tossed in my face I’ve lost a job, been denied a job, pushed to the figurative back of several buses as a result, and if the labels that have been stuck on relatively-privileged me have done material harm, and they have, I’m not thick enough to pass that question on to anyone who might be down a rung, two, or three from my spot on the social totem pole.

    Random Critical Thinking Thought: Nothing we ever say presents our totality as human beings. If nothing else, what I am typing now is not me, it’s just what I did today. The question is always, ‘what am I going to do tomorrow.’ Attacking a person for saying or doing something stupid is almost always a category mistake. Yeah, we’re all going to use that shorthand sometimes. I wrote “retrieving a label from asshats” above, would have been better to write “retrieving a label from people who spew asshatery” or something that doesn’t claim to devine or define someone’s essence by/from a limited set of words or deeds. The metonymy’s OK now and then, but it’s good to make the distinction on a regular basis. Not seeing enough care for that here…

    My humble Thread Wisdom ‘award’ goes to Tony! The Queer Shoop, for the following thought I have consensed/paraphrased/tweaked:

    Some ‘big name’s in atheism are ready, willing, and able to utilize all the analytical/critical tools at their disposal to confront religious beliefs and say “this shit isn’t right and here is why”. But when asked to take those same tools and apply them to their own words and actions, what do these same people do? They whine about being attacked. They moan about how people who question them are the ‘thought police’. They display a mind-boggling inability to confront and examine their own biases and prejudices. They refuse to even admit they *have* biases and prejudices, such Perfect Masters of Pure Reason they consider themselves to be.”

    “Here you stupid git, is a chain of inexorable logic. It holds no value but Truth. This is how it is. QED. If you disagree, you must be a Muslim, or worse, a postmodernist. Go away and learn how to think!”

    That ‘tude is especially troubling coming from people like Dawkins and Harris who have status and big megaphones. But it’s crap coming from anybody else, too. I’m new to FTB, and I have to be honest and say I’m seeing here all to often a distressing lack of examining one’s own biases, of applying analytical and critical tools to scrutinize one’s own argument. And also failure to questions one’s presentation, to observe the good advice (now given added meaning by Sir Richard) “Don’t be a Dick!”

    OK, it’s 4AM and I’m crashing. No time to re-read, much less re-think. Do as I say kids, not as I…

  185. Chat_Noir1972 says

    @Maureen Brian
    I would argue that there is no such thing as an ordinary ‘good conscience’ and the assumption that someone embracing atheism would follow that path is invalid. In that sense the Atheism Plus idea is doomed from the start, because there are so few good consciences out there that just leaving it to Atheism to drive change will fail.
    I think that setting in place secular, humanist values will lead to a rise in Atheism, whereas Atheism alone will not give rise to enough people having secular and humane values to effect change. And isn’t change for the better why we are here?

  186. says

    AndrewD @228:

    There is a commentator on Scalzi’s blog (Megpie 71), who points out that what PZ is experiencing is Activist Burn out.

    I don’t know if I buy that. PZ is expressing frustration with movement atheism. He’s not expressing frustration with being an activist. Different things.

  187. says

    Chat_Noir @231:

    The idea that Atheism has natural flow on consequences to reveal a better way of life, or at least that is what it seemed to mean to me.

    To me, atheism ought to have a natural flow of consequences (though I don’t think atheism necessarily reveals a better way of life; I just think there are implications to god-belief; as much as I’d like to say that the recognition that we’re all in this together and cannot rely on outside help *should* lead us to become more empathetic and compassionate upon becoming atheists, this isn’t the case and I’m not sure developing greater empathy is an implication of ditching belief in deities). If you reject a god or gods, what does that entail? Are you just rejecting god belief? No, I don’t think so. When you were a theist, did you *only* believe in god? Or was there religious baggage?
    Did you believe in god plus-
    • you didn’t eat shellfish
    • you didn’t like homosexuals or felt they were immoral or that they should be stoned
    •you thought women should bear children, not speak up at church, and stay at home
    •you didn’t believe in evolution
    •you thought the world was 6000 years old
    •you believed that humans and dinosaurs lived together
    •you felt religion should have a role in government
    •you thought morality was religiously derived
    •you thought the planet was ours to do with as we please
    •you thought blacks (or other PoC) were inferior races
    •you thought corporal punishment was ok
    •you thought genocide was acceptable in some circumstances
    •you thought capital punishment was ok in some circumstances
    •you believed in rigid gender roles
    •you didn’t wear clothing with mixed fibers
    •you didn’t go out from sundown Friday til sundown Saturday
    •you didn’t listen to music, dance, go to the movies, own a car
    •you believed that people-especially women-should not have sex before marriage
    •you felt marriage had a purpose-and that was to bear children
    •you didn’t do drugs (be it drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, or smoke weed, or illicit substances)
    (there are obviously many more, so I’ll stop)

    My point is that there are beliefs that exist alongside god belief. In some cases, they are religiously derived (like the prohibitions on what you can eat, where you can go, how you can dress). In other cases, the beliefs people hold are reinforced by religion, though not necessarily derived from it (such as gender roles). In either case, religious belief is more than just “I believe in god”. That being the case, if you reject god-belief, why would that be all there is to it? Shouldn’t you also look at other beliefs you have-those that are derived from religion, and those that are influenced by it? Yes, I think you should.
    [Caveat to this: in the past, I’ve argued this point before without recognizing that people come to atheism for different reasons. Analyzing one’s belief system with a critical eye is only one way, and this is the way that I think ought to lead to people ditching other harmful views. If, however, one arrives at atheism in a different manner-say lashing out at god or realizing there is no proof without focusing on logic and reasoning (i.e. not examining one’s own beliefs)-I can see why analyzing one’s own biases and prejudices might not be forthcoming]
    If you no longer believe in a deity, should you rethink your views on homosexuality and gender roles?
    If you cast off your god-belief, should you also give some thought to why you don’t eat certain foods or observe certain holidays?
    If you ditch the god delusion, should you not also look at whether or not your opinions on creationism and evolution are decide if they’re right or wrong?
    Without god-belief, is there any reason you shouldn’t consume alcohol or enjoy a Coke?

    God-belief carries baggage.
    Ditching god-belief ought to mean looking at that baggage to see if you should retain any of it. Since there’s a lot of baggage, there should be a lot of self-examination.

    Note: I’m saying there *ought* to be. Not that there necessarily is.
    c.f.-dictionary athiests

  188. Maureen Brian says

    Chat_Noir1972,

    We have been social animals since long before we were H sapiens.

    For society to function at all we need confidence that most people, more often than not are acting in good faith. So a project which spends a little time looking to how we may be good neighbours is a perfectly reasonable hobby, whereas one which promotes a “fuck you, I’ve got mine” approach is doomed from the start.

    You would not be here today and neither would I without most people acting in good conscience most of the time.

    I have no problem with either secularism or humanism but both happily encompass people with at least a residual religious belief – as they should. I am not looking to atheism to single-handedly save the world, just reinforcing that it doesn’t give you a “get out of morality free” card.

  189. carlie says

    Don’t worry about that, please. It’s not a big deal. The way to do accents with html is to type the letter you want accentuated, then &a­cute; frinst., to do my nym, type Iy&ea­cute;ska to get Iyéska. That is a pain in the arse though

    The easier way is just to do a copy+paste of the name from one of the comments, and then the accent comes along for the ride. :)

    I just posted on Scalzi’s thread; I think he’s being a little harsh in saying it doesn’t make sense to think that getting rid of religion would get rid of the bad beliefs. It’s just an attribution error that I myself made, thinking that religion was the source of the bad beliefs rather than being a cover justification for the beliefs that were already there.

    The erroneous belief was:
    Religion says there is a god, and that women are lesser.
    therefore if you realize religion is wrong about there being a god, it is also wrong about women being lesser.

    Except that how it really went was:
    women are lesser, and a good way to keep that ingrained is to wrap it in religion, which is maintained by belief in a god

    So then when you take out the god part, the women are lesser part is still there, just more naked.

  190. Chat_Noir1972 says

    @Maureen Brian
    I don’t disagree we are social animals and your logic is correct up to a point. However there is still room for the extraordinarily selfish, if not downright malicious to thrive in such an environment. Using the trust of the others to gain status and rewards thereof.
    Also there is the reality of in and out groups. from small turf wars up to and including genocide. If we were all so cooperative within our species, why do these things prosper?
    Religion alone is not the answer, it’s part of the mix, yes, but not the only reason. It seems that the proper treatment of others is an in-group thing. The size of your in-group is variable, some see it as themselves, family and friends, others ethnicity/religion others all of humanity and beyond.
    I have felt first hand what it is like to be out-group. It is quite a vicious existence, to be the ‘whipping boy’ for a large group. Yet within their group and on occasion alone they cold be quite reasonable and caring.
    It would be foolish to look at the world and simply say we all share the same moral compass, tuned to the same direction. It’s not that these people don’t have compassion and morals, it’s just that they see out-group almost, sometimes to the point of not being human.

  191. Chat_Noir1972 says

    @Maureen Brian
    I think we may be arguing past each other a little on one point. Atheism doesn’t give you a get out of morality free pass, totally agree.
    However, I argue that the morality of different people is not intrinsically likely to result in the same viewpoint on other people, especially in regards to in and out groups.
    So, I think we need a method to ‘enlighten’ and ‘open’ up narrow perspectives on in-groups to encompass increasingly larger segments of the population and I don’t see Atheism alone as a solution. Hence the need for showing, doing and teaching those around us to look further than their selves, families and friends.

  192. says

    carlie @238:

    Except that how it really went was:
    women are lesser, and a good way to keep that ingrained is to wrap it in religion, which is maintained by belief in a god
    So then when you take out the god part, the women are lesser part is still there, just more naked.

    It’s more naked and has less support.

  193. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    carlie @238:

    Except that how it really went was:
    women are lesser, and a good way to keep that ingrained is to wrap it in religion, which is maintained by belief in a god
    So then when you take out the god part, the women are lesser part is still there, just more naked.

    It’s more naked and has less support.

    And even less support when the presuppositons, like women are needed solely for child bearing/rearing, is knocked out with modern economies, where that is only a fraction of a woman’s time and effort are required, with most of a woman’s effort being in the workplace.

  194. mathematics says

    I don’t generally agree with Harris on politics, but what he said at Atheist Alliance 07 was absolutely correct. Atheism is not a thing, it’s not a philosophy and trying to organise a movement around atheism is the same as organising a movement around nonastrology or nonalchemy. Even to many atheists and agnostics who don’t self identify, It appears cliquey and arrogant, as if the way to tackle issues of sexism and discrimination are though the lens of atheism (or atheism 2.0…). This is what Myers himself admits he used to think in his blog post above.

    I can understand why the atheist label is helpful for reasons of support and as a show of strength, but a lot of what is being talked about here (is/isn’t Sam Harris a closet sexist) has nothing to do with atheism and everything to do with petty infighting amongst what appears to be a geeky marginal interest group. I fully agree with Myers’ prediction about the number of self identified atheists – but those at FTB (and also sites like r/atheism) should understand the part that they are playing in this. I’d rather simply advocate reason and intellectual honesty.

  195. carlie says

    Atheism is not a thing, it’s not a philosophy and trying to organise a movement around atheism is the same as organising a movement around nonastrology or nonalchemy.

    That analogy would only hold if astrologers or alchemers were a movement, one that held a huge amount of political and economic power.

  196. carlie says

    ..because theists DO hold a huge amount of political and economic power. That means that the only way to really make inroads against it is to organize an actual movement against it.

