What if the atheist movement needs to die?

I’m sure glad David Smalley and I are friends and fellow atheists, because he begins a post titled What’s Killing the Atheist Movement? by saying this:

Remember when our friends could be wrong?

I do. Lots of my friends were idiots growing up. Hell, I was that idiot a few times.

But we stuck by each other, we worked through our issues, and we grew together.

So he won’t mind at all when I say that the post is a string of obnoxious atheist cliches and that he’s dead wrong about everything. It’s all the same bullshit I heard over 5 years ago when assholes started harassing my friends, and random women and minorities, off the internet.

We’re supposed to keep our disagreements private.

Also, I have standards in my friends. I don’t mindlessly stick with them; there are things they can do that I would absolutely kick them to the curb over, that are not negotiable. This is as it should be. “Friends” is not a contract that requires me to abide the abominable.

Yes, we had fights. And that’s ok. But our fights were private, and were about the issues. Not public horrific Trump-like attacks because of a simple disagreement in method or opinion.

Not once, in my entire history of blogging (over a decade), or my entire history of internet interactions (going on 25 years or more) has anyone politely called me up to have a “private fight” about something. I can’t even imagine it happening. I’d probably look at my phone in disbelief and say, “Dude. Take it to the internet. We can take our time and write stuff with substance and put it on record, instead of babbling on ephemeral media.” But I’ve heard this suggested many times, publicly, on the internet, and usually by someone who fears they’ll get publicly eviscerated. And then it’s usually a prelude to the poor person who wants to make it “private” using the opportunity to publicly denounce the other person for being a poor sport, rude, and unwilling to settle a disagreement with a friendly game of tiddlywinks.

Then there’s the “our disagreement is so petty that you should back down for the good of the movement” approach.

When our “friends” on Facebook or Twitter make a comment that we find offensive or absurd, we are so quick to disown them and “take a public stand” immediately, that we’re fracturing our movement into a thousand tiny micro groups that will be useless against the larger powers we’re collectively fighting.

Who are these larger powers that justify silencing dissent?

There are two parts to this issue that I find difficult to handle.

One is that I hear this from the same atheists who like to tell me that the only thing atheists can unite and agree on is the trivial issue of whether god exists (He doesn’t. There, done with that!) So there is a substantial segment of the atheist community (which doesn’t exist, according to them) that wants you to shut up about anything other than the existence of a god…and the operative phrase is shut up. The nonexistence of deities is not a very useful or practical cause; I’m far more interested in the implications of an absence of a divine authority, specifically in how science and reason explain the nature of the universe, and how any moral action should be based in humanism. So right away we have a problem: merely fighting against a vague and unspecified faith isn’t useful, and many atheists refuse to discuss in any concrete way what they want to fight for.

The second part is that the things I think important are disparaged by these same atheists: feminism, equality, social justice. So when I encounter some dudebro atheist jerkoff spitting on feminism, you’re not going to persuade me to go easy on him in the name of unity over our shared agreement that god doesn’t exist. When someone declares their indifference to the murder of a transgender woman, I’m not going to resist the temptation to unfriend them on facebook because, gosh, we both laughed at an irreligious George Carlin routine.

I’m also not going to sit back and let someone else tell me what’s important to me, and trivialize the causes I consider essential, asking me to silence myself about misogyny or racism because darn it, this year we’re going to get “In God We Trust” off of our pennies.

I’m not saying to excuse all ridiculous behavior.

This is another example of trivializing: now the problems many of us see in the movement are merely “ridiculous behavior”. We are fractured because there are deep disagreements about how to address serious social issues. Worse, because some people won’t even accept the dehumanization of fellow human beings as something more substantial than ridiculousness.

But where’s our Humanism? Where are the private and personal phone calls to work things out?

What is it with the phone calls? I give my phone number to friends and family. The last thing I want is The Amazing Atheist to give me a ring so we can work out our differences, as if a phone call would fix anything. Where does this fantasy that differences in philosophy are best resolved over the devil’s instrument, the telephone, with a strategy, talking, that can be as godawfully bad as Twitter for engaging in depth.

