Be ever tranquil and mild

Since the core of our Maximum Critic’s case is that we’re too angry and rude and obnoxious, and also unfair to Our Leaders, especially Richard Dawkins, I thought I would take a squiz at RD’s Twitter feed to see how placid and polite and pleasant he is being in contrast to angry rude obnoxious us.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 20 hours ago
.@iconoclasmrules @pennjillette This, from Penn, strikes me as philosophically spot on. What flaw has your great philosophical mind found?


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 18 hours ago
@impossiblebones @pennjillette Oh for heaven’s sake, how is such crass misunderstanding possible? Impossible bones? Impossibly ridiculous.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 12
@1Bblthmpr You’ve obviously never read a biology textbook or a book about evolution. Please do so & then come back if you want to argue.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins
I know no science, never read a biology book & have low IQ, but I know evolution is false bcos it doesn’t make sense to my uneducated mind.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 11
@Adnan_Asif14 In the same sense of “theory” gravity too is only a theory. I suggest you test it by jumping out of a high window.

There are plenty of other tweets not in that vein, and some in a similar but less blatant vein. One in a more benevolent vein

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 11
What kind of “man” ENJOYS shooting birds on spring migration through Malta? Referendum to abolish the “sport” today. …

Also, I’m not opposed to a waspish tone as such. It would be odd if I were, since I have one myself. I think it can be good and necessary to express some anger on some subjects; I think writing and discussion would be badly impoverished if we eliminated all trace of anger. I’m just wondering what it is that makes our Maximum Critic so agitated about our anger and not Dawkins’s anger.

Greta has been wondering much the same thing about the Secular Policy Institute.

Does the “problem” of atheist leaders “getting media attention by causing controversy” include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Peter Boghossian, or any other fellows in your institute known for making controversial statements, both about religion and about other atheists? Also, does it include Michael Nugent, who in recent months has written 32 blog posts, totaling 75,000 words, criticizing PZ Myers? If not — why not? How do you decide which controversies are acceptable and which are not — and who gets to make that decision?

It’s actually more than 32; it’s 38 or 39 now, although 2 or 3 of those were more about me than about PZ. Since they’re around 4 to 5000 words each, it’s also way more than 75,000 words – though many of them are repeated over and over again, so it’s not that many original words. But you get the idea – 75k words is a very low estimate. Anyway – who is actually causing controversy around here? Is it really only those poopy Freethought bloggers?

No wonder the stereotype of a secular person is condescending and angry.

Do you have a problem with the image of atheists being condescending and angry when it comes to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Peter Boghossian, or any other fellows in your institute known for their angry, cutting criticism of religion?

That’s what inspired me to go look at RD’s Twitter.


  1. Holms says

    “Do you have a problem with the image of atheists being condescending and angry when it comes to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Peter Boghossian, or any other fellows in your institute known for their angry, cutting criticism of religion?”

    Not to mention Hitchens, who so well known for his utterly scornful putdowns that his responses were often dubbed ‘Hitchslap’.

  2. Maureen Brian says

    I don’t recall electing Dawkins or any of the others as my leader.

    The longer they go on like this the more they sound like the court of Louis XVI – just begging to be toppled.

  3. Blanche Quizno says

    The problem, dear Ophelia, is your tone. It’s too uppity O_O

    And that makes everything sound bad and wrong. Now, if you were only more properly meek and submissive, genteel, decorous, modest, accommodating, deferent – in short, more ladylike, you wouldn’t be attracting so much criticism. Because you wouldn’t be heard at all. Or see, except perhaps as a decoration 🙂

  4. Scr... Archivist says

    Isn’t this just about status? The high-status primates can be angry and rude to the low-status primates without challenge. But God forbid that the low-status primates forget to be polite and meek to their betters.

    Maybe we need some anthropologists (or sociologists?) to take a close look at the atheoskeptic “troop”.

  5. rorschach says

    To be fair to Richard, I don’t blame him for losing patience with creationists or other anti-evolution dumbfucks every now and then. All it takes for me to want to murder someone is one bunch of parents of unvaccinated kids in my clinic.

    The presumption about someone’s low IQ, ah well, he should know better, since he’s the guy who came up with the argument from personal incredulity, and making one doesn’t necessary mean you’re stupid.

    I find the whole “who is louder and more angry” discussion particularly ridiculous.

