Pressworthy controversy and sour grapes

The New York Times has what I consider a skewed but also personally flattering summary of the Secular Humanist convention. Skewed, because it focuses rather more on the disagreements on tactics that were on display, but weren’t really the focus of most of the discussions — it was actually an amicable meeting. Personally flattering, because it dwelt more on that firebrand Myers (my full remarks are on the record) than was actually deserved. It read as if I were flailing among the dissenters, smiting the impure atheists with the jawbone of an ass, when I was really one among many in diverse discussions.

I’m going to take it as favorable coverage, though, because the conclusion does accurately convey my views.

Mr. Myers and other “confrontationalists” surely do alienate some potential Christian allies. But they may also give comfort to people like Claire, who feel like an invisible minority. Mr. Myers is way out of the closet as an atheist — proudly, outrageously so. We’re here, he’s saying. And we don’t believe. And we have science and reason on our side. Get used to it.

Yay, me.

Not everyone is happy, though. Matt Nisbet calls inviting me a “strategic blunder”, whines about me being a “bomb-thrower” and compares my readers to “libertarians” (!) and the Tea Party movement, and also uses his vast “framing” skills to mischaracterize the discussion in the most misleading possible way.

On one side, “accommodationists” argue that non-believers should build bridges with others around shared values in order to work on common problems such as climate change and failing schools. On the other side, “confrontationalists” argue that they should close ranks and engage in relentless attack and ridicule against all forms of religion, a Holy Grail pursuit to eliminate religious faith from the world.

That last bit? Completely wrong. But then, Nisbet doesn’t care — he’s built his whole career on spin and avoiding uncomfortable truth…he really ought to be selling soap. Although that probably wouldn’t work out so well, since he’d just spend all of his time complaining about those annoying people flaunting their good hygiene, and suggesting that maybe we ought to aspire to more rapprochement with filth.

The good news, though, is that I’m finding it hard to imagine a more irrelevant kibitzer than Matthew C. Nisbet.