Required reading for the accommodating atheist

If you haven’t already, you really must go read PZ Myer’s excellent post about why confrontational atheists feel it’s so important to actively speak out against religion. I’m tempted to print it off and give it to all of the grad students who have told me how much they dislike Richard Dawkins and “new” atheism, without them realizing that I’m also one of those rude, trouble making, “new” atheists. Want to know why I’m so vocal? Here you go.

May I suggest an update to Phil Plait’s now popular mantra? How about, “Don’t be a dick, but being a liar is worse.”


  1. Livingonsteak says

    +10^10! My favorite line in all that was “you can’t love the truth without detesting lies.” The only middle ground in a battlefield is where all the dead bodies get piled.Either you trust in science, or you ignore facts.It’s kinda funny actually, when I was in religion I was taught to believe “the whole Bible or none of it. You can’t pick and choose what to believe.”The same thing applies here. You can’t accept that the sky is blue but deny that the grass is green (unless you’re colorblind). Maybe only the Sith deal in absolutes, but at least the Sith get things done.

  2. says

    I’m gettign more confortable with being the confrontational type, because like said above, I’m uncomfortable with the pushing of lies.

  3. guest says

    As a UU, I tend to find these anti-religion articles paint all religions with the same brush.Perhaps I’m missing something, but what is exactly bad about a religion that tends to be pro-science, pro-equal rights, pro-homosexual rights, pro-choice, and doesn’t care if what deities or deities you believe in, or if you believe in a deity at all?

  4. Erp says

    I wouldn’t quite say incredibly rare but they are a bit rare. It doesn’t help that most UU’s seem to be paranoid about being perceived as proselytizing.

  5. says

    I think I am somewhere in between the accommodationist and ‘Gnu Atheist’. I can’t stand people trying to argue about scientific fact – fuck that. Yet there is something about Myers’s speech that bothers me and in fact bothers me about overtly vocal atheists.I think it is quotes like this:‘There is an answer, and it’s on display right here in this room. The solution, the only longterm solution, is the sanity of secularism.”…at some point we just have to stop pandering to the ideological noise that spawns these unending tasks and cut right to the source: religion.’I mean, I don’t think it is religion that is the ‘problem’. I think it is human nature that is the problem and that can’t ever be fixed. Jen, I was wondering if you have read Chris Hedges ‘I Don’t Believe In Atheists’? Please give it a read if you get a chance. Like most opinion pieces it doesn’t hit the mark 100% of the time. Yet I think Hedges has tapped into some of the hypocrisies of the atheist movement – we inevitably think that we are more clever than human nature and that we can make things better by ‘curing’ the religious impulse. I think it is a very dangerous path to follow.

  6. Gold says

    I’d just like to add that I live in Australia, so I don’t have to face the psycho level of Christian power that the average American does. I think if I did, I would side more with the ‘Gnu Atheist’ crowd from sheer frustration of having to deal with supersticions been taken seriously in the public forum.

  7. says

    “The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and featuring a sample size of over 35,000, puts the proportion of American adults identifying as Unitarian Universalist at 0.3%”Incredibly rare.

  8. says

    Theists tend to use every opportunity to push their views, whether you ask for them or not. Get a neutral discussion going in any setting, and 9 times out of 10, the theist will make his or her views known first, with the “confrontational” atheist responding. The problem for theists is, they’re SO accustomed to having the prevailing view, they get outraged at anything that contradicts what they perceive to be “the truth.” Someone who disagrees, and insists on equal time, is perceived as “radical” or “militant.”

  9. says

    I am an atheist and was probably one before a lot of you were born – and I maintain my atheism in Texas. One thing that frustrates me is the position of many of the more strident atheists that if you aren’t running around protesting, screaming at the top of your lungs, etc., you are accommodating religion.Well, I have a full time job, a chronic illness, a son with a pregnant girlfriend, another son in college, five cocker spaniels, two cats and a mother to take care of. I have neither the time nor the energy to rant and rave and draw stick figures on the sidewalk. I am not going to let my local Baptist church run all over me and my family and I spent a lot of time hollering about their influence in schools when my kids were school age, but at this point I am not going to march up and down in front of their church attempting to be profoundly non-theistic and get a point across that there is no chance of getting across.However, I fully support your right to do so. I hope you have fun and you see some results from your actions. You will probably never see me at a protest or a gathering of atheists or a Freethought Convention, but do not tell me my atheism isn’t as valid as yours just because I live my own life and expect others to do the same.

  10. says

    That’s not what PZ’s post was about at all. Did you even read it? Accommodationnists are people who specifically speak out about how we should be more accepting of religion, come up with compromises, etc. I don’t require everyone to be an activist.