The “phone call” ploy is just another silencing tactic. Don’t express your disagreement and your ideas where other people can see them, please put it on a private channel where I can ignore them.

When someone is being absurd on Facebook, and we dog pile that person, make fun of that person, and create little secret groups to demean that person, that sounds more like church than it does a bunch of skeptics.

“Absurd”. Someone can say something dehumanizing, violent, racist, anti-woman, and we’ll just tuck that into the category of the “absurd”, and then dismiss the protestations against it. We’re not talking about deep rifts in atheism over whether we favor Skittles over M&Ms. Pay attention to what the people leaving atheism are complaining about. They’re serious. This isn’t over jokes or trivia.

Also, what sounds to me more like church is demanding quiet deferral to authority and a conspiracy of silence, in the name of the sacred cause, to protect the powerful and popular.

This is all just the tired old “civility” debate rehashed again. Not interested. I’m also not interested in discussing nothing but the existence of gods with atheists, where that issue is already settled, especially when it’s used as an excuse to avoid grappling with substantial human concerns. Fuck civility when we’ve got atheists who think the humanity of women or transgender individuals or non-white males in general is something we need to debate.

Oh, excuse me, not debate — to phone people up and have a private conversation about.


  1. microraptor says

    By his own logic, he shouldn’t be talking about this publicly. Nor should he publicly fight against religious encroachment on peoples’ liberties. Or, you know, publicly do anything.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Hard reboot?

    Lay down a law saying “here, we treat human beings as *fucking human beings*, and if you think harassment and bullying is OK, you should just move to Britain and join the %&@ Tories*, because they treat people like shit, including *each other*, and will have no issues with you doing the same”

    *Also applies to Ayn Rand and her followers.
    We also have asshole movements in Sweden that will accept them, unless they have brown skin.
    Anti-semites should probably try groups in Hungary.

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I don’t care about discussing whether or not deities are imaginary, that is statement of fact and done there.

    Now, lets discuss the humanity and consequences thereof of everybody other than cis-white-male atheists, as it is an utterly important concept ignored by too many cis-white-males who call themselves atheists and humanists.

  4. bargearse says

    One thing that people like this guy have never explained to my satisfaction is exactly what makes atheism so all-consumingly important that every other issue I care about has to take a back seat to it. If their positions on other topics is causing actual harm why does atheist solidarity trump speaking out? It seems like messed up priorities to me.

  5. says

    Talk it out on the phone. Oh, I don’t think so. The amount of people who have my number is extremely limited, and I can’t even manage to talk for long with people I like and love. When did this phone as the solution happen? Might as well go classic, and start railing about how everyone should be super polite, get nice stationery and write the old fashioned, civil way.

    When our “friends” on Facebook or Twitter

    Mr. Smalley might have “friends”. I don’t. I have friends, and I have acquaintances. My friends have standards, and I have no problem holding them to those, and I expect them to do the same for me. If they abandon those standards, they are no longer a friend. I don’t worry much over losing, blocking, or dropping acquaintances who go full court asshole.

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    Smalley’s argument sounds something like the overly-sensitive child in a dysfunctional family:


    It doesn’t matter if mommy is sleeping around and daddy is an abusive drunk, he’s going to keep the atheist family together because… Reasons.

  7. ragdish says

    Many of you remember the famous debate between the “two Steves”:


    Pinker and Rose are both atheists and materialists. But one advocates culture and the other, biological determinism. They both were early examples of world view divergences among atheists. Movement atheism has only intensified the differences with the bigotry on the “Pinker”-side. And more and more splinter groups emerge. Instead of Pinker and Rose, we have Slymepit and Atheism-plus. Advocating a specific progressive atheist world-view adopted by all can not and will not ever happen. The Pinkers and the Roses will perpetually disagree, argue, quarrel, disenfranchise, etc. And each group will excise a member from the camp with justification eg. Carrier, Benson (who have their own splinter groups). To quote Agent Smith:

    “You hear that PZ?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of movement atheism’s death”

    The solution? I highly recommend realignment with those who share similar values be they atheist or not eg. Cornel West.