  6. screechymonkey says

    I look forward to the Executive Committee of Atheist Ireland disassociating itself from Tim Minchin.

    After all, in just a 2 1/2 minute song, Minchin:
    — uses the word “fuck” and variations thereof countless times;
    — admits to using “filthy language” and “disrespect” and actually defends doing so;
    — refers to the Pope as a “motherfucker,” a “bigot” and “self-aggrandizing,” and tells him to “fuck off”;
    — tells anyone who thinks the Pope is sacred, i.e. millions of Catholics worldwide, “fuck you”;
    — implicitly accuses the Pope of covering for rape, which is a crime, but the Pope was never convicted in a court of law of being an accessory to rape;
    — wrote a song about this crime instead of reporting it to the authorities

  7. rorschach says

    I look forward to the Executive Committee of Atheist Ireland disassociating itself from Tim Minchin.

    It might be quicker if any atheist on the planet who’s ever said fuck disassociates themselves from the Executive Committee of Atheist Ireland, who seem to have inhaled the pompous self-aggrandizing pheromones emanating from their chairperson.

  8. polishsalami says

    Richard Dawkins is one of the reasons I have my Trends permanently set on Korea.

  9. Wowbagger, Heaper of Scorn says

    I suspect the executive committee of Atheist Ireland agreed to the excommunication simply because they got sick of miserable, dreary Monsignor Nugent banging on and on and on and on and on and on about it to them.

  10. says

    To be fair to Richard, I don’t blame him for losing patience with creationists or other anti-evolution dumbfucks every now and then. All it takes for me to want to murder someone is one bunch of parents of unvaccinated kids in my clinic.

    I sympathize with him. It’s really fucking easy to lose patience with anti-science fuckheads. I recently waded into the GMO debate and… it actually made me miss debating with Creationists. I got called a shill for Monsanto and a fan of Ayn Rand… I’m a fucking Socialist. I’m like… the exact opposite of those two things!

    But nope. Because I’m pro-science, I’m suddenly an Objectivist and a shill for big corporations.

    And boy did I lose my patience with Creationists. I ragequit CARM years ago because… you know… CARM (the forums of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry).

    So yeah. I definitely get that. It’s damn near impossible to not lose your temper with idiots. If I had been in that debate against Ken Hamm, instead of Bill Nye, and Hamm had said that “we have this book” thing to me, the topic would have well and truly been lost as I screamed at him that he has no evidence that his precious fucking book is anything other than a collection of really shitty fairy tales (this is why I don’t do debates).

    But see, it’s okay to go after the anti-science idiots, because we’re pro-science. When PZ was eating blessed crackers, everyone was all “GO HIM”! But then PZ proved to be… you know… consistent, as well as aware of his privilege and not willing to truck bigotry, and of course that included atheist bigots, even the leaders.

    And now… suddenly PZ (and Ophelia, of course… and, really, Freethought Blogs and Skepchicks) is the problem. It was fine when y’all went after religious people and other anti-science idiots.

    Like… I notice Nugent has nothing at all to say about your posts on Islam, Ophelia, or PZ’s posts on Creationists. And, in terms of tone, they’re all the same. But now you’re going after the Thinky Thought Leaders who Think Thinky Things, and that’s, of course, a big terrible sin.

    So… you know…

  11. Lady Mondegreen says

    Why, it’s almost as if Michael Nugent’s tireless quest to rid Atheism of rudeness and condescension and Raise the Level of Discourse is really…not that at all.

    It’s almost as if Father Nugent’s real concern is protecting the atheist status quo.

  12. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    @ Maureen Brian #2 It’s funny you said Louis XVI because I was totally thinking of Marie Antionette* when Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, “the worst thing the Christian community can do to gay people is to not serve them cake when they want to get married”. (also a hideously untrue statement)

    It’s great that AHA is fighting radical Islam. It’s awesome that Richard Dawkins educates about biology and skillfully (usually) challenges religion. I guess it’s cool that the Secular Policy Institute wants to institute secular policies. But it is crucial for people to call them out when they’re (perceived to be) wrong. And they should do the same right back. Otherwise we’re no better than the catholic** church. Can’t publicly question the ‘leaders’, it makes us look bad.