  11. G. Syme says

    Political anarchy is not a sustainable system and I strongly suspect that theological anarchy is exactly the same. Its existence is spent staving off the inevitable imposition of one person’s will – or in this case, belief – upon others. Jen doesn’t have to justify herself by saying that this particular brand of religion is “rare”. Organised or individual, it’s still unsubstantiated faith and PZ Myer’s fundamental point remains true.Consider this: if the deepest concern of Gnu Atheists was the awful intolerance and anti-humanism that current religions institutionalise, we would found our own religion. People would flock to it and treat each other well because they believed some higher power had commanded them to; but that would be, as Myers emphasises, a LIE. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved and is at its core unscientific. If you want scientific spirituality, become a philosopher*.If you won’t listen to PZ, try Tim instead:

    *For reasons I don’t understand, Jen has some perpetual vendetta against philosophers. We can talk about that the next time she inevitably takes a swing at them.

  12. Erp says

    Depends on one’s definition of incredibly rare. Shakers are incredibly rare no question. Muslims btw are .6% (twice as common as UUs) and I would call them rare. .3% of 300 million is still a lot of people (100,000) and they do tend to concentrate. There are 3 UUs in Congress which makes them a bit more obvious there.Washington state has 29 UU congregations most of them around Puget Sound so it wouldn’t surprise me if you saw at least one UU per day, and, it wouldn’t surprise me if one was in your department.

  13. says

    I did read it, and I have read PZ for many years. I draw my conclusions about him and others through the aggregate of their words, not just from one blog post.My point, although possibly not clear as crystal, was that there are those who will accuse others of being accommodating simply for not speaking up, and many (including PZ) have held and continue to hold that position. If I simply accept that my neighbor is going to pray for my mother and that my boss is going to pay for my grandchild and go on, I am accommodating. It’s ridiculous. The “if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem” argument exists quite strongly in the atheist community. As I said, I have no problem with anyone going out and raising metaphorical hell about their particular position on their particular issue as long as no one gets hurt. Heck, I even have one of your shirts on the list for gifting for my sister, who is the only one of us who has the upper arms for a tank top anymore. :) However, there are many like me – possibly the majority in any given issue – who just want to live their lives and get the most out of it that they can day to day within their own priorities and who don’t deserve to be held as “part of the problem.” It’s no skin off my nose if my neighbor wants to pray for my mother, you know?

  14. says

    How bout this: It’s not a religion. Leaving off all the initial stuff, which there are religions that accept, we get to that last point: “doesn’t care if what deities or deities you believe in, or if you believe in a deity at all”. Religion is all about belief in deities, and if a religion doesn’t prescribe a particular deity or set of deities that its members are supposed to believe in, then it is not in fact a religion.

  15. JM says

    Splodie, I’m thinking of retiring to a heavily Republican area in PA that’s not too different from TX ideologically. I don’t know how I’ll cope. I don’t know if I can continue to afford to live in my safe, multi-cultural, university-enlivened, urban neighborhood, though. I guess I’ll just have to keep quiet like I have all these years. Do you ever feel like you’d just love to get out of the closet?

  16. JM says

    One of the most publicly vocal feminists in our region, a tenured professor, was single-handedly responsible for getting the newspaper help-wanted ads to stop dividing the ads into male and female. She wore her deceased father’s suits and looked rather good in them. She embarrassed the city’s private men’s clubs into admitting women. And she was paid a tidy sum by the region’s most liberal university to take early retirement and never had another job except for her own business that limped along for years on feminist contracts before folding. We’re so lucky to have her, but most of us can’t do that, no matter how much we’d like it.

  17. Peter B says

    JMPerhaps you can do what I remember an Aussie Skeptic family did when they lived in a particularly religious part of the USA. Every Sunday morning they got dressed up in their finest and went for a walk around the block. In the process they passed so many churches it was easy for people to assume they were either on their way *to* another church, or on their way *from* another church.The whole process took about half an hour, they got some exercise, and no one ever bothered them, because it was obvious from the way they were dressed that church was part of their Sunday morning too.

  18. Peter B says

    Speaking as another Aussie, I agree both with your original comment and this one.Say, where do you live?

  19. JM says

    I don’t want to live my life within a religious reference. I don’t like the term “atheist” because it says that I don’t believe in someone else’s hallucination. I believe in something for sure: I believe in the scientific method and in caring for the environment, among other things. So, no, I won’t be pretending I go to church. There is a 50-member UU church in that neighborhood, so perhaps there are a few open-minded folks.

  20. says

    It’s not just the UUs…the United Church of Canada is pro-queer rights, was one of the first churches to ordain women, and has entire sections of their website devoted to what they see as the Church’s responsibility to address ecological issues (including global warming), ethical scientific research, etc.This is my problem with the extremes of atheism – if you have a problem with people from extremist religious groups (I include the Pope in this assessment) painting atheists as troublemakers, immoral, etc. and ignoring the ways in which atheists can be good people with strong values, then why decide to replicate their mistakes and collapse the nuances between different religious groups?The problem is not religion. The problem is narrowmindedness. Nothing about being a person of faith dictates that you have to be exclusionary, violent, or regressive (although you’d never know it to hear Dawkins go on). It’s the closed-minded institutions (and their unfortunately high quotient of political power) that are the problem. All intelligent people, of faith or not, should be working toward a way to have intelligent, reasonable discourse across beliefs, rather than taking up residence in opposing extreme camps.

  21. flj529 says

    Er, I know this comment comes long after the discussion took place, but .3% of 300 million is more like 1 million, not 100K…

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