  8. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t think having basic standards of decency is a bad thing. It’s not like I’m sitting here, desperately waiting for the next thing to get outraged by, though. It recently turned out that a relatively prominent male feminist on twitter had, for quite some time, been using his relative stature in twitter feminist circles to harass relatively low status feminist women on twitter. I don’t think there were many people whose reaction was, “yes! At last! Someone to beat on!” I know mine wasn’t. The guy’s been ostracised, sure, but I don’t think that’s something people were sharpening their knives for, and it’s not exactly a bad thing. I’m sure it sucks for him, but his behaviour was, to put it mildly, shit. There was likely 98% agreement there, too. Women are human beings and should be treated as such? Check. Pay inequality on the basis of gender is unacceptable? Check. Sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable? Check. These rules apply to me as much as anyone else? Oops.
    There are definitely occasions when I’m willing to ditch people over a supposedly 2% disagreement. There are also occasions when it wouldn’t even occur to me. My girlfriend goes to ghosthunting events… I think that’s silly. I also think she’s lovely. I’m not going to call her out on social media and cut her out of my life because of that particular 2% disagreement. Hell, I’m not even going to hope to change her opinion on that matter over time, because, frankly, I don’t care. If she told me tomorrow that she’s opposed to equal marriage for gay people, however? I’m not sure I could still be friends with her. If she started adamantly denying that trans women deserve to be recognised as women, or started writing weird diatribes about how my being non-binary actually counts as an attack on her right to self identification by forcing her into a box*, we’d have issues. But that’s not where we disagree. We don’t disagree on basic ethical issues. Our disagreements are philosophical, and in some areas political, and we can have those disagreements without disowning one another. I’m not getting into fights with her over what I fully admit I see as ridiculous behaviour, nor would I instigate such a fight with anyone. It’s unethical behaviour I have a problem with, or expressions of support for unethical behaviour.

    *Actual article I read recently. It was quite sad, because it was written by a feminist philosopher, and it was clear she hadn’t made the slightest effort to understand the idea she was arguing against.

  9. hiddenheart says

    @ragdish: I’m not wild about your equivalencies, particularly the Slymepit/Atheism+ one. Let me offer another: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, it’s all just branches of one discipline, why make a fuss if you sometimes get supplies intended for the other part, right? Well, it turns out that the two branches use a lot of the same tools, and a lot of different ones. The differences really matter. Before you can pronounce an equivalency ready for public performance, you have to look at the actual content.

  10. screechymonkey says

    Amazing ThunderAtheist: Hey everyone, check out my 5,367th video on why Anita sucks!
    Dudebro1: Awesome! +1, favorited, and retweeted!
    Dudebro2: Dude, you TOTALLY DESTROYED her! Now here’s some money towards your 5,368th video!
    Dudebro3: This is why you rock and atheists like PZ suck — you’re willing to take on the REAL issues, like a woman criticizing videogames!
    David Smalley: (crickets)
    Sensible Atheist: Eh, I’m not that impressed by spittle-flecked misogynistic rants.
    David Smalley: HOW DARE YOU, SIR! Have you no manners? Look what you are doing to OUR MOVEMENT! Can’t we all just get along?

  11. consciousness razor says

    They both were early examples of world view divergences among atheists.

    Uh, what? Early atheists existed thousands of years ago, and they sure did have diverging worldviews. I’m just not entirely convinced that a decade or two ago is ancient history.

    Advocating a specific progressive atheist world-view adopted by all can not and will not ever happen.

    I guess you’re claiming it’s not the case that everyone adopts it, even when some clearly can and do advocate a thing. What is supposed to matter about that?

    It is the sound of movement atheism’s death

    Maybe it’s like the sound of one clapping. There isn’t anything to hear,* but some people sure do like to talk about it as if it were a thing that is heard.

    *No, slapping your palm with your fingers isn’t clapping.

    The solution? I highly recommend realignment with those who share similar values be they atheist or not eg. Cornel West.

    Is that supposed to be a restatement of the problem or a solution?

    It’s hard to imagine anybody who would find a recommendation like this useful. You’re saying I should “align” with the people I’m aligned with? Well, okay: mission accomplished.