  197. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I can understand why the atheist label is helpful for reasons of support and as a show of strength, but a lot of what is being talked about here (is/isn’t Sam Harris a closet sexist) has nothing to do with atheism

    And we hear from planet Tweedle-Deedle. Since Harris is considered a leader of the atheism movement, it has do with the atheism movement. DUH. You are confusing the movement with the overly terse dictionary definition, and you aren’t the first to do so. Just stop with the dictionary definition, as that isn’t the topic under discussion. Rather the movement is the topic of discussion.

  198. chikkipop says

    Fascinating.

    PZ and his fans are the ones who caused the problem.

    What is most amazing about it all is that it is a massive failure of reason! Comment after comment, on this blog and others, displays the kind of poor thinking typical of creationists. Maybe we should call you the New Creationists, in the sense that you have almost entirely manufactured the controversy which has infected the movement.

    I suppose there is some comfort in seeing the massive down-voting on YouTube of insipid talks like Richard Carrier’s at the conference in Austin, or the numerous critiques of PZ, Ophelia and the other bloggers, but it’s sad to see the wedge you’ve created.

    In recent years, atheists have debated one another about the issue of accommodation. Those favoring the more confrontational approach generally had the better arguments, but at least there were debates.

    This is another opportunity for such a debate, with many who were on the right side of the previous internal discussion now on the wrong side, but I don’t feel optimistic; the social justice warriors are far more unreasonable than the mild mannered accommodationists. (Doesn’t that all seem so tame now!?)

    Nevertheless, there ought to be a panel at some future event, where the 2 sides can butt heads. In fact, it should be the theme for the entire event. What do you think?

    I don’t come here often since the nonsense started, and when I do I rarely comment, but it always fascinates me to see those who once used reason well in the service of challenging religion do it so poorly now. I’m reminded of a quote from Upton Sinclair, which I’ll rework for this crowd: It is difficult to get someone to understand something when their ideology depends upon their not understanding it.

    This has all happened before, as it will with every new crop of the young and newly impassioned; bring them into a movement and you’d better be prepared to take the bad along with the good. Many of us saw it coming.

    I don’t know how much I’ll want to respond to the dumb pushback I’ll get here, but I’d certainly enjoy doing it in person, in a well-organized environment! We ought to have that conference, and I say this knowing full well how rabid ideologues are given to shutting down just such exchanges. After all, when you “know” you’re right, why bother?

  199. says

    chikkipop

    When you’re done bloviating on vague-isms, maybe you could make a point?

    What, precisely, is unreasonable about the statement “Women should be able to attend atheist conferences without being treated as convenient orgasm-providers”?

    What, precisely, is unreasonable about the statement “Women and minorities deserve equal treatment”?

    What, precisely, is unreasonable about the statement “If there is no god-given morality, then we might need to talk about what moral codes we’d like to develop for ourselves”?

  200. Saad Definite Article Noun, Adverb Gerund Noun says

    chikkipop, #249,

    PZ and his fans are the ones who caused the problem.

    Since “the problem” is that the leaders of the atheist movement act in hypocritical ways to the values they espouse, you now have to explain how that’s PZ and his fans’ fault.

  201. Al Dente says

    chikkipop @249

    Another Slymepitter heard from.

    PZ and his fans are the ones who caused the problem.

    You’re right, thinking that half the world’s population are actually human is definitely a problem, one which you will stridently strive to keep from occurring.

    Maybe we should call you the New Creationists, in the sense that you have almost entirely manufactured the controversy which has infected the movement.

    Actually women and a few men manufactured this controversy thousands of years ago. People like you have been fighting against the idea that women are human for just as long. And if you whine about how your “movement” has been infected then maybe we don’t want to be part of your “movement.” So why don’t you take your “movement” and head over to your side of the rift. You’ll find plenty of he-man women-haters like yourself for you to whine with about us.

    You ain’t gone yet?

  202. says

    there is some comfort in seeing the massive down-voting on YouTube

    We have the disapproval of YouTube. OH NOES, what shall we do? Next you’re going to inform us that 4chan don’t love us no more.

    Speaking of creationists, they also would love to have a debate with us — it puts an untenable, stupid idea on a stage with reasonable grown ups. So, no, I don’t think women’s rights are a matter for debate.

  203. gakxz1 says

    @chikkipop

    Your comment dismisses everyone who comments here as crazy ideologues, you admit to not actually being a frequent reader of this blog, only to finally condescend with “well, I might reply, in a well-organized environment!”. Let’s be honest with each other: the one, and only, reason you’ve posted that was to invite a hostile response. Well, on my end, I’m only responding to “confront the troll”. Which is fun, for both of us, but let’s not pretend there’s any substance in what you’ve said.

    [And, who gives a shit about down votes on youtube??? Ohh youtube, that paragon of civil discussion, that symbol of an intellectual internet. Wait, no, at best a hilarious cat video factory…]

  204. HappyNat says

    Chikkipop @249

    What is most amazing about it all is that it is a massive failure of reason!

    Oh good. I can’t wait to read the rest of the post. With such a bold assertion I’m sure there is one example of the “massive failure of reason”.

    *reads rest of post* “like creationists” “youtube votes” “Upton Sinclair quote” followed by preemptive flounce.

    Dude, I’m not sure how much “dumb push back” we can give, when you didn’t give us shit to push back against. If you have a point you could try and make it.

  205. Maureen Brian says

    I am so, so glad that I got my first lessons in atheism from Bertrand Russell. They used to come out of the radio and later the black and white telly at regular intervals during my adolescence.

    He, some will recall, was very political and one of his often reinforced ideas was that atheism freed us to apply reason and inquiry – the tools of science – to the question of how the world might be better run.

    (I realise that the above will be entirely meaningless to that minority which regards the coming of YouTube as Year Zero in the human story.)

  206. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    chikkipop

    What is most amazing about it all is that it is a massive failure of reason!

    I’m sure what follows this sentence is a description of the relevant facts, the specific things that people have said with regard to those facts, and an explanation of how their reasoning is bad and what the result would be of correct reasoning. I’m totally positive. In fact, so certain am I that I’m not even going to read the rest of the comment.

  207. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is another opportunity for such a debate, w

    We’ve had that debate. The MRA fuckwits evidence: WHAAAAA, my fee-fees are hurt. Pharyngula, presents a ton of academic evidence showing the MRA fuckwits presuppositions don’t hold air. Only evidenced debate will change our minds, and you presented no evidence, only attitude, which isn’t evidence of anything.

    What is most amazing about it all is that it is a massive failure of reason!

    This isn’t a philosophical/feelings argument. It is about real facts, that can be linked to, and evaluated for quality. Hmm…something is missing from your screed. Right, evidence….

  208. chikkipop says

    “… I don’t think women’s rights are a matter for debate.”

    Facepalm.

    Well, at least you’ve provided yet another howler; plain as the nose on your face what’s wrong with it, but the knee jerk reflex is too strong.

    I can understand your interest in avoiding actual debate; better to stay in the self-reinforcing loop here.

    I know there are lurkers who see what I’m talking about, but know the futility of getting into it with the wackos in one of their hangouts.

    Far better to confront them at the “Who Hijacked the Atheist Movement?” conference than in their own den, but alas, they won’t come out unless it’s a “safe space”.

  209. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I can understand your interest in avoiding actual debate; better to stay in the self-reinforcing loop here.

    We can have that debate here and now. Present real academic evidence for your side. We’ll laugh at the quality of it, and show that your presuppositions are refuted by better evidence. But, if you don’t have real evidence, you need to shut the fuck up.

  210. says

    chikkipop @267:

    “… I don’t think women’s rights are a matter for debate.”
    Facepalm.
    Well, at least you’ve provided yet another howler; plain as the nose on your face what’s wrong with it, but the knee jerk reflex is too strong.

    Bless your heart. Pretending to be ignorant that the Rifts in the atheist movement were due to something other than opposition to anti-harassment policies, attempts to diversify the atheist movement, and attempts to make sure that the movement was inclusive, rather than exclusive. The people who opposed those progressive changes were the regressive, anti-feminists like the MRAs, the libertarian contingent of the atheist movement, and if your comments are anything to judge by, people like you.

  211. azhael says

    The closest thing to something resembling a point that i can decipher from chikkipop’s post is that we should be debating wether and accomodationist approach to sexists among atheist public figures is preferable to a firebrand attitude against them? Is that what you are actually saying?
    If it is…: HAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAAAA…..HAHAHHAAAAAA……Oh chikkipop….you fucking arsehole….

    And please, pleeeeeease stop that non-sense about debating. You have watched too much youtube, try reading some books.

  212. HappyNat says

    Chikkipop

    Then start the debate, dumbass. You know, make an actual value statement. Make a fucking point, already.

  213. says

    Anyone have any clue where we’re expected to go for this debate* that chikkipop seems to think we’re avoiding?

    *a debate which occurred for years here at FtB and got exactly nowhere since the anti-feminist crowd wouldn’t budge from their support of the status quo which is actively hostile to People of Color, women and LGBT people-instead, they expected us to give in…as if we’re going to back down from a wish to see all people treated as human beings with respect and decency

  214. Menyambal says

    Chikkipop, the nose on my face isn’t plain at all. Could you please explain to this lurker exactly what about women’s rights is up for debate? These guys say that women have rights, and I don’t want to knee-jerk after them. Can you please explain your case better?

    Just saying that they are obviously wrong doesn’t help me. When I was in high school, communism was “obviously wrong”, but I thought it was just like some stuff in the Bible that everybody worshipped. Help me out, here, please.

  215. says

    AndrewD @ 228:

    There is a commentator on Scalzi’s blog (Megpie 71), who points out that what PZ is experiencing is Activist Burn out.

    I think Megpie 71 was wrong on that score. PZ, like a lot of us, is definitely frustrated by certain people and certain things. I’ve only been posting here 6 years, but PZ strikes me as a generally happy, optimistic person. People are allowed to be frustrated and angry now and then. You also seem to have missed PZ’s comment at Whatever.

  216. Saad Definite Article Noun, Adverb Gerund Noun says

    chikkipop,

    I can understand your interest in avoiding actual debate

    What do you want to debate, asshole? Go ahead. List the things you want to talk about.

  217. says

    Maureen Brian @ 261:

    I am so, so glad that I got my first lessons in atheism from Bertrand Russell. They used to come out of the radio and later the black and white telly at regular intervals during my adolescence.

    He, some will recall, was very political and one of his often reinforced ideas was that atheism freed us to apply reason and inquiry – the tools of science – to the question of how the world might be better run.

    I started reading Bertrand Russell when I was 10, and he was a lifesaver for me in many ways.

  218. says

    Saad @281:

    What do you want to debate, asshole? Go ahead. List the things you want to talk about.

    Aw geez, you’ve done it now. I foresee a listicle heading our way with a dearth of logic, reason, and evidence. Something along the lines of “The Top 10 Reasons people at FtB are wrong”
    Shall we fill this list out before our intrepid troll returns?
    #10- they’re meanies

  219. says

    chikkipop:

    Far better to confront them at the “Who Hijacked the Atheist Movement?” conference than in their own den, but alas, they won’t come out unless it’s a “safe space”.

    You’re here, and you obviously want to rail about feminism, so instead of contenting yourself with vague idiocy, put up or shut up, okay? You want to argue, then argue. You have a thread full of people willing to have the argument, so stop with your nonsense, clearly and concisely state your…problems, and we’ll see where it goes.