    I grant that PZ crosses lines of diplomacy that I wouldn’t (as did Hitchens and does Dawkins, etc.), but I think he’s correct in his criticisms far more often than not. Since he is far from alone in his bluntness, it’s pretty obvious to me that the real problem is that he’s also willing to judge people on ‘his side’ when he sees something wrong. I don’t read these blogs because they’re controversial; it’s because I think these things are important and I tend to agree with you. If I wanted ‘shock jocks’, I’d go to the runny viscous substance pit.

    As with any contentious subjects in science, the current population argues with itself and most individuals get more set in their ways over time. Then as each generation eventually dies off, the next generations (hopefully) inherit the best arguments and data. The impartial judges are the reason to have the argument publicly. Religion also does this a bit, but the textbook is way out of date and there are many mechanisms to resist change. We are all wrong about many, many things. Which is also why immortality would be the worst possible thing for human progress.

    P.S. I’m willing to go on record. I, too, despise Fred Phelps and Rush Limbaugh.

    *Lengthy disclaimer: Especially since Ayaan Hirsi Ali is under a very real threat of violence, I thought it important to say,… I wish zero violence or harassment directed at AHA or others, even though I disagree very strongly with some of their viewpoints. I probably agree with a lot of her ideas but, even just because of her connection to the American Enterprise Institute, I know there’s a lot we would disagree about..

    **I’m willing to capitalize ‘Christian’ but not the rcc.

  13. Bluntnose says

    Dawkins can be acerbic, nobody has ever said otherwise. It is sort of his thing and I often find it annoying. But he doesn’t ever suggest that the people who disagree with him are therefore rapists, or OK with child abuse, or misogynists or any of the other tired personal smears. That is a big difference, it seems to me, and I am constantly surprised how many people don’t see it. Saying ‘your ideas are stupid’ is not a personal attack, a smear, or a libel.

    Having said that, I think Dawkins should moderate his language, especially in tweets, and this blog agrees with that. So even on its own terms the criticism in this post makes little sense.

  14. says

    Dawkins has done me a massive favour.

    5 years ago when I said said to my hippy dippy, new age-y, faitheist friends that I identified as an atheist, they would say that I identified with that obnoxious, arrogant and rude Richard Dawkins.

    Now I get to say “nope”.

  15. Rob says

    Blunt nose, who has accused someone of being a rapist for disagreeing with them. Be very specific, include a link, make sure the context accurately reflects that claim.

  16. Maureen Brian says

    What Dawkins et al do, which by my standards – yes, folks, I’m a socialist feminist atheist who uses “rude words” and I have standards! – is worse is that they demand to be treated as leaders because they say they are leaders. A useless project anyway but more damaging than any amount of boisterous argument among intelligent people who are trying to thrash out a number of important questions.

    Among the matters they refuse to address are – does this multi-faceted rabble want a formal leadership? does it need one? if it does then is the market driven hierarchical one best suited to the task? have they asked any other atheists? does trying to set up an authoritarian regime before you have secured the territory make sense? does it matter who they’re prepared to get in bed* with to further their hegemony? why go forward with this when even an averagely bright Christian can spot that there are so many questions unaddressed? why choose this particular set of averagely flawed people above any other? what are they getting out of it and is that fair to the rest of us? And so forth.

    I am driven back to Alexandra Kollontai who scared the wits out of Lenin with her assertion that until this revolution extends into the bedroom and into the kitchen then it is no revolution. (A paraphrase, not a quote.)

    Compared with all that unfinished business, is the telling of the story confided to him by friend in the way she wanted it told, as PZ did, really worth quite so many pixels, quite so many exploding synapses? Does it justify ever more frantic attempts to impose conformity? Should anyone who says they have left religion behind be using the punishment of excommunication?

    I say no!

    * see Stephanie Zvan

  17. Bluntnose says

    I am driven back to Alexandra Kollontai who scared the wits out of Lenin with her assertion that until this revolution extends into the bedroom and into the kitchen then it is no revolution.

    But was so blinded by her ideology that she stayed true to and kept serving a regime that destroyed everything she believed in and chewed up everyone who had the clarity of vision she lacked and the courage to oppose the tyranny she became part of.

  18. Maureen Brian says

    No, Bluntnose, she was always kept at the margins, as far away as possible from where Real Men were making Real Decisions. Just like the regime of Real Men they were in the process of overthrowing.