    What if I shouldn’t be aligned with them, because one or both ought to change our views — you’re recommending that I align with them anyway? Or not? Besides, it seems like I’d probably be in a splinter group of one, according to this formulation, since I’m bound to have non-similar values about something no matter who the other person may be…. Maybe we could have a little specificity as to what type of recommendation is being given? But anyway, how would any advice like this make people less splintered, if we’re assuming that being splintered is a genuine problem that demands a solution? Isn’t diversity okay sometimes? What about people who have similar values, according to which this isn’t a problem? Should they be aligning or splintering or coalescing in some other way? Is any of this going anywhere?

  12. consciousness razor says

    The sound of one hand clapping, that is. But the number one doesn’t clap either, in case you were wondering.

  13. says

    Seems like friends ought to be able to publicly air shared concerns without fear of being told to shut up. And atheists ought to understand how to do “conflict without malice” but it does seem that some people just can’t handle criticism. Y’know what? A basic requirement for being an atheist is to be able to give and receive criticism. After all, atheists are implicitly or explicitly criticizing the religious all the time. And it’s often quite public. If some dictionary atheist can’t handle being told gently that they’re flying top-cover for a bad agenda, they should maybe try coloring books or some other hobby. Activism implies conflict. Then the next question is whether you can deliver and receive it well, like a decent human being.

    If I do a blog post in which I criticize capitalist leeches, then someone who complains that I’m maybe being a bit aggro to the leeches is either:
    1) disinterested and has an argument to present as to why I am wrong
    2) maybe smarting a little bit because I smacked them on one of their tail-segments
    3) maybe are a friend to leeches and kind of wants to be one someday

    But if someone posts a screed trashing, say, homophobes – I do a quick check to see if I’ve been doing any of that and if not it doesn’t apply to me and if so then I have some thinking to do. The remaining question is whether or not I was asked for strategic advice. If I was, I might offer suggestions and if I wasn’t asked I can find something else to do with my time.

    When someone else starts injecting themself over my shoulder and dropping cotillion advice on proper comportment I tend to figure they have a stake in my game. Because they usually do.

  14. leerudolph says

    *No, slapping your palm with your fingers isn’t clapping.

    Well, that’s ruined my day. A lifetime of practice, all for naught.

    …And in fact I see, consulting the Oxford English Dictionary, that the act must be performed with the palms of the hands. So even slapping the backs of your hands together (or the back of one with the palm of the other), or slapping the palms of your feet together, or slapping the palm of one hand on another body part, don’t count. I’ve frequently applauded one or the other (but not all…) of these ways (as well as the one you explicitly dismissed); but I haven’t been clapping at the time, apparently.


  15. consciousness razor says

    Well, don’t give linguists the credit for that. A bunch of johnny-come-lately reactionaries, if you ask me. You’re really being oppressed by musicians like me.


    A lifetime of practice, all for naught.

    It often comes down to quality, not quantity. Remember that, by convention, your hands will start in a separated position (you may need to consult a manual, or inspect your hands carefully, if you can’t get a grip on this). Once prepared in this way, you should use the traditional technique of moving them together until the palms collide. At sufficient (but not too extreme) velocities, that procedure will produce the needful sonorities for a clap. If you fall back into bad habits or forget some of the critical steps, it may just take some more experience working on the fundamentals so that eventually you won’t have think about them very much.

  16. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    *No, slapping your palm with your fingers isn’t clapping.
    Isn’t that commonly called a “golf clap”?

  17. consciousness razor says

    Obviously you’re not a golfer. I meant using the fingers on the same hand as the palm. That would be doing something with one hand, something which isn’t clapping.

  18. Hj Hornbeck says

    It’s all the same bullshit I heard over 5 years ago when assholes started harassing my friends, and random women and minorities, off the internet.

    This is what really gets me. Where was David Smalley way back then? How did he miss the long and ugly debates we had on the subject? It’s like he’s channelling Ron Lindsay and others from 2013:

    We seek to promote productive debate and discussion. We firmly believe open and candid discussion is the most reliable means of resolving differences of opinion and bringing about needed change. […]

    Of course we will disagree with each other on some issues, but we can do a better job of expressing our disagreements. We can resolve to avoid mischaracterizing the positions of others, relying on rumors as the basis for our opinions, and using inappropriate tactics such as guilt by association. Instead, we can give one another the benefit of the doubt, strive to understand the whole story, and de-escalate rhetoric to foster more productive discussions. […]

    When you hear that an organization or member of our community is doing something that you think is wrong or bad for the community, call and talk with them, find out what they are actually doing and why they are doing it. If you don’t have a phone number, send a private email and arrange a time to talk.