  220. David Marjanović says

    Query: are the atheist movements in non-English-speaking nations plagued with the same set of intellectual baggage? Or is the stereotypical fedora-complex mostly in the US, UK, Canada, and the like? I don’t know, but would like to.

    Tom Holtz! I’m not aware of any such thing as an atheist movement even existing over here.

    There is at least one organization here in Germany that might sort of fit the description; it’s (unfortunately) named after Giordano Bruno, organized (maybe not alone, I can’t remember) the atheist conference in Cologne 2 years ago, and is against the bizarre interfingering of church and state (the two biggest churches run most of the kindergartens and many hospitals with lots of tax money, their membership fees are even paid through government bureaucracy…), but they don’t seem to have a media presence. Also, East Germany is the most godless place on Earth, with some 60 % and rising being atheist.

    An enormous cultural difference clearly plays a role: religion is not considered a topic for discussion, it’s private. In some places in the US, “so, what church do you go to?” is considered smalltalk; asking that question over here might be answered along the lines of “and what else – how much money do I make a month, and do I like blowjobs?!?”. Which denominations politicians belong to, if any, is largely unknown to the public.

    Sexism seems to be different here, too. On the one hand, there may genuinely be less of it: parts of the US are as conservative now as no place over here has been since the late 1960s. On the other hand, like many things, it’s quieter, so I’m more likely to overlook it – speaking for myself and probably for everyone else with male privilege. – The Pirate Party may be comparable to US-based Internet atheism. There are, and were at its heyday a few years ago, almost no women among its members. When the media pointed that out, the official response was nothing more than “uuuuuh…”: there were no comments about fluffy pink ladybrainz, because those would have caused a shitstorm, and I didn’t notice any sexism in the party program either when I read it once (for what that’s worth), but everyone is definitely left to wonder if the culture in the party drove the women away.

    ::scratches head::
    An inexorable chain of logic from “I don’t believe in god” to “I must label myself an atheist bc reasons”

    No, the very concept of labeling oneself doesn’t occur in neurobio’s reasoning. Labeling, his reasoning goes, is something the rest of society does to you, and you can’t do shit about it (as long as you continue to fit the generally agreed-upon definition).

    That could be another one of those cultural differences. The phrases, and probably the concepts, of “I identify myself” and “I identify as” are pretty much alien to me, and I have never encountered them except on the Internet (and then in English, though almost all of my Internet use is in English).

    When Dawkins or Harris come out with a new piece of BS, I’ll comment, and I’ll cajole, and I’ll try to show as much as I can that their words don’t apply to many of us.

    Yeah, it’s not like we ever thought of commenting, cajoling, or fighting back! Nope, not ever. We have been fighting that crap for years, you craven, beetle-headed asshole.

    …but why do you read between people’s lines, Iyéska? Not only is that rude, it makes everyone (yourself evidently included) exhausted with anger and does not provide any benefits that would compensate for that. Your quote from neurobio just says “I’ll do that” – it does not say “I’ll do that, and you never have”.

    Couldn’t the context instead be something you said in comment 194: “Given your love for atheist, why don’t you run off to twitter, and give Dawkins hell for partially funding the Openly Secular project?” Maybe neurobio was just trying to say he’ll do exactly that (except for Twitter), because you had implied (by saying “why don’t you”) that he wasn’t doing anything?

    ‘ere ya go

    Ooh, that is beautiful, Daz. :-)

    is/isn’t Sam Harris a closet sexist

    Closet?!?

    I don’t know how much I’ll want to respond to the dumb pushback I’ll get here, but I’d certainly enjoy doing it in person, in a well-organized environment! We ought to have that conference, and I say this knowing full well how rabid ideologues are given to shutting down just such exchanges. After all, when you “know” you’re right, why bother?

    Wants to have a debate on a PRATT and calls other people the New Creationists!

    Priceless. :-)

    I know there are lurkers who see what I’m talking about, but know the futility of getting into it with the wackos in one of their hangouts.

    Oh my flying spaghetti monster.

    The lurkers support me in e-mail is the oldest excuse on teh whole wider intarwebz. Are you trying to make us laugh?!? :-)

  221. says

    David:

    Couldn’t the context instead be something you said in comment 194: “Given your love for atheist, why don’t you run off to twitter, and give Dawkins hell for partially funding the Openly Secular project?” Maybe neurobio was just trying to say he’ll do exactly that (except for Twitter), because you had implied (by saying “why don’t you”) that he wasn’t doing anything?

    No, I don’t think so. It was an attempt at a parting shot of superiority.

  222. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    I can understand your interest in avoiding actual debate; better to stay in the self-reinforcing loop here.

    Says the fuckwit who has yet to even attempt to make a point.

  223. sadmar says

    chikkipop’s ‘nym seems to be a typo:
    ‘chikenpoop’ There. Fixed.

    Ya know. If chikenpoop didn’t splain how I was a reason failing New Creationists infecting the right side with wrong side wedges of unreasonable better-argument-devouring nonsense fungi virii, I’d have thought covering up sexual assault allegations was kinda stupid.

    It is difficult to get someone to understand something when their ideology depends upon their not understanding it. Rabid ideologues are given to shutting down exchanges. After all, when you “know” you’re right, why bother?

    Hah! I get it! chikenpoop’s just doing a lame Colbert Report homage! He could pump up the jokes a bit more. though.

    See, Daz, he does have an actual point #267: He wants to coax all the Hijacker furry animals out of their comfy sheltered dens to a conference (nudge, nudge, wink wink) so he can confront them in an unsafe-space, and presumably get into it with some wackos (they’re just so much hotter when they’re a little crazy) in one of HIS hangouts, and everything that happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas. HOWWLLL!

    COMEDY GOLD!! And if you missed the first act, don’t worry. He’ll be here the rest of the week!

    Who hijacked my bowel movement? It’s getting packed real tight in here, and I gotta gobble a bottle of Ex-Lax or somethin’ so I can dump some shit in the outhouse before I explode.

    Whoops! I’ve been alerted to a YouTube vid of a sweet Catholic journalist from Wisconsin getting his head cut off by some nut-job from the UK, and having read the 2 million comments I realize that as a patriotic Murhican I must call Lindsey Graham and demand we kill 10,000 Iraqi kindergardners with drone strikes. Because I live in a world of inexorable logic. And I know Science — in this case basic Biology. Nits make flies. I gotta go.

  224. says

    David @285:

    No, the very concept of labeling oneself doesn’t occur in neurobio’s reasoning. Labeling, his reasoning goes, is something the rest of society does to you, and you can’t do shit about it (as long as you continue to fit the generally agreed-upon definition).

    Any reason you’re using male pronouns?

    …but why do you read between people’s lines, Iyéska? Not only is that rude, it makes everyone (yourself evidently included) exhausted with anger and does not provide any benefits that would compensate for that. Your quote from neurobio just says “I’ll do that” – it does not say “I’ll do that, and you never have”.

    Because part of neurobio’s strawman criticism of people is that being disillusioned with the atheist movement (which xe conflates with being an atheist) means that people will concede atheism to the assholes. Which is not the case, if xe were at all aware of the various criticisms offered by the commentariat over the years. Xe implies that this isn’t a concern for us:

    Since I don’t have a choice, I’ll continue fighting for the word. When Dawkins or Harris come out with a new piece of BS, I’ll comment, and I’ll cajole, and I’ll try to show as much as I can that their words don’t apply to many of us. And you, I guess, are going to go off and try to relabel yourself.

    Xe implies we’re more concerned with relabeling ourselves (which is not at all what anyone has said), and appears ignorant of the fact that many of us *have* been commenting and cajoling Dawkins and Harris. In fact, it’s happened quite recently. In point of fact, it’s happened in the last few weeks-and is still going on.

    As for your comment about ‘reading between the lines’, there often is quite a bit of material to read between the lines. Sometimes people can be wrong, but often they are not. I think back to a recent thread on abortion where one particularly inane commenter kept going on at length about supporting a woman’s rights, but arguing that a fetus should have the right to life. If you read between the lines, you’ll see that that commenter doesn’t support womens’ rights as much as they claim to.
    As another example, think of any of the anti-LGBT bigots like Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh, or Michele Bachmann. Think of all the times they say “I don’t hate gay people, I just…” You have to read between the lines to see how they really feel. You have to parse the meaning of their statements when they say “I don’t hate gay people, but I don’t think they should be able to get married”. There’s material there that’s missing. Material that informs their views. They’re being disingenuous and blatantly dishonest in their views, but they’re couching their words carefully. To get at how they truly feel you have to read between the lines.
    As another example, when Sam Harris talks about racial profiling at airports as a way to root out potential terrorists, he claims that there’s a way to look at someone to see if they could possibly be a terrorist. He doesn’t say “Profile all Muslims”, but that’s what he means. There’s no way to look at a person and determine if they’re a Muslim, but in his eyes, there is a way to do that, bc to him, being Muslim is tied in with a particular ethnicity. Since he’s not coming right out and saying that, you have to read between the lines to figure out what he means. That’s where his anti-Muslim bigotry shines.

    As I said, there are times when reading between the lines leads people astray. Hell, it happened to me in this very thread. I was wrong. But there are a great many times I’ve been right, as have others. Don’t dismiss reading between the lines, because when trying to decipher the meaning of what others are saying, since we’re not psychic, sometimes that’s all we have to work with.

  225. says

    sadmar @234:

    Sub in a different comparable issue as the subject if you like, but my question of the moment: if a cop in your town shoots someone for Existing While Black, are you sitting at home or out in the street?

    I don’t think this is a fair question to ask. Not everyone is capable of getting in the streets. Some people, for whatever reason cannot, or choose not to. But there are other ways they can help. Signal boosting by way of blogging, especially when one has a large platform (like PZ does) can be an effective means of fighting back against the racism on display when cops shoot black people.

    “What in the fuckety fuck does it matter, what labels someone else sticks on you?”
    Not sure I’m prepared to answer, but I’ll pass on the questions to all the {SNIP out all the slurs that would get my comment caught in PZ’s spam trap} and sorry if I left out whatever epithet people have used to fuck you over. “Oh, people are so easily offended. Sticks and stones will break by bones but names will never hurt me. First Amendment! Yeah!” Uh, could somebody tell all the little limbaughs we’re not talking about being offended, we’re talking about ideologies of oppression. Urban Dictionary is full of offensive things you can call me which I’ll survive just fine, But now that I think of it, middle-middle-class white boy of Protestant lineage though I am, I’ve been tagged by no less than four of those categories of bigotry in my life, and though I’ve never even had any of the terms tossed in my face I’ve lost a job, been denied a job, pushed to the figurative back of several buses as a result, and if the labels that have been stuck on relatively-privileged me have done material harm, and they have, I’m not thick enough to pass that question on to anyone who might be down a rung, two, or three from my spot on the social totem pole.

    Iyeska made the comment you quoted, and she asked as someone who belongs to a few groups of oppressed peoples, so I think she’s qualified to ask the question. What she said largely goes for me too. I’m a black man who’s gay and atheist. I’ve had slurs thrown at me too. And yes, I do care, but they don’t define me. So on the one hand-to a minor degree the labels people stick on me matter, but overall, the only labels that are important to me, the ones that really matter, are the ones I choose for myself.

  226. laurentweppe says

    Query: are the atheist movements in non-English-speaking nations plagued with the same set of intellectual baggage

    There’s no “atheist movement” per se in France, for instance, because this shit happened during the 19th century, forcing liberal french atheists to face the reality that lack of religious belief does not inoculate people from authoritarian and abusive thought patters much sooner, which led them to burry the hatchet with liberal religious people after realizing that it was much more fun (and, you know, efficient) to gang up on authoritarian douches together instead of smugly standing behind sectarian borders.