  19. carlie says

    I’m just wondering what it is that makes our Maximum Critic so agitated about our anger and not Dawkins’s anger.

    Because he says it with a posh British accent. That makes it all sound ever so much better.

  20. Bluntnose says

    Maureen, she was never at the centre, but she remained dedicated to the regime through all the horrors that destroyed her values and the people who were brave enough to stand up. She is no kind of hero.

  21. Maureen Brian says

    Bluntnose @ 20,

    I didn’t say that Kollontai was a hero. That’s your word. She was, though, a perceptive critic of exactly the deficiencies in male thinking that we are discussing to this day. So what happened to her after 1917? Ambassador to Norway, then shuffled of to the Women’s Department and later Ambassador to Sweden – the sorts of positions with high prestige and absolutely no power which many a woman living today and those reading this blog have painful experience of.

    (I recommend the proficient demolition of the whole idea of women’s issues – aka things men can’t deal with – given by Jason Katz in his TED talk – easy to find on google.)

    Anyway, where would she have gone if she’d walked out on the Soviet Union. Was the US, the UK, the next dozen developed countries you think of more receptive to her ideas between, say, 1917 and 1924? If she’d walked out on Stalin would she have survived? The evidence suggests not.

  22. Bluntnose says

    Maureen, she held high positions in one of the bloodiest and most pitiless regimes in human history and watched millions of women murdered and enslaved without demur because she couldn’t see past the limits of her ideology. What could she have done if she had resisted or walked out? I don’t know, but she could have avoided collaborating in evil at that scale.

    Whether or not she was a perceptive critic of male thinking pales into insignificance against the total lack of self awareness that allowed her to collude in mass murder, including the deaths of thousands of her ideological allies, hundreds of friends and colleagues and their families. If that is perceptiveness, I think we can do without it. If she had had more power, god only knows how much damage she would have done with it.

  23. Maureen Brian says


    Your fixation with how totally evil everything about the Soviet Union was is blunting your ability to even understand what I am saying.

    I doubt whether you’ll be able to handle these perfectly relevant questions but I’ll try. Are the acknowledged – by both of us – wrongs done by that regime so far out of line with anything else ever done by humans that we must consider every single citizen totally and equally guilty? Are they worse than anything else in history so that they exclude those who were there from the human species? Worse than Rwanda, worse than the Bengal famine, worse than the sectarian wars raging now in Iraq and Syria, worse than the Holocaust? Worse than slavery in the US? Sorry, but you cannot write off several hundreds of millions of people on that basis.

    And, of course, did the rise of Stalin have anything to do with who was let into the inner circles of decision-making and who was kept out? Which country won WWII despite its many and grievous faults?

    The UK and the pope are this week marking the Armenian genocide of 1915, where the numbers are smaller but the horror still resonates. We are all equally capable of these things and we need something better than boogeymen and the blame game to make such events less likely, to protect us all against leaders who set themselves up as Dictators who cannot be challenged.

    One of those things just might be to increase the diversity of those who make both political and policy decisions. So arguing that Kollontai was never near the centre and also that she was just as guilty as anyone else presents you with a logical hole into which you seem keen to fall. Could we try to get things in proportion.

    Where are you on Putin, that wonderful offspring of Soviet era training and the corruptions of turbo-capitalism? Could it be the style of leadership rather than the claimed underpinning ideology that’s to blame?

  24. Bluntnose says

    Maureen, your questions are strange. Kollontai was not just a citizen of the USSR, she was a high official, an active participant in the unbelievable savagery of that regime. It was not that she was kept out of the inner circles, but that the faction that she joined in the struggle to power lost. Nearly every other member of that faction was put to death. Ironically given the terms of this discussion some historians think that Kollontai survived precisely because she was a woman. Would she have made anything better if she had had more power? We can’t tell, although her desire to make all children the children of the collective to be collectively reared did not bode well in my opinion. All we know for sure is how she used the power she had, and that was to support a regime that was among the worst in human history, to collude in the murder, rape and enslavement of millions, a very large number of them women. Was this a crime worse than slavery in the US? Yes, by any measure.

  25. brucegorton says

    What gets me with Dawkins is his basic line is that we should treat religion the same way we treat everything else.

    Now people are complaining that we treat everything else the same way we treat religion.


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