    We’ve already heard your advice, Smalley, and long since concluded it was well-meaning but ineffectual. Repeating the advice back to us only shows how little you know about the atheist/skeptic movement.

  19. tmink128 says

    Thank you. I am accused of creating an echo chamber / being too strident about my opinions nearly daily. I don’t have the time to hold anyone’s hand and coddle them into accepting reality. You’re either helping humanity or advocating for the status quo.

  20. Lofty says

    The personal phone call is the device where you believe you can make people think like yourself. When you argue with yourself, the voice you use inside your head is so wonderfully persuasive. So you then imagine that in a one on one situation that super persuasive voice of yours will cause your opponent to agree that your argument is truly a wonderful example of impeccable logic. Why don’t other people want to listen to such persuasive arguments?

    TLDR: Having a successful argument with yourself is no substitute for learning how to persuade other people.

  21. says

    ALL relationships are conditional. From lovers, to parent and child, to employee and employer, to atheist and atheist. And if you’re giving me a headache from my eyes rolling so much, yer gone.

  22. tkreacher says

    I haven’t had a phone in years.

    I guess I’m out of all conversations altogether.

  23. F.O. says

    Never debate unless it’s 1) public and 2) on record.

    Also, PZ, I was hoping you’d expand a bit more on whether the “atheist movement” needs to die or not, since so far you have been firmly in the camp of the “no”, if I understand you correctly.

  24. Intaglio says

    If bigots and haters are using a shared lack of belief in Magic-Man-in-the-Sky* to claim that their bigotry and hatred should be treated with courtesy then sod ’em. Their claim boils down to: “look how rational we are, we don’t believe in God(s) therefore our irrational and despicable prejudices are worthy of respect,” Making such claims only demonstrates that logical failures are not restricted to the religious.

    Keep on being the gadfly PZ!

    * “Magic-Man-in-the-Sky” may also refer to other deities, demons, spiritual essences, and “earth ray thought forces” with unspecified or unspecified sexual characteristics.

  25. rietpluim says

    I’ve always happily identified myself as a dictionary atheist and as an advocate for social justice, but boy, do my fellow dictionary atheists make it hard to maintain that position.

  26. Saad says

    Anyone want to call me to have a private fight about whether women should have human rights or whether black people should be leads in movies?

    I promise I won’t call you names because that would be dehumanizing.

  27. gijoel says

    I’m sure glad David Smalley and I are friends and fellow atheists

    Set sarcasm detector to British.

  28. gijoel says

    Isn’t this a rehash of the old ‘those atheist over there are much more polite and civil’ theist argument?

    Also people in the Gamergate community did pick up the phone. Mainly to threaten to rape the listener and their family to death with construction equipment. So yeah, no, not doing that.

  29. Anri says

    It’s quite possible Mr. Smalley believes his positions on things like human rights and basic dignity and suchlike are too unimportant for the public square. He’s welcome to hold that opinion of himself.

    He’s not welcome to hold it of me.

  30. says

    #25: My answer is still “NO”. But it needs some major refocusing.

    And if it can’t mature and be responsible about human rights and common decency, then yes, it would need to die, and we shouldn’t be hesitant about pulling the plug.

  31. says

    It’s all the same bullshit I heard over 5 years ago when assholes started harassing my friends, and random women and minorities, off the internet.

    Yep. There’s been a movement in atheism that’s been toxic for awhile, but has really stepped up its game in using passive terrorism and the threat of it to make people terrified that being an atheist who is also a minority or just being a minority who gets on their radar is going to get your life fucked beyond repair.

    Like, even if polite conversation was possible, how many would really want the various harassment movements that have coalesced around toxic atheism to have personal contact information and new vectors for attack when they already do enough damage with what little they got.