    In recent years, authoritarian douchy atheists have tried to come back, this time playacting as super-duper-uncomprimising-über-secularists, but endorsing discourse from fascistic mythomaniacs (who pretended for instance that people had been forbidden from buying booze and beacon in the vicinity of Montmartre… –for thos who may wonder I lived here a short while: the claim is utter bullshit-) and notoriously corrupt far-right would-be-aristocratic-parasites politicians, has greatly diminished the gig’s efficiency.

  227. Brony says

    @ PZ’s OP

    The awe is still here, the rage is still burning, but the optimism is fading and is being consumed by a new anger at the incompetence and betrayal of the self-appointed atheist leadership.

    I too love some of the mental tools, changes, and social goals that atheist/skeptic community has created and passed around. And I too also will continue to be driven by it even if I am disappointed. But that disappointed knowledge also can create a new tool…

    I think there is something about leadership in primates that is meant to be temporary and based on context. We needed Dawkins and the four horsemen at the time. But the current human challenges are things that these people can’t be authorities on. So we need to choose new authorities and organize new groups. That will require new symbology, and narratives for ourselves.

    The absence of a god has profound implications that seem not to be immediately obvious to everyone, so it’s going to take some serious effort to help everyone think through that meaning…and that the most important implication of it all, that we’re all alone with each other and need to develop values base on human meaning, rather than divine revelation, says we need to broaden our reach and open the doors wider. It’s not about wealthy white man meaning, after all, but something more universal.

    I totally agree. The narrative that informs the meaning of social behavior is separable from the behaviors. We need to become skilled at separating narrative from behavior and finding the common denominators in both to understand them for ourselves and each other.
    There is a common human core there that we need to be able to apply to ourselves and each other in both positive and negative ways. The narratives assign meaning and reason. The behaviors are the means of maintaining our consistency with the narrative. The actualization of the meaning is what we are seeing in the conflict on both sides in terms of real and accused lies, exaggerations, fallacies, motivated reasoning and more. We need to make sure we pick meanings and narratives that that are as universal as possible, and correctable. We need to get used to swapping out authorities as needed.

    We must address the problems that matter, and they’re deep and they’re difficult and some atheists contribute to them.

    So we have some choices. How much of what we do includes working within the existing structures, and how much involve creating new structures or trying to remove old ones? (The prefiguritive versus strategic politics difference) Who does what will involve what we are personally skilled at and interested in. We need to organize too and we can only do that so well in the existing structure. The old structure has defenders, and many that will attack competitors. Social evolution is a massive asshole to deal with but it has patterns.

    The number of people identifying as “nones” will grow in this country in coming years, because we’re on the right side of history, and because organized religion is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on other-worldly issues that don’t help people. The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people.

    Those are good predictions. But to make that happen we need to keep that critical posture focused on the right people, while dealing effectively with those that will do the same in return. It would also be nice to choose or create competition. Whether it’s rallying around A+ again, or taking on a new symbol like SJW (or both if our definitions work out that way) does not matter as much as choosing something to create our narrative with. There are benefits to holding onto A+ (making the resistance to it ineffective is a symbol on its own). There are benefits to holding onto SJW (denial of a tool of dismissal, making social justice struggles a positive. But we need to rally around something.

  228. Brony says

    Piling on can be fun.
    @chikkipop 250
    There is so much bullshit motivated reasoning in here.
    The whole thing ends up being a mere social marking of territory because it ends up all emotion for manipulation and no substance for persuasion.

    PZ and his fans are the ones who caused the problem.
    What is most amazing about it all is that it is a massive failure of reason! Comment after comment, on this blog and others, displays the kind of poor thinking typical of creationists. Maybe we should call you the New Creationists, in the sense that you have almost entirely manufactured the controversy which has infected the movement.

    Useless and boring without examples. When confronting creationists you always:
    *point out the untrue thing
    *show why it is untrue while simultaneously demonstrating the truth with examples
    *Try to take into account the emotions and motivations that led to the untruth. It helps with the audience and persuasion when done non-confrontationally, but only some members of the audience (and rarely your opponent) if you can only be confrontational.
    If you only do the last one you are merely attempting a pissing contest to score points for yourself or an emotionally immature audience. You are a limited person from what I can see so far.
    Since you do none of this and offer no specific I’m allowed to totally ignore you beyond pointing out your bullshit.

  229. says

    Sadmar @ 234:

    First, to quote someone, use <blockquote>Paste Text Here</blockquote>, and use people’s nyms when responding, please.

    Not sure I’m prepared to answer, but I’ll pass on the questions to all the redskins, [snip to avoid filters] commies, retards, mentals, trailer-trash and sorry if I left out whatever epithet people have used to fuck you over. “Oh, people are so easily offended. Sticks and stones will break by bones but names will never hurt me. First Amendment! Yeah!” Uh, could somebody tell all the little limbaughs we’re not talking about being offended, we’re talking about ideologies of oppression. Urban Dictionary is full of offensive things you can call me which I’ll survive just fine, But now that I think of it, middle-middle-class white boy of Protestant lineage though I am, I’ve been tagged by no less than four of those categories of bigotry in my life, and though I’ve never even had any of the terms tossed in my face I’ve lost a job, been denied a job, pushed to the figurative back of several buses as a result, and if the labels that have been stuck on relatively-privileged me have done material harm, and they have, I’m not thick enough to pass that question on to anyone who might be down a rung, two, or three from my spot on the social totem pole.

    Y’know, it was more than a bit convenient for you to skip over this part of my post:

    I am all these things: female, childfree, bisexual, mixed race, godless, genderfluid, hippie, older, liberal, artist, half-assed gardener, photographer, rape survivor, needlesmith, feminist, advocate (and many more).

    Do you really think that those things have not led to people applying labels to me, whether negative or positive? If I cared about that overmuch, I’d never get one damn thing done.

    The mixed race part? I’m half Oglala Lakota, so yeah, I’m one of those people who has heard redskin and much worse. I’ve had a lot of shit flung at me in my life. I do not allow that shit to define me, nor do I waste a fucktonne of time over it. If labels are much more important to you, that’s fine, you’re free to do what you wish, and fight for whatever you think is important. I would not tell you, or anyone else what their overriding concern should be, and I don’t much care for you taking me out of context, and getting angry at me for being more concerned with attitudes, ideas, behaviours, and actions which underlie labels and epithets.

  230. chikkipop says

    Not here to argue the case.

    Just to criticize, and draw out all your comments so I can use them as examples. Indeed, I’ve managed to get a number of them.

    Not trying to make a point to you, since that would be largely impossible.

    Will be sure to invite all of you when we get the big event organized! Can’t wait to see you!

    No, seriously….

    [And with that admission of trolling, I bid you adieu. –pzm]

  231. says

    Maybe we’re supposed to go to Dawkins’ blog.
    Or Harris’.
    Funny how the fuckwit whines about us not debating, but then refuses to start the debate xe seems to think we need to have.
    Feel free to use the fact that I just called you a fuckwit as evidence of my disdain for people like you, fuckwit.

  232. ceesays says

    I think it’s kind of hilarious that some debate club nebbish rolls in here with “you never debate” and when the Horde says, “You want to debate? bring your arguments, we await you” and their next response is a disinclination to debate.

  233. Brony says

    @chikkipop 298

    Not here to argue the case.

    So literally a pissing contest. All the meaning is in your emotional intent making that a valid target.

    Just to criticize, and draw out all your comments so I can use them as examples. Indeed, I’ve managed to get a number of them.

    Provocation and analysis of results is only as useful as the context allows. Since all of this is assuming that the context is correct on your part I will enjoy the resulting damage you and your allies do to your strategy as you try to use your results. I am comfortable with anything you might try to do.

    Not trying to make a point to you, since that would be largely impossible.

    Another valuable assumption to pick at. Manipulative motives (since you waited until now to give them), and an assumptive poisoning of the well with respect to Tony. The analog to creationists is certainly somewhere other than where you think.

    Will be sure to invite all of you when we get the big event organized! Can’t wait to see you!

    The event has already started and I’m finding it quite fascinating.

  234. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Not trying to make a point to you, since that would be largely impossible.

    Likewise presuppsitional fool. You can’t have your presuppositions questioned at all, can you? You might be *gasp* wrong….

  235. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So sad, ‘pit script #1. Make like you want to debate, show no evidence, get everybody wanting to debate, then declare victory and run off.

  236. David Marjanović says

    I’ve caught up with reading this thread, but I’m way too tired to reply beyond this:

    Blimey, a troll honest enough to admit they’re trolling.

    Most trolls actually do that. It’s part of trolling – part of the power trip: trollolol, I’m using you for my amusement, and you know it, and you still can’t do anything about it, you still get angry, and I still get to laugh at your angry reactions.

    …to which I say: dance, troll. Dance. Oh noez, you threaten to archive our comments? This blog is public in the first place; the comments are searchable, Google knows them all.

  237. Al Dente says

    hexidecima @309

    The problem is that Dawkins and Harris are the most prominent names in the non-believing Anglophone world, with a myriad of readers and listeners, millions of books sold, and constant invitations to speak at the largest and most prestigious atheist events. They’re atheist leaders because atheists and non-atheists alike them of them as such.

  238. Suido says

    *arrives late to the party*

    An excellent post, PZ, thank you.

    On a more flippant note, you and Scalzi have added extra teeth to my usual Monday morning misanthropy. I might have to have a coffee earlier than normal so no one at the office suffers unduly.

  239. Saad Definite Article Noun, Adverb Gerund Noun says

    chikkipop, #298

    Just to criticize, and draw out all your comments so I can use them as examples. Indeed, I’ve managed to get a number of them.

    Dang, is it too late to include one more? Can you throw this one in there:

    chikkipop is a fucking cowardly piece of shit who is too chickenshit to even make a point, let alone defend it against the criticism of others. He is a fucking idiot too.

    Thanks.

  240. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    So a troll popped in, whining about the lack of debate. Later, the same troll claims that they never wanted a debate, just wanted to draw up reactions.

    The stupid troll works too hard. Should take the example of the other trolls they are trying to impress and make shit up.

    A troll that puts actual effort to trolling is a sad excuse of a troll.

  241. Brony says

    @ Tony

    To be fair, I didn’t *want* to debate, given that this discussion has been had ad nauseum…I would have if necessary though.

    Any advice on that? I want to help, but I don’t want to “help”.

    Or halp

  242. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Any advice on that? I want to help, but I don’t want to “help”.

    These types of arguments usually go: MRA Evolutionary Psychology, Adaptation.
    Pharyngula: Genetic (citation needed), or cultural (citation needed).
    MRA: Adaptation!
    Pharyngula: Genetic (citation needed), or cultural (citation needed).
    MRA: Adaptation!
    Pharyngula: Genetic (citation needed), or cultural (citation needed), or it never happened
    MRA: Incoherent blather and expletives, followed by a StarFart™

  243. laurentweppe says

    They’re atheist leaders because atheists and non-atheists alike them of them as such.

    Which begs another uncomfortable question: which ratio of their audience is comprised of people who read -and fund- them not because they find their anti-religion arguments compelling but because these two writers bolster their preexisting prejudices against ethnicities and social class they despise and provide them with pseudo-intellectual magniloquence useful to cover their bigotry?

