And she sounded so nice on the phone

The story Barbara Bradley Hagerty cobbled together from interviews with atheists is now up. It’s called “A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists“, and it’s very strange. Her emphasis is on the differences within the atheist community, and she makes it sound like atheism is about to blow apart into a collection of warring sects, just like religion, and offers scornful quotes about how the New Atheism offers nothing.

That’s not the message I gave when she interviewed me, but maybe she got it from the others. Or maybe it’s what she wanted to hear.

I told her a number of things. I said that atheism doesn’t have a central dogma or doctrine, so of course we have a variety of different views under the catch-all category of atheism; and that is a strength of our ideas, that we can freely argue among ourselves. I also explained that we need a variety of approaches to appeal to a wide range of people, and that my personal belief was that we should encourage a thousand flowers of godlessness to bloom, all different.

As to the charge that atheism is a purely negative philosophy, I also said that wasn’t so: that it’s a rejection of old dogmas and superstitions, sure, but that it’s built on the positive value of rationalism and materialism, and scientific thinking. We adopt moral values from humanistic ideas that are centered on stuff that actually exists, like other human beings, rather than imaginary commands from an invisible man in the sky.

She also asked about Paul Kurtz, who does sound rather bitter in the sound bites used in the interview. I think Kurtz is a smart guy, and he has made and is making significant contributions to atheism, and I told Hagerty that I respected him…but that he’s only part of the atheist mosaic, not the totality of it. And the same goes for people like Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris and Dennett.

None of that mattered, I guess. She had the goal of making a story that put atheism in a bad light, so she picked a version that made us look like schismatics on the verge of a Thirty Years War. If there’d been some kind of alien unity among us, she probably would have made a story about our intent to crown Richard Dawkins pope. Oh, well. She’s wrong.