    Hell, this toxic atheism is why I don’t really hang out here that much anymore. Because being here as part of the community got me targeted by professional harassers and that started threatening what little life I’ve managed to scavenge. And it’s what makes it hard to put my atheism high up in my activism, because I feel this group has done so much to poison what that means culturally.

    This isn’t debate or “different fields” (sorry hiddenheart @11) anymore than anti-trans groups are another field to politely debate on trans people’s right to survive and exist or neo-nazi groups are another field to politely debate on race issues. It’s just a cadre of harassers and bigots that we fostered way too long in our community and which we are now paying the price for fostering, same as many fans of various nerd pursuits.

    SecretGamerGirl had a really good storify of the problem in nerd circles: https://storify.com/SecretGamerGrrl/creeps-aren-t-nerds-but-they-think-they-are

    And I think the problem is similar for atheism. Creeps for whom being an atheist just means you use scientific conspiracy theories instead of religious conspiracy theories to justify your bigotry. And who presumed it would always be a white male haven like the tech industry.

  32. parrothead says

    This isn’t surprising at all. This is what happens when you try to spread the umbrella of “atheism” to include other issues… you’ll have atheists that think differently and no longer fit under the umbrella you just expanded. You may not like “dictionary atheist”, but it is what it is. This isn’t an atheist problem. It’s a clash between people with varying views on social justices who also happen to be atheists. You’re trying to herd cats and can’t understand why the rats are laughing.

  33. parrothead says

    Pay attention to what the people leaving atheism are complaining about.

    What does this even mean… are they suddenly finding a god to worship?

  34. rietpluim says

    @parrothead – This is what happens when you try to spread the umbrella of “atheism” to include other issues… No, this is what happens when you dismiss the justified concerns of non-male and non-white fellow atheists.

  35. Saad says

    parrothead, #37

    What does this even mean… are they suddenly finding a god to worship?

    PZ used “atheism” here to mean atheist communities and groups, and social media accounts and blogs that have to do with atheism. I doubt he meant when critically thinking people get harassed by fellow critical thinkers and no one pays attention to their concerns, they become convinced of Apollo’s existence.

    This is what happens when you try to spread the umbrella of “atheism” to include other issues… you’ll have atheists that think differently and no longer fit under the umbrella you just expanded.

    If female football fans complained about the harassment and hostility they face by male football fans, would that be “spreading the umbrella of football to include other issues?”

    Another way of looking at it: If a book club had a bunch of members who said racist shit, calling them out on it is not “spreading the umbrella of reading books to include other issues”.

  36. Sastra says

    The nonexistence of deities is not a very useful or practical cause; I’m far more interested in the implications of an absence of a divine authority, specifically in how science and reason explain the nature of the universe, and how any moral action should be based in humanism. So right away we have a problem: merely fighting against a vague and unspecified faith isn’t useful, and many atheists refuse to discuss in any concrete way what they want to fight for.

    Here’s a small experiment for Mr. Smalley:

    I disagree. Given the continued high level of belief in God and the consequences of this, I think atheist apologetics are still very useful and practical — and it’s the area which happens to interest me the most. So dealing with the question “Does God exist” is where I personally choose to focus most of my time and energy. However, I certainly don’t think it’s the be all and end all of either atheism or the atheism movement, and I welcome and encourage those who work and advocate for feminism, equality, social justice, evolution, church/state separation, science, politics, humanism, etc. In fact, it would be useless and impractical if every atheist only dealt in atheist apologetics. Do what you’re good at; follow your passion; find your voice and use it.

    Now, let’s see what happens. Maybe I get banned.

  37. says

    I read that we’re supposed to have a two-minute hate for you first, Sastra, and then excommunicate you as part of the process of banning.

    I sort of agree that we still need to hammer at the continued nonsensical justification of belief in the public square, but I think saying “God doesn’t exist” is insufficient. People are believers for a reason, and if we don’t address causes and consequences of faith, and the effects and obligations of unbelief, we’re never going to make a dent on religion. We need to be able to say how atheism makes one a better person, more effective and efficient and purposeful in your actions, and that requires going beyond simply stating why we don’t believe in a deity.