  244. says

    PZ @315:
    Oh noez!
    You probably just gave them *more* material to work with.
    “I claimed to want to debate the commenters at Pharyngula but when called on it, I decided not to and the commenters were mean to me and PZ banned me, but I didn’t do anything! My free speech has been violated and I’ve been censored. Where’s my badge?”

  245. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    Tony has the talking points down.

    Except one.

    You are supposed to compare PZ to a tyrant.

  246. Tethys says

    Janine

    Should take the example of the other trolls they are trying to impress and make shit up

    I choose to read trolls last post as an admission that they are utterly incapable of coming up with original invective, so ze came over here to take notes. Even chikkipop has to realize that reading a public blog is not exactly a hazard filled spy mission deep into dangerous enemy territory. The slimepit howls and goes into offended histrionics at merely pointing out the sexism, but they have modified their behavior. It’s been months since we had some idiot claiming free speech includes the right to demean people with sexist and racist slurs. However, this vague threat at the end:

    Will (sic) be sure to invite all of you when we get the big event organized! Can’t wait to see you!

    Yay banhammer. I’m sure there is a good word to describe this smarmy, oh so politely veiled threat, sociopath behavior but the only one that comes immediately to mind is gollum. yesssss my preciousssss, we hates the evil tricksy bagginsessssss, we shall trap them my preciousss

  247. curbyrdogma says

    As someone once described it, religion is a ‘virus of the mind’. …And one of the reasons religion feels “right” to so many people is because it’s been tailored around certain base human emotions.

    Subtract the religion, and you’ve still got a human with base emotions. So merely removing religion is not going to remove certain behaviors people are prone to.

    This is why you can’t lump atheists all together, since the only thing they have in common is that they’re not theists. It’s a descriptive based on something that one isn’t; which would be a little like expecting Germans and Nigerians to be similar because they’re both not Americans.

  248. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is why you can’t lump atheists all together, since the only thing they have in common is that they’re not theists. It’s a descriptive based on something that one isn’t; which would be a little like expecting Germans and Nigerians to be similar because they’re both not Americans.

    And those who don’t see the consequences of saying they are atheists are laughable. Like you….

  249. says

    curbyrdogma @323:

    As someone once described it, religion is a ‘virus of the mind’. …And one of the reasons religion feels “right” to so many people is because it’s been tailored around certain base human emotions.
    Subtract the religion, and you’ve still got a human with base emotions. So merely removing religion is not going to remove certain behaviors people are prone to.
    This is why you can’t lump atheists all together, since the only thing they have in common is that they’re not theists.

    (bolding mine)
    I agree with you up until the bolded portion. It’s not so much that I disagree with the sentiment (I agree, you can’t lump all atheists together), so much as I don’t see its relevance to the preceding sentences. It seems like a non-sequitor, especially since this discussion hasn’t been about lumping atheists together. It’s been about the atheist movement, in which people participate on a voluntary basis. No one is lumped in with other atheists.

    Unless you’re referring to the public perception of atheists.

  250. Scr... Archivist says

    Al Dente @311,

    The problem is that Dawkins and Harris are the most prominent names in the non-believing Anglophone world…

    That is a temporary situation. Who knows what another five years will bring? Dawkins and Harris will still be well-known, of course, but I suspect that they will be merely two among a larger pool of “go-to” speakers and spokespeople, and thus less prominent than they are now.

    How do we raise the profile of other atheists who are also better people? Is it already happening? I hope that the media coverage of sexism in the atheo-skeptisphere has shown atheist (or questioning) women in the general public that there are decent atheist women and men working hard to improve the movement.

  251. chimera says

    I’ve been reading my way down this extremely interesting thread, not through yet. Just wanted to give my little 2 cents:

    I was really really thrilled a few years ago when I discovered there was an atheism movement in the English-speaking world. In my own little corner, I was thinking that’s what the U.S. really needs. I was translating, for the purpose of inspiring atheism in the U.S., the Atheist Manifesto (somebody else’s translation got published, long story) by Michel Onfray.

    Why I thought atheism was needed in the U.S. is for reasons most of the readers here are familiar with, so I won’t go into that more than just a bit. It was basically to help get the irrational, the stupid, the bigotry out of political discourse or at least that part of it that operates under religious cover. To blow the cover. In other words, I came here interested in atheism as a political tool not as an end in itself.

    And so I was also THRILLED!!!! to discover FtB and I have learned and continue to learn a lot here. But on a more personal note, I never understood with my gut all the concern over where the movement is going or why it’s important that some visible face of atheism did something the readers here find morally objectionable. I think my inability to understand this is due to a character trait I can’t do very much about and that is that I’m not much of a joiner of groups and I don’t have heroes or leaders. There are people I admire for this or that but I never imagine that because they have done or do this admirable thing that they are in any other way admirable in other areas or even somebody I’d enjoy talking to. I understand with my head that the reputation of atheism is on the line with its supposed leaders and that public displays of assholery by random loud and proud atheists is a problem in getting the atheist message out there, but none of it really surprises me. It does sadden me. But I can’t think of a group whose members and important figures are systematically exempt from behavior somebody somewhere is going to think is very very bad. What does alarm and dismay me however is the virulence of recent attacks on people who believe in and work for human equality (such as Anita Sarkeesian among many others), not that in some or even many cases these attacks come from atheist quarters.

  252. vaiyt says

    I can understand your interest in avoiding actual debate;

    Are you willing to debate YOUR rights, chump? Do you want to compromise with the religious and settle for being half free? It’s fucking precious of privileged fucks like you to tell other people that they should convince you they have human rights. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

  253. vaiyt says

    I’ll just repeat a previous point of mine: you’ve been too naïve to presume that atheism meant a commitment to reason. Atheists just believe in one kind of bullshit less than the religious.

  254. says

    Chimera @ 327:

    There are people I admire for this or that

    That’s enough, though. I think where a lot of people go wrong is in thinking that someone must really have an invested belief in someone as a leader, and that’s where it all goes pear shaped. That’s not the case. It can be as simple as admiring someone, and if they let loose a bias which happens to agree with the admirer’s bias, they’ll weight their agreement a bit more because they do admire the person.

    Most people do look to interact with others who share their ideals and ideas, so it’s not a surprise that a lot of people are comfy with high profile atheists who share their particular point of view on X. Unfortunately, Atheism™ has noisily and visibly intersected with noisy, visible backlashes on a few fronts, and people who have large amounts of admirers have not acquitted themselves well.

    Vaiyt:

    you’ve been too naïve to presume that atheism meant a commitment to reason. Atheists just believe in one kind of bullshit less than the religious.

    I also think people should stop batting PZ over the head for wanting something more and wanting people to be better. Here in the States, secularism (at the very least) is desperately needed. We resemble a theocracy way too much. Atheism™ is suffering the same thing as any other previous movement or organization – it suffers terribly from The Old Boy Network™. Inroads have been made, and I think they’ll continue to be made, but right now things aren’t looking so good. My disappointment with recent events within the Atheist Movement™ is not even close to PZ’s. PZ was a major part of early events, early strides, and successes. Those were heady days, even for those of us who cheered way back on the sidelines. There was a sense (at least here in the States) that yes, we can do this, and we can make things better.

    What’s happening now is disheartening. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, there’s a sense of sorrow attached to my current need to distance myself from Atheism™. I’ll continue being godless, I’ll continue to watch, and I’ll continue to try and help people understand various issues and how they intersect, I’ll continue to fight for social justice issues, and I’ll continue trying to be a better person. I hope that one day, not too far off, that I’ll be able to happily associate myself with Atheism™ again.

  255. consciousness razor says

    chimera, #327:

    But on a more personal note, I never understood with my gut all the concern over where the movement is going or why it’s important that some visible face of atheism did something the readers here find morally objectionable. I think my inability to understand this is due to a character trait I can’t do very much about and that is that I’m not much of a joiner of groups and I don’t have heroes or leaders.

    That makes no sense. You don’t think “morally objectionable” actions are “important,” because you’re not really into groups, heroes or leaders? Do you think most people here are into groups, heroes or leaders? Is that why you think we care?

    There are people I admire for this or that but I never imagine that because they have done or do this admirable thing that they are in any other way admirable in other areas or even somebody I’d enjoy talking to.

    That’s completely irrelevant. You can assume what you like about how surprised people here might be; but if you’re not surprised when various people are less than “admirable” (which seems to be minimizing this assholery to the maximum possible extent), it’s still assholery.

    I understand with my head that the reputation of atheism is on the line with its supposed leaders and that public displays of assholery by random loud and proud atheists is a problem in getting the atheist message out there, but none of it really surprises me. It does sadden me.

    No need to say anything new — just for emphasis: the “reputation of atheism” is the very last thing I’m worried about, because the assholery itself is the fucking problem.

    But I can’t think of a group whose members and important figures are systematically exempt from behavior somebody somewhere is going to think is very very bad.

    I don’t care what somebody somewhere might think. What’s actually very very bad? When we’re talking about that thing which actually matters, yeah, groups of human beings will always have human beings, which are not ever “exempt” from bad behavior.

    Fuck me…. why do people twist themselves into contortions, just to say such confusing things? Stop making it so needlessly fucking difficult, and it might be a little easier to fix some of our problems.

  256. says

    I’m personally more worried about the impact on fellow atheists who no longer have a nice safe community than I am worried about whether the theists will think I’m one of the bad ones.

  257. says

    CR @ 332:

    just for emphasis: the “reputation of atheism” is the very last thing I’m worried about, because the assholery itself is the fucking problem.

    A thousand times over, this. It’s the same point John Scalzi made, which I quoted upthread:*

    I assure you there are enough assholes in just about every assemblage to make particular ratios less material. It doesn’t matter how big the turd in the punchbowl is, it still ruins the punch.

     
    *I think people aren’t bothering to even skim the previous comments, let alone read them.

  258. says

    who no longer have a nice safe community

    Well, was it ever a nice safe community? Not quite what I was trying to say. But anyways, the wellbeing of people is what me and many others care about. I doubt very many of us are so worried about how we look.

  259. says

    chimera @327:

    And so I was also THRILLED!!!! to discover FtB and I have learned and continue to learn a lot here. But on a more personal note, I never understood with my gut all the concern over where the movement is going or why it’s important that some visible face of atheism did something the readers here find morally objectionable.

    Since you’re not US based, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there are constant challenges to church state issues in the US. There are many forces seeking to enshrine religious beliefs into law, the effect of which would not be good (understatement). A big part of the reason for the movement is to push back against those forces who would seek to install religion even further into the government. Granted it’s not just atheists involved in this-freethinkers, agnostics, secularists, Humanists and even theists…they recognize that religion needs to be kept out of governmental affairs. Given that influencing public policy is the goal, it makes sense that a movement of like-minded individuals was formed around issues related to church/state separation.
    As for the second part of your comment-I won’t speak for anyone else, but when it comes to morally objectionable content, I often call it out where I see it, no matter the source. Sometimes it’s from anti-LGBT bigots in the Republican party. Sometimes it’s bootstrapping, anti-regulation, reality challenged libertarians. Sometimes it’s the sexist attitudes of people in the atheist movement. People with harmful ideas ought to be challenged, bc those ideas don’t exist in a vacuum, especially when those with a platform can and do manipulate or persuade those that follow them. Sam Harris’ anti-Muslim bigotry or Dawkins’ sexism reach millions of people. Despite their elevated status in the movement, they aren’t using the power of their status as responsibly as they should. Yes, they criticize harmful religious beliefs. But they’re also supporting sexism and bigotry and given their prominence, people can and do turn to and listen to them. They influence people. Those anti-feminists and Islamophobes out there feel their positions are given greater weight when supported by those in positions of social power.

    Dawkins and Harris, through their actions, help maintain the status quo, which is detrimental to women, People of Color, and other marginalized groups. They *should* be actively criticized, and I’m glad they are.

    I understand with my head that the reputation of atheism is on the line with its supposed leaders and that public displays of assholery by random loud and proud atheists is a problem in getting the atheist message out there, but none of it really surprises me.

    When it comes to morally objectionable shit spewed by assholes, I don’t really care about the “reputation of atheism”. That’s not why I criticize the shit said by Dawkins or Harris. I criticize they (them? argh, cannot remember proper English form here) and their words bc they say morally objectionable shit, and I don’t think that’s right. That’s more than enough reason for me to call them out. If that has the side effect of salvaging the reputation of atheism, then ok, cool. But that’s not the primary goal (I’ve said elsewhere that I think it is good that some people are interested in improving the image of atheists in the US. I stand by that, bc atheists do face discrimination. But my criticisms of assholes in the atheist movement isn’t centered around “make atheism better”.)

  260. Dark Jaguar says

    I hate to say this, but it seems South Park might have been on to something way back when. They were essentially making all those same points, in the gross way South Park tends to make them. Still, it’s only now that the movement realizes the full extent of it, well half of it does. I think at this point we can safely say there’s a “schism”, and that’s a good thing.

  261. says

    Dark Jaguar @337:
    Oh the schism began years ago. It’s grown to a Grand Canyon sized chasm between the status quo enabling atheists and those in the movement who are progressive and concerned about diversity and inclusivity.

  262. consciousness razor says

    Tony, it’s “them.” You criticize them and their words. As you should. :)

    A big part of the reason for the movement is to push back against those forces who would seek to install religion even further into the government. Granted it’s not just atheists involved in this-freethinkers, agnostics, secularists, Humanists and even theists…they recognize that religion needs to be kept out of governmental affairs. Given that influencing public policy is the goal, it makes sense that a movement of like-minded individuals was formed around issues related to church/state separation.

    For me at least, another part besides secularism is that I want there to be less religious bullshit in our society in general. It’s part of our daily lives here, not just stuff the government does. (I know you realize this, but it’s worth saying anyway.) Criticizing it may not amount to convincing lots of people to be atheists, but it could at least make some people less sure that their shit doesn’t stink.

  263. sadmar says

    @Iyéska, mal omnifarious #296
    Hi!
    Oh, the curse of text-based forums. I was not angry at anyone. I was annoyed by chikkipop.
    Where we have failed to communicate is your reading that I was talking about YOU. I wasn’t. That is why I intentionally did not blockquote or use you ‘nym. It was EXACTLY my intent to take that particular idea of of context and talk about IT, without making any sort of assertions about YOU.

    This is one of the first principles of the academic field in which I spent my career — a sort of ground-rule of semiotics: the meaning is in the text, and intent would be irrelevant if we had the magic power to divine it, which we don’t. I was trying to get at that by saying “Attacking a person for saying or doing something stupid is almost always a category mistake.”

    Believe it or not, this was all worked out in detail, and explained much better in the lonnggg version of the post Firefox devoured.

    NOTE TO ALL READERS;
    I make these promises: If it ever occurs that I am angry about something someone here wrote, I shall say so explicitly. If I ever mean to direct criticism at at the person of anyone here (not very likely, but who knows?) I shall be explicit about that as well, by which I mean more than just casual use of the second person singular pronoun. If, at any other time my prose deviates from what you would take as calm and respectful in tone, I shall be doing so intentionally as theater, generally ‘satire.’ Noting that my background is in ‘the arts’, loosely speaking, I am usually incapable of expressing myself without the use of figurative language, hyperbole and irony especially.

    I have become aware that some people appear to use, ‘well, you just didn’t didn’t get my hyperbole’ as an after-the-fact excuse for language that is at least careless if not meant to be cutting. I promise I shall never make false excuses for my words–that is, if anyone questions me regarding the intent of what I have written I shall respond with absolute honesty to the best of my ability.

    Granted, as I have already observed, an absence of ‘bad’ intent does not make any utterance automatically ‘OK’…

    I do not allow that shit to define me, nor do I waste a fucktonne of time over it.

    That sounds healthy. I’m sincerely glad you can do that.

    I shall attempt to outline the thought pattern behind my post. Tony! The Queer Shoop had argued that ‘Atheism Spokesmen’ had failed to apply the sort of critical analysis they direct at religious belief to their own bias and prejudices, and are mistakenly presenting their very subjective views as unquestionable Objective Truth. ‘I always see things as they actually are!’ I felt that was the most elegant statement of the ‘problem’, I had read in the thread. However, I also felt many posts here evidenced a similar problem: that is they expressed an interpretation of something in another post as unquestionable absolute Fact, and showed no signs of having taken into consideration an analysis of bias, prejudices, logical fallacies etc. etc. that may have gone into forming that interpretation. I wanted to suggest the sort of self-scrutiny and consistency of standards Tony’s post finds lacking in the ‘Spokesmen’ is a good thing for anyone and everyone participating in “the public sphere.”

    I took two statements as exemplars, just on the basis of their having struck me as unexamined. There were many others I could have chosen, from many authors in various threads. Wanting NOT to ‘pick-on’ the authors, I did not identify them. I was quite confident that I had interpeted the “inexorable chain of logic” as it had been intended. About the purpose of “What in the fuckety fuck does it matter, what labels someone else sticks on you?” I was less sure. I took it to be a rhetorical question expressing ‘The labels someone sticks on you do not matter.” However, the exact sense of “matter” was not clear to me, and I thought the second-person in the object might be figurative. That is, I suspected it could have been intended to mean something like ‘Labels assigned by others do not affect me.’ But, again I was not interested in the intent. I was interested in what the words on the page mean — with the ‘you’ referring to other people and ‘matter’ embracing a variety of different sorts of significance. I.e. ‘Labels applied by others should have no significance to anyone’ or something like that.

    My faux-Lenny-Bruce faux-rant was meant to evoke instances in which labels have caused actual harm to real people. I avoided the use of the most obviously wounding example as a matter of restraint. ‘People are so easily offended. [Words are just words] First Amendment!’ was meant to evoke the defenses invoked by the privileged to delegitimate the complaints of real human beings that they have indeed been harmed by words. I meant to argue that none of us have the right to declare these harms did not occur, or that if they did occur, the fault lies with the victim for failing to have a thick enough skin. If hate speech does not affect you, that is to the good, of course, But if such claims can be taken to generalize to others, they are easily recuperable to rationales for giving a pass to bigotry. Younger people are particularly vulnerable to the materiality of speech. I take from your post #296 you do not feel harmed by the epithets I included in my post. Am I wrong to think you snipped them not just to avoid the filter, but out of concern that they might be injurious to other readers of the thread?

    Finally, I shall note the language of the reply #296 ‘shifts the goalposts.’ My assertion was that labels may indeed matter as they have a history of causing empirically verifiable harm. To say ‘labels do not define me’ introduces a different standard. No label defined Trayvon Martin to himself or to those who loved him. Trayvon Martin is dead in large part because George Zimmerman looked at him and saw only a “fucking coon.” Zimmerman stuck a label on Martin, and it mattered.

    All that said, I would rather discuss other aspects of my post. Specifically:
    1. Should progressive atheists privilege social justice over their non-belief in their self-identification? (Social Justice Plus+)
    2. Does an atheist critique of religious belief work against social justice in terms of communities of oppressed people in which religion is part of the culture being crushed and/or central to that community’s struggles for human rights?
    3. What specific methods can we advocate and employ to hold our own discourse to the standards we expect Dawkins to hold to his own position, just as he holds them to believers?

    sincere best wishes, Iyéska

    ‘sadmar’
    (which, in case anyone might be wondering, is a name w/o a referent, having been generated from another ‘nym via a simple coding algorithm)

  264. sadmar says

    @ Tony! The Queer Shoop #291
    In the post Firefox ate, I had a long and rather detail story explaining the ‘home or street dichotomy.’ In that context it would have made more sense. I do not mean to denigrate ‘virtual organizing.’

    Regarding your statement “Some people, for whatever reason cannot, or choose not to.” I understand “cannot” in all instances, however I contend that under certain circumstances “chose not” is unacceptable. I meant my example to indicate such conditions are relatively rare, I.e. I defined them as both local and accessible (in terms not only of the action, but the site of the agents of injustice), and involving injustice in extremis. Thus, while MidEast Wars are injust in extreme, staging a protest march in front of the City Hall in Fayette, Iowa is not important.

    I had written specifically of a labor action in which the strikers discovered who walked the walk and who just talked the talk after the police showed up at a peaceful picket line swinging billy clubs and spraying mace (and specifically targeting our one very Out gay member for beating). I had the whole long tale set down in the long post, and when it vaporized I just pulled up a police shooting as a quick shorthand.

    Sometimes (Only sometimes, but, yes, sometimes), it really is as simple as this;

    Which side are you on?
    Which side are you on?
    They say in Harlan County
    There is no neutral there
    You’ll either be a union man
    Or a thug for J.H. Blair
    Which side are you on?
    Which side are you on?

    Gotta run. Peace.

  265. says

    sadmar @341:

    Finally, I shall note the language of the reply #296 ‘shifts the goalposts.’ My assertion was that labels may indeed matter as they have a history of causing empirically verifiable harm. To say ‘labels do not define me’ introduces a different standard.

    I think if any goal post shifting happened, that might have been on your part, not Iyeska’s. Neurobio repeatedly conflated atheism with the atheist movement and in the process mischaracterized those of us who are disillusioned with the atheist movement as wanting to stop being atheists. Xe was the one who started talking about the importance of labels. In hir opinion, once someone is an atheist, they can’t cast that label off so long as they don’t believe in gods. Much of the disagreement centered around people saying that how they choose to label themselves is their choice, and they can do as they please. Xe would have us believe that no matter what labels we apply to ourselves, the labels others put upon us still matter. To say “labels don’t matter to me” actually gets back to the core of the issue wrt to labeling in this thread-many of us feel that it doesn’t matter how other people choose to label us.
    For my part, as I’ve said, how I choose to label myself is more important-to me-than the labels others place upon me. Even then though, any label I place upon myself (or even the labels others place upon me) is merely shorthand. They can’t fully encompass who I am or what I believe. For an understanding of that, one needs to actually talk to me and listen to my views and opinions and/or judge them against my actions.

    1. Should progressive atheists privilege social justice over their non-belief in their self-identification? (Social Justice Plus+)

    I can’t say I like the question. It assumes that there should be a privileging of any views/opinions/values. While individual people can and do choose which of their beliefs to privilege, I don’t think there *should* be any rules about that.
    Also, what does this mean in practice? If I say I’m an atheist feminist or atheist LGBT activist, is that privileging my atheism before my other SJ views? Or does it just mean I label myself these two things, in no particular order, with no particular difference in importance between them?
    Looking at the stuff I talk about, I think I lean more towards feminist and LGBT issues, but I do also talk about atheism, secular issues, issues of race, and more. They’re all important, and I’d hesitate to rank any of them as more or less important than the others. I probably focus on LGBT issues and feminism bc they’re I feel the most passionate about them, so yeah, I can see that I privilege them. I’ve no interest in trying to decide which is more important to me though (and such an exercise would be pointless, IMO). So yeah, I really don’t see the point in your question here.