    Unfortunately, the assholes are undermining any claim to atheism having the potential to make one a better person.

  38. nmcc says

    How anyone could align themselves with the odious Jerry Coyne solely on the grounds that he’s an atheist, is beyond me. This is a man who spends half his time lamenting the shortcomings of others in regard to how undemocratic they are, and the other half banning everyone from commenting on his cultish (there isn’t a single, dissenting comment anywhere to be seen) blog for either disagreeing with him or saying something he doesn’t like. He’s got it in for what he calls ‘the regressive left’ in this respect. Apparently, anyone who refuses to engage in dialogue with all manner of misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, critics of Israel, and so on, are ‘regressive’ leftists, while Coyne is merely exercising his democratic right when he prevents numerous people from commenting for no other reason than he can.

    I would rather be on the side of any number of religionists I can think off than be on the side of the hypocritical arsehole and whiney, duplicitous atheist weasel Jerry Coyne.

  39. chigau (違う) says

    Phone calls are too impersonal.
    Everyone should get together in person.
    Like at a conference.
    What could go wrong?

  40. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    I listened to Smalley’s podcast quite a bit a while ago and I may eventually try to catch up again. While I liked the show a lot, he has often been wrong about things and had to be corrected by his co-hosts. That said, when it’s explained to him why his notion was wrong, he’s usually willing to listen, so I’m thinking he could change his mind on this as well, to give him some credit. I think he is one of the few more prominent people among the internet atheist community who would be genuinely willing to try and understand (or at least that’s the impression I got from his earlier broadcasts, no clue how he would react here), unlike so many other people who already have their answer and will stick with it forever.

  41. says

    @nmcc #43

    there isn’t a single, dissenting comment anywhere to be seen

    Not true :). I dissented with him once, with relatively strong words -evidence- however I never got a response from him so I figure he has not read my comment at all.

    I did not read his blog at all for last two-three years or so, because he sided with assholes of all kinds in issues about feminism (despite paying lip service to it – just like Dawkins) and I decided that I can read about topics that interest me somewehere else. So I have no idea how the content of his blog and its comment section shifted over that time.

    If he uses the phrase “regressive leftists”, then I do not feel inclined to ever read anything by him again.

  42. Sastra says

    PZ Myers #41 wrote:

    I sort of agree that we still need to hammer at the continued nonsensical justification of belief in the public square, but I think saying “God doesn’t exist” is insufficient. People are believers for a reason, and if we don’t address causes and consequences of faith, and the effects and obligations of unbelief, we’re never going to make a dent on religion.

    People are believers for many reasons, including the ones they usually put front and center: “God exists” is a more reasonable explanation than the contrary, with loads of evidence and arguments to back it up. I don’t think we can really make a dent on religion unless we specifically address this in addition to making a case that “atheism makes one a better person” or what have you.

    Since most secular humanists admit that, for themselves, atheism was and is a rational conclusion — rather than a self-improvement project, method of coping, or search for a supportive community — treating believers as individuals with the same inherent respect for truth is not only to the point, but to a point effective, I think. We may leave so-called movement atheism in disgust (usually joining groups of NON-movement atheism,) but I suspect few of us show our displeasure by deciding that God exists after all. Believers would likewise look askance at believers who stopped believing because they were attracted to the effects and obligations of non-belief. Like us, they feel that shouldn’t be a deliberate, conscious, primary motivation. Or at least they seem to think they think that, which may amount to the same thing.

    If nothing else, the case against God needs to be readily available once social conditions improve enough or movement atheism improves enough for believers to be ready to consider alternatives. “Atheism” may indeed be embedded in an entire network of prior moral commitments, agreed — but it still needs to be approached directly through the question “does God exist?”

    And now I’m supposed to flounce off in a huff, complaining that PZ and the Hoard are hypocritical, whiny, closed-minded weasels.

    (Would it maybe count as contacting you directly if I wrote to your employer and asked them to give you the message? I don’t much want to come to Morris.)

  43. Pierce R. Butler says

    I read Smalley’s post at Patheos, and thought he was mostly carrying on about the built-in escalation of disagreements in “social media” as an exacerbator of interpersonal frictions.