  266. grayhame says

    PZ, you summed up my feelings about the Atheist Movement perfectly. I’m so embarrassed by the actions and words of many atheists, including Dawkins, Schermer, Jilette, The Amazing Atheist, Thunderfoot, Pat Condell, and so many others, that I’m hesitant to publicly call myself an atheist because I do not want to be associated with any of them. There are still a few “atheist evangelists” that I respect and admire, but the well has been sufficiently poisoned that I’m wary of promoting atheism, and instead focus my activism on feminism, racism, poverty, and the promotion of science and arts education, with as little mention of religion as possible. I will gladly ally myself with anyone who wants to work toward these goals, irrespective of their religious beliefs, so long as there is no proselytizing.

  267. says

    sadmar @ 341:

    Where we have failed to communicate is your reading that I was talking about YOU. I wasn’t. That is why I intentionally did not blockquote or use you ‘nym. It was EXACTLY my intent to take that particular idea of of context and talk about IT, without making any sort of assertions about YOU.

    Intent isn’t magic, and if that’s what you intended, then there was zero need to quote me. You could have easily prefaced with something like: why I think labels matter. Y’see?

    Also, you might want to consider that being clear and concise the first time around would lead to much less lengthy explanations.

  268. unclefrogy says

    how is worrying about what you are thought of by people who do not like you in the least make any sense?
    It has been my experience that I am often misunderstood and misjudged no matter what I do. If I try not to rock the boat or try to please it makes little difference if I am not being myself.
    How struggling with the reputation by not making “big rifts” and worrying about all these obvious issues any different than what the RCC has done to protect the reputation of “the church” as far as motives go?
    State the true thing, take the position and let the chips fall where they may.
    When MLK decided he had to get involved in an active way in the fight for Civil Rights I do not think he was worried about whether some people would judge him negatively for it he already new they thought ill of him and he spoke out anyway.
    uncle frogy

  269. says

    Tony:

    I think if any goal post shifting happened, that might have been on your part, not Iyeska’s.

    Thank you, Tony.

    sadmar, just in case I wasn’t clear @ 345, if you want to respond to me, please quote and respond away, and I will do my best to answer you. Other than that, please refrain from using me as a set piece in your post performance. Thank you.

  270. curbyrdogma says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls @ 324:

    This is why you can’t lump atheists all together, since the only thing they have in common is that they’re not theists. It’s a descriptive based on something that one isn’t; which would be a little like expecting Germans and Nigerians to be similar because they’re both not Americans.

    And those who don’t see the consequences of saying they are atheists are laughable. Like you….

    So where in my post did I say I was as an atheist?

    You know what they say about making assumptions…

    Tony! The Queer Shoop @ 325:

    (bolding mine)
    I agree with you up until the bolded portion. It’s not so much that I disagree with the sentiment (I agree, you can’t lump all atheists together), so much as I don’t see its relevance to the preceding sentences. It seems like a non-sequitor, especially since this discussion hasn’t been about lumping atheists together. It’s been about the atheist movement, in which people participate on a voluntary basis. No one is lumped in with other atheists.

    Unless you’re referring to the public perception of atheists.

    You’re right; I had originally written more, but edited down, and probably should have left a sentence or two in. It’s about the public perception of “atheists”; or what one might expect of atheists via the assumption (there’s that word again) that since they’re rejecting the religions we often associate with certain political leanings, they must therefore harbor the opposite political/social leanings. But of course, that’s the fallacy of the false dichotomy, and furthermore reinforces the idea that theism is the default position. (And of course, most people don’t lump Christians, Hindus, etc. as merely “theists”)

    Since atheism per se has no inherently spelled-out moral code, it comes down to each individual’s personal education, outlook, and so on. Therefore, someone whose personal philosophy focuses on treating others with fairness would be more properly termed a “secular humanist”.

    One might hope that perhaps in the future, “atheism” won’t be considered such a novelty in the public eye that those who aren’t theists won’t all be lumped together; and humanists won’t be lumped together with the likes of certain folks who are decidedly lacking in social intelligence.

  271. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Therefore, someone whose personal philosophy focuses on treating others with fairness would be more properly termed a “secular humanist”.

    Ah, a secular humanist. Atheist works for me. Doesn’t matter at the end of the day except to pedants.

  272. vaiyt says

    There are many forces seeking to enshrine religious beliefs into law, the effect of which would not be good (understatement).

    And because of the money and power American Evangelical churches have, their bullshit is being exported to other places, like where I live.

  273. says

    It’s just like so many other areas that were male dominated or white dominated. Whether it’s atheism, comics, gaming, politics, etc, we’re just going to have to hunker down and plow through all the muck to the other side.

  274. consciousness razor says

    curbyrdogma, #348:

    This is why you can’t lump atheists all together, since the only thing they have in common is that they’re not theists. It’s a descriptive based on something that one isn’t; which would be a little like expecting Germans and Nigerians to be similar because they’re both not Americans.
    And those who don’t see the consequences of saying they are atheists are laughable. Like you….

    So where in my post did I say I was as an atheist?

    You know what they say about making assumptions…

    Where in your post did you give a reason why there aren’t other things which have in common that they’re entailed by atheism?

    I mean, you did give an analogy. Even your analogy is idiotic, because Germans and Nigerians do have a similarity and not only that but something even stronger: an identical property: they’re both in fact not Americans. Do you not even get what the word “similar” means, while using an analogy no less?

    And is that all you’ve got, a piss-poor analogy, in addition to not even being an atheist yourself and making dumbass assumptions about atheism?

    The reason you can’t lump atheists (not the same thing as atheism) together is because they’re human beings who don’t in any sense “need” to believe what is logically implied by atheism or any other such fact. That’s totally fucking trivial and obvious, but you’d have to be really fucking confused to think this kind of shit makes for a better reason.

    And as far as making assumptions about your belief or non-belief goes, you seemed to agree with the notion that religion is a “virus of the mind.” Are we supposed to believe it’s likely that you sincerely believe you have a mind-virus which is tailored around your base emotions? Shouldn’t you see a doctor about that? How the fuck is that supposed to be an assumption, instead of the most likely consequence of the (possibly misleading) evidence you gave us in the thread? Do you care whether anything you’re saying makes sense or is even honest?

  275. Tethys says

    we’re just going to have to hunker down and plow through all the muck to the other side.

    I don’t want to plow through muck. I’ve spent my entire life plowing through the muck of sexism and frankly, it would be a lot easier to get to the other side if so many people would stop making the muck in the first place. I want to live in a world where pointing out that something is sexist, don’t do that is met with “Oops sorry, my bad.” and then modifying the offensive behavior. But that isn’t going to happen when people like RD feel free to respond with “arrgh, my manly man privilege is being questioned therefore raging misogyny“. If RD and all the prominent male atheists who are rushing to his defense really want to promote equality, they have to acknowledge that the muck is named Michael Shermer, and Penn Gillette and T-foot. If you lie down with swine, you get covered in shit isn’t really something that should need to be pointed out to people who make a fine living off their supposed rational thought.

  276. says

    Tethys @353:

    I want to live in a world where pointing out that something is sexist, don’t do that is met with “Oops sorry, my bad.” and then modifying the offensive behavior.

    I wish history were different and the response to ‘Guys don’t do that’ were a more resounding ‘thanks for the advice Rebecca. We appreciate that.’
    I wishes were horses I’d have a stable or 10.

  277. consciousness razor says

    I don’t want to plow through muck.

    I don’t see how you’re really going to avoid the muck. It’s all over the place. I don’t want that either. What to do? Go to a different universe?

    You can avoid working with these fuckers as “part of the movement,” discredit what they’re doing and make them less influential and so forth, but that certainly doesn’t mean you need to let them claim it as their own. It’s not theirs. So, we do have the option to not let them take it from us. If you really don’t care that much about religious bullshit (not saying you’re like that), I could understand letting them claim ownership of that cause and continue to make it all about the concerns of the privileged few (as it has been for a long time). However, if you think it’s not just about the privileged, and that a view which unites resistance against religion and all sorts of other shit is genuinely better than either by itself, then it’s undermining your own goals to leave the former to a bunch of shitheads who are doing it all wrong.

  278. Tethys says

    Tony

    I wish history were different and the response to ‘Guys don’t do that’ were a more resounding ‘thanks for the advice Rebecca.

    Yes, wouldn’t it be lovely if the men who insist on adding to the muck would start being respectful and taking this seriously? It is beyond shameful that years after the initial minor incident, RD spent a week on twitter demeaning rape victims and anyone who dares to disagree with his so obviously superior thinkyness and feminism. Twas a veritable deluge of muck from the dude who simultaneously declared that women in the western world don’t really have to deal with sexism anymore.

  279. Tethys says

    CR

    However, if you think it’s not just about the privileged, and that a view which unites resistance against religion and all sorts of other shit is genuinely better than either by itself, then it’s undermining your own goals to leave the former to a bunch of shitheads who are doing it all wrong.

    I see your point, but there are more than two courses of action. Choosing not to support the well known names in atheism doesn’t mean I suddenly regained religious belief. I am choosing to not support the sexism, and to limit the amount of sexism in my immediate environment. The only way to get to the other side is to realize that there is no such thing as the other side and to instead turn your efforts to reducing the muck. At this point I am thinking that RD could use some clicker training, or possibly a shock collar set to go off every time he says something sexist.

  280. Stacey C. says

    I want to join the chorus of voices thanking you for expressing this thought and saying that I agree and that I want a better Atheism. Right now I mostly have switched to using Humanist for just this reason. I hope someday to see things change in the Atheist movement but for now…I’ll stick to my local group and doing what good I can outside of it.

  281. consciousness razor says

    I see your point, but there are more than two courses of action.

    Agreed. It’s not really clear to me what some people have in mind, but I’d say there are plenty of good options.

    Choosing not to support the well known names in atheism doesn’t mean I suddenly regained religious belief.

    Sure, but leaving “the movement” in protest does seem to be saying you’re not going to do anything about it anymore. Otherwise, what kind of social action are you actually committing to with that?

    I am choosing to not support the sexism, and to limit the amount of sexism in my immediate environment.

    I completely get that, and I wouldn’t say people (even “activist” atheists) have to put up with that sort of punishment at conferences, debates, in the public sphere fighting for secularism, online, or wherever “the movement” happens to be. If PZ himself wanted to stop blogging about atheism because it’s just full of too much shit which is making him miserable, I’d miss his perspective but understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. And that doesn’t mean he couldn’t still do other things to be a part of it at some level (hopefully to change it for the better).

    At this point I am thinking that RD could use some clicker training, or possibly a shock collar set to go off every time he says something sexist.

    Not the worst idea. And publishers, editors, etc., could use some shock collars of their own and maybe learn to stop printing his shit. And maybe other random shitheads can learn why they should stop listening to him…. but that won’t just happen by itself.

  282. says

    CR:

    And maybe other random shitheads can learn why they should stop listening to him…. but that won’t just happen by itself.

    No, it won’t, however, it’s possible to continue fighting the good fight while distancing oneself from the Atheist Movement.

  283. Tethys says

    CR

    . but that won’t just happen by itself.

    I will continue to promote reason, science, equality, and feminism and push back against the hypocrisy of the horseman faction. Their atheism is not the most pertinent part of the equation when the issue is culturally ingrained sexism. Atheism isn’t who I am, it’s simply a non-belief. Many of the theists I know are also very involved with feminism, LGBT rights, and a better world through science and reason and gawds love. I will continue to consider these theists and people like PZ and Ophelia allies and continue to be an atheist. I think the more important goal is to level the playing field by eliminating the muck. When well known atheists habitually flood the field with muck, defending the word atheism or anything associated with that part of the movement simply isn’t going to be a priority for me.