    That far, he had a valid point (or so says someone who uses SM™ minimally), but he fumbled the ball entirely by using atheism and its internal conflicts as his primary (only? not worth the time to check) example.

  44. says

    #48: After you’ve been banned, don’t forget to visit one of the hater sites and tell them how eeeevil I am, and how unappreciative of your important insights!

  45. unclefrogy says

    Fuck civility when we’ve got atheists who think the humanity of women or transgender individuals or non-white males in general is something we need to debate

    there is simply nothing else to say other than to say that I will publicly disagree with anyone who starts spouting off that kind of crap. It is simply not in question in the 21st century of the common era !
    uncle frogy

  46. rorschach says

    I thought we concluded in 2010-11 that it needed to die. Nothing has changed AFAICS.

  47. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s still twitching.

    I’d drive a stake through its heart, but like all objectivists, it doesn’t have one.

  48. microraptor says

    Charly @47:

    He not only uses “regressive left” unironically, typically while patting himself on the back over how shockingly liberal he was in the 70s, he’s openly hostile to LGBT viewpoints, minorities, and anyone who dares to say anything that isn’t totally butt-kissing about Israel.

  49. nmcc says

    microraptor @ 55

    Yeah, “regressive left” has been Coyne’s favourite phrase for the last few months. He never passes an opportunity to slip it into his newest article, no matter how flimsy his complaints about the supposed undemocratic behaviour of others ‘on the left’. And all the while attacking and then banning (preventing his critics from replying, in other words) all and sundry. He’s a loathsome arsehole. Especially when you consider that his refrain to anyone that might oppose his views (not that they ever get the chance!) is invariably “If you don’t like my views, go to some other website”. (Oh, by the way, describing his blog as a blog, rather than as he prefers, as a website, is grounds in itself to ban you from commenting!) His attitude is little better than the most rabid Trump- supporting American nationalist: “If ya don’t like this country, buddy, ya can fuck off out of it and go live somewhere else”. I’d be hard pushed to say whom I despise the most, Coyne or the little rabid Trumpet!

    Incidentally, speaking of Israel, my reference to Israel in my comment above is slightly garbled. In the context. I meant to say supporters of Israel.

  50. microraptor says

    nmcc@ 56:

    I stopped reading his blog over a year ago, when he started with the Regressive Left On My Lawn! rants. Does he still insist on politeness but only ban detractors while letting his friends be as rude and profane as they want without penalty?

  51. says

    Ok, I’m a bit late to the party, so, like white women riding black men, I’m sure there is history and nuance I’m unaware of in this community, but to me Smalley’s post (I heard the podcast version) was a pretty reasonable call for, yes, civility. He may have known civility is a disgusting concept before he penned his thoughts, but it comes as a surprise to me as I read this blog and the comments. Perhaps it’s ridiculously old-school to the frog uncles and redheaded nerds of the modern day comment sections to consider respectful discourse a virtue.

    Myer clearly set up a straw man with his “I have standards for my friends” argument. Nothing in Smalley’s comments suggested the need to abide the “abominable” as PZ implies. (PZ feigned indignant surprise when David called him on this during the podcast interview.) Smalley never argued for silencing viewpoints or backing down from ethical positions. He never said being racist or violently anti-woman was just silly or absurd.

    Smalley’s examples were of misunderstandings being blown up into needless ad hominem attacks that destroy friendships. You know, “friends”…those people with whom you have a relationship build on standards. David is merely suggesting that we reach out and have direct communication before cutting ties. If anything, Smalley’s piece was a bit obvious and trivial, but it seems to have touched some raw nerve in PZ’s psyche to have set him off on such a “Fuck civility” rant.

    I’ve listened to Dogma Debate for about a year now and have been impressed with Smalley’s ability to converse with a diverse set of people. The show with Myer was among the least pleasant I’ve listened to. Myer seemed completely unable to hear Smalley’s points, simply repeating over and over that there are REAL DIFFERENCES that can’t be smoothed over with a phone call. Yes, PZ, and that’s not what we’re talking about. Myer sounded more like a closed minded fundamentalist Christian than a free thinker. Fuck that.