  284. says

    Tethys @ 361:

    When well known atheists habitually flood the field with muck, defending the word atheism or anything associated with that part of the movement simply isn’t going to be a priority for me.

    Well said.

  285. rabidwombat says

    I guess I don’t understand the commenters baffled by the connection between the atheist movement and the fight for human rights. Maybe it’s because I came to atheism through the same skepticism that made me want to fight medical woo, and anti-science gibberish, toxic belief systems, and the resulting oppression, religion-based or not, that ruins people’s lives. Like PZ, I think I must have naively believed people who claimed the mantle of reason and skepticism would be looking at the science, at the facts, and discovering “Hey, wow. That oppression thing totally happens!” Apparently, I’m the fool.

    If all your atheism is about is that you don’t believe in a deity, seriously, what purpose does it serve? I believe in no deity, and that guy over there believes there is one. So what? Why even mention it? If you don’t have any basis for promoting the belief, like say confronting the ways religion leads to violence against other religious groups, or fosters a hateful attitude towards women, or LGBT individuals, or whatever, why even argue for it?

    If your atheism is that shallow, it’s less a belief than a preference. You may as well be arguing how much you love eggs with someone who hates eggs. The end result of the argument is meaningless, because everyone has preferences, and no one is really right.

    I guess I just don’t understand why you would bother to come on a blog and get all pissy about atheists discussing ways to make the movement more inclusive if it matters so little to you in the first place.

    tl;dr, sorry.

  286. rabidwombat says

    Also, for all the commenters claiming you can’t stop using the term “atheist” because dictionary definition, blah blah blah…wrong. Wrong again. Many women of color (and their allies) have felt compelled to leave the feminist movement because of similar problems, and they coined the term “womanist,” and it has it’s own definition, and I don’t seem to find it particularly confusing. Language is always changing like that, see. If a brand or a word becomes polluted with toxicity, you either reclaim it (if possible) or rebrand to reach the right audience. Happens all the time.

  287. consciousness razor says

    When well known atheists habitually flood the field with muck, defending the word atheism or anything associated with that part of the movement simply isn’t going to be a priority for me.

    If it’s well said, what’s it saying? This is one bit that I didn’t quote earlier, because I just don’t get it either:

    The only way to get to the other side is to realize that there is no such thing as the other side and to instead turn your efforts to reducing the muck.

    And I thought there were more than two possible courses of action, now it’s just one…. Why are we “instead” reducing the muck? Instead of, or in place of, doing what?

    The idea behind saying that we can “plow through the muck” doesn’t seem to be that we resign ourselves to accept it as our fate, much less defend it — or anything associated with it! — like you’re saying above (or defend a word, which is also a pretty confusing idea). You plow through things to get them the fuck out of your way. Because you intend it to be your way, and because the muck is not an immovable object and has no right to that spot where it is right now…. if you feel like sticking with the metaphor for a while.

    You may not know George Peterson or his intentions (me either), but you should know me well enough by now. And even if you didn’t, does any of what I’ve written here (or anywhere) actually sound like I’m saying we should defend these “fuckers” and “shitheads,” not stand up against them, or anything of the sort — or are you not actually responding to what I wrote?

    What does stick out as a reasonably clear message is this bit:

    Their atheism [that of the horsemen, except Dennett and presumably the dead one…] is not the most pertinent part of the equation when the issue is culturally ingrained sexism.

    There’s no “the equation,” nor is there “the issue.” So I take it that I assumed wrong, and you don’t really care that much about religious bullshit. That’s your call. I think you’re wrong about how much of a problem it is, but then it’s at least understandable what you’re doing and why.

    This next part is just confusing again:

    Atheism isn’t who I am, it’s simply a non-belief.

    Who you are is an atheist. Atheism is indeed something else (and the social movement/group yet another thing), but you’re not a theist, making you an atheist. Not one whose beliefs are going to do much I guess, but their your beliefs to have even if they don’t have much of an effect. As I’ve already said, many different ways, and you seem to be insisting on now (as if I had a problem with it): this doesn’t have any bearing on what you’re going to do (which is what I don’t get). And I could not care less what labels you use about yourself, in case you actually consider that “doing something.”

    Personally, as an atheist, because we already have more than enough of it floating around among theists and agnostics and assorted belligerent wooish factions, I’d rather you not take part in smearing all atheists because it’s a “bad word” with bad associations according to which I’m supposedly guilty (and you too, except for you not using that word). If we can agree on that, it’s probably going to be okay.

    Many of the theists I know are also very involved with feminism, LGBT rights, and a better world through science and reason and gawds love.

    And “gawds love” is a truly terribly reason, for so many reasons. And many of the theists I know aren’t anything like that. And what’s that Bible story about not building your house on a weak foundation? And why are we suddenly talking about your “theist friends” when that has no relevance to any of this?

    I will continue to consider these theists and people like PZ and Ophelia allies and continue to be an atheist.

    Allies in your equation, which you have in mind, but not in “the equation,” which isn’t anything.

  288. consciousness razor says

    What do you think is the best way forward?

    I don’t even really know what I’m going to do, in a year or two or five or ten (always hated questions like that). Besides myself, I think there are plenty of good things we can do. Like I said before, we can push these assholes out of the way and not give in to them, if they’re not already driving themselves into social irrelevance with all of their assholery. We’re doing a lot of good things already. No reason to not keep doing that, I suppose.

    Whatever we do, the thing is, it’s hard to tell sometimes what exactly is meant when say things like “distancing oneself from the Atheist Movement.” Does that just mean abstaining from the label “atheist”? That doesn’t seem likely as an interpretation, and it also wouldn’t have such a big effect as it’s made out to be. People want to get away from the bad stuff, which makes a lot of sense…. but what about the good stuff? Is anyone here seriously going to defend the idea that it isn’t “pertinent” to our lives? It really does fucking matter, and there are mountains of evidence to prove it. If I hear another word about somebody’s token liberal theist ally, I might literally vomit.

    And look, just now I was just reading this from Greta Christina (in the context of criticizing Harris — from the inside, as part of “the movement” people supposedly want to leave, linked to by PZ who also clearly hasn’t stopped doing anything about it either), which puts things in a different light. Maybe this stuff simply isn’t on your radar when you say you want nothing more to do with it, because you have much better, much more important shit to do:

    And it’s ridiculous to say that being “nurturing” has nothing to do with organized atheism. Tell it to the people running the many, many support organizations in our community: Darrel Ray at the Secular Therapist Project, Rebecca Hensler at Grief Beyond Belief, Andy Cheadle at the Secular Safe Zone project, Sarah Moorehead at Recovering From Religion, Robert Stump at LifeRing (the secular sobriety support organization), Vyckie Garrison at No Longer Quivering and the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network, many more that I don’t have space here to list. For years now, movement atheists have been talking about how we need to create secular communities and support structures, to replace the ones people lose when they leave religion — and a whole lot of atheists have been stepping up to the plate. Atheism absolutely has a nurturing, coherence-building vibe. Either Harris thinks these support organizations don’t matter, which would be grossly insulting — or he’s genuinely ignorant about them, which would make him profoundly out of touch with the reality of on-the-ground organized atheism, to the point where he’s grossly unqualified to comment about it.

    Among many other things “organized atheism” does, that’s what I’m asking about. Are you really giving up on all of that? Because some assholes think they own the fucking place, and you think we’re all better off giving it to them? I’m trying to avoid that conclusion as much as I can, but I don’t know what else I’m supposed to think sometimes.

  289. says

    CR:

    Is anyone here seriously going to defend the idea that it isn’t “pertinent” to our lives?

    No, I won’t do that. Upthread somewhere, I said that at the very least, a strong secularist movement is desperately needed here in the U.S., because we’re much too close to a theocracy.

    Among many other things “organized atheism” does, that’s what I’m asking about. Are you really giving up on all of that? Because some assholes think they own the fucking place, and you think we’re all better off giving it to them? I’m trying to avoid that conclusion as much as I can, but I don’t know what else I’m supposed to think sometimes.

    I don’t want to give up on it. I really don’t. Certain people have made it so fucking difficult to stay in though, because people do pay attention to what Dawkins, Harris, Shermer, et al., say. They get press, and the shit they fling radiates a long way out. I don’t know what to do myself. All I know is that at this point, I’ve found people more willing to have discussions with me if I front with any label other than atheist. Another thing about that is that I don’t have to spend hours explaining that no, I don’t agree with this thought leader or that thought leader, why I think they are wrong, and no, they don’t speak for all atheists before getting to what I wanted to discuss in the first place.

  290. Tethys says

    CR

    I’d rather you not take part in smearing all atheists because it’s a “bad word” with bad associations according to which I’m supposedly guilty (and you too, except for you not using that word). If we can agree on that, it’s probably going to be okay.

    I do not see how you are getting this from anything I have written. I said that I have no need to defend the atheism movement as personified by the horsemen faction. I then compared rapey boys club atheists with Minnesota social progressive theists and the theists win across every measure but one.

    And “gawds love” is a truly terribly reason, for so many reasons. And many of the theists I know aren’t anything like that.

    #notalltheists? It doesn’t matter if Christians are mistaken about the gods love part, as long as they are going around the world treating all gods creatures with love and respect I do not have a problem with theism per se. It only matters to me that they are not hypocrites for Jesus. I am fortunate to live in a place where progressive theists outnumber the more regressive factions, and that they actually work very hard at reducing social inequities such as sexism and LGBT discrimination. Some of the most dedicated social activists I know are elderly nuns. Perhaps I am a biased American, but I favor complete freedom of religion that includes being free to not believe without incurring any sort of social cost. I cannot do anything for atheism’s image except acknowledge that I don’t believe in gods and then be a moral person. I simply won’t lift a finger for the cause of atheism after the week long abusive tantrum of misogyny from the pro-rape faction. Rather than plow through the muck, or sink in the muck, I am going for the third option of changing the game. I’ve spent my entire life in the field of muck, being told by those on the dry ground that if I and all the other people in the muck just work really, really hard, eventually we might get to a place where there is no muck. It’s been nearly half a century, the dry ground is nowhere to be found, and the muck just keeps getting deeper, so sod this for a fools errand. I won’t quietly put my head down and plow through the muck any more. I want to dry up the muck so all of us can walk on dry ground. Step one: Attack the problem at it’s source- Stop the assholes on dry ground from pissing all over the field so as not to make it nasty and mucky in the first place. RD has chosen to be the head pissant. I expect Act 10 of his painful public drama “trying and failing to grok feminism” will happen regardless of my personal ideology.

  291. says

    Over in I have seen the future, Dana Hunter wrote:

    I’m all about the uprising. Oh, I loves me a good uprising. Let’s take the castle gates off their hinges and burn them, turn the castles into community spaces, and let the former kings (and queen or two – does Edwina count as one of them?) look on in dismay as we dismantle the walls and let the SJW rabble in. No gods, no masters, and no more pompous Thought Leaders spitting on the peasants as they toast their sexual predator friends and themselves for being S-M-R-T smart.

    They can, like America, sit in the ruins of their crumbling infrastructure and bleat about how exceptional they are, while we get on with building a better world. With awesome trains. And thawed chickens. And sippy-cups full of delicious food suitable for eating at ultra-high speeds.

    I believe this is possible because I believe in the power of this horde. Y’all are awesome!

    I can’t disagree with that, and I don’t want to disagree with that. I also really needed that, so yeah, I’m in.