Here’s what’s going to kill atheism dead in its tracks


Atheists who can say it’s “refreshing” and that Trump is “the least religious president to occupy the White House since Thomas Jefferson”, and that that is a positive progression. Also, that the atheist saying such nonsense is Michael Shermer, who still has a following.

He’s careful not to claim Trump as a fellow atheist, fortunately, but instead thinks it’s great that he such a shallow, ignorant follower of vague religious impulses that it makes him more representative of the electorate.

The president’s distance from religion is hugely refreshing. It also makes him more traditionally “American,” in at least one respect, than any other modern president.

But the Religious Right claims him, and voted for him, and why? Because they’re really good at projection, viewing him as one of their own, or at least working towards a common goal. Sound familiar? That’s because Shermer is doing the same thing, looking at an incompetent narcissist and projecting his own views on to him, which actually isn’t much of a stretch. Another way of looking at it is that it isn’t religion or lack thereof which allows some people to see Trump as reflecting their perspective, it’s self-centeredness.

Shermer also sees this as a positive trend towards greater secularization.

Trump was elected president despite being the least religious major candidate in the 2016 field. Looked at this way, Trump isn’t the evangelicals’ savior. He’s just another data point in America’s long march away from religion.

Trump pandered openly to the Religious Right. He got the endorsement of James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell Jr. He is against women’s right to choose, and wants to shut down Planned Parenthood. He’s a racist who appoints racists to positions of power. He’s a temperamental militarist. He despises science and wants the phrase “climate change” expunged from our scientific institutions. He has Betsy Devos working to dismantle our educational system. He appointed as Vice President a Christian dominionist and patriarchal tool who dreams of oppressing the LGBTQ community.

What, in all that, sounds like a march away from religion?

Meanwhile, of the other major candidates in the last election, Hillary Clinton seems to be a sincere church-going Christian, but it was not an issue in her campaign, and she did not advocate for issues that would endear her to religious conservatives. Bernie Sanders is Jewish, his religion was downplayed, and said he was “not particularly religious” and that “I am not actively involved in organized religion”.

Yet Shermer claims that Trump was the least religious candidate? Bullshit.

Furthermore, if a Donald Trump is the result of increasing the secularization of our political leaders, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to promote more secularization. I don’t think he is at all representative of secular, non-religious, or atheist ideals — and it’s flaming idiocy to claim he is — but it’s the kiss of death to claim him as one of our own.

It also doesn’t help that atheism seems to self-select for horrible people as their chosen spokesmen.

Comments

  1. jambonpomplemouse says

    Makes sense. The self-declared rationals of the internet love Trump (and most fundamentalist Christian values, quite frankly, such as anti-feminist, anti-diversity, status quo thought policing, etc) and Shermer knows where his bread is buttered.

  2. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    An incompetent narcissist with a history of beyond skeevy behavior likes an incompetent narcissist with a history of beyond skeevy behavior?

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

    It’s funny… I’ve long been a supporter of the idea of women in premiership positions, and one of the most common criticisms of that stance is that if you support someone based solely on their gender, you’re absolutely missing the point of the office. I do actually agree with that criticism – I’m appalled that Theresa May is our Prime Minister in the UK, and I would be horrified if Marine Le Pen ever became President of France. I can’t help but feel that the same criticism applies to religiosity in leadership. Would I like to see a leader who isn’t religious? Yes. Would I like to see it at any cost? No. Trump may be the least religious US President since Jefferson, but he isn’t the least sectarian, and he isn’t the most competent, or the most rational, or the most concerned about the welfare about the people of the US or the rest of the world. Personally, I would rather see a fundamentalist Christian who met the rest of those criteria than Trump, and I find it disheartening – though not particularly surprising – that Shermer seems to value an apparent lack of religiosity over secular values, competence and decency.

  4. says

    In the case of the Tiny Tyrant, “least religious” doesn’t mean one damn thing. He’s perfectly willing to pretend to be an evangelical christian, and he’s more than willing to promote actual evangelicals (Pence, Gorsuch), and he’s more than willing to give them whatever the fuck they want.

  5. arresi says

    Oh, come on, you can absolutely be a non-religious racist, sexist militarist who doesn’t believe in climate change. I mean, you can become an atheist without ever accepting any particular scientific consensus – we make jokes about how most religious people don’t believe in most of the gods ever described, and we just carry that one step further. There’s probably a ton of ex-religious atheists who lost faith first and then learned the scientific consensus about the universe. Heck, I was raised by atheists, so I would probably have said I didn’t believe in god well before I learned the scientific consensus.

    Frankly, less persecution and not having to stop being a jerk to other people is probably increasing the numbers of openly non-religious people. I’ve put up with enough atheist trolls elsewhere to be pretty confident that atheism doesn’t have a thing to do with civility, egalitarianism, or compassion.

  6. kellym says

    I started to *really* back away from organized atheism when David Silverman came out as a CPAC Republican (who claimed to not actually vote Republican because their pro-religion anti-atheism stance hurt him personally). He stated he went to CPAC because he wanted to “fix” the problem of them losing votes because of their social conservatism. I noted that Silverman did and still does not begin to give a fuck about the victims of conservative Republican policies. Here was an atheist leader spending a significant part of his precious mortality actively working to make my life, and the lives of pretty much every human I care about, worse in every way he could. American Atheists either did not attend CPAC this year, or kept it quiet. I think this is because Silverman is a coward either way. Funny, he was SO proud of attending CPAC in previous years, and last year touted his being featured in the Samantha Bee Full Frontal CPAC piece. I congratulate his victory in doing what he could to get a fellow conservative Republican elected president. Now I’m working my ass off to help the victims of conservative Republican policies, and I’m grateful that Silverman helped me realize that identifying as atheist is not that important to me.

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

    45 is THE MOST religious POTUS ever. He worships himself at the Solid Gold alter he builds for himself and puts temples to himself all over. He even decorates his temples with portraits of his god, paid for with money he received as donations to his fund for charity. Sounds pretty religious to me. shist.
    ?

  8. says

    I’ve never been a Shermer fan. I can’t say that this surprises me.

    As for killing atheism? Atheism isn’t a thing, so there’s nothing to kill. There are atheists, but they do not constitute a movement.

  9. dhabecker says

    Is the hand Trump put on the bible during his oath, the same one that grabbed the pussy? That’s how religious he is. Let’s talk about how well he ‘uses’ religion; he tops the best of them, like Graham, Falwell, and Copeland.

  10. numerobis says

    PZ, every time you harp on about how atheism is going to die because of certain assholes, I start to think that you’ve reconstructed atheism in the precise image of a christian church. You see it as a place were people should learn moral teachings, learn that other places have bad moral teachings, and importantly a place where you and your coreligionists can plan on how to convert others to your cause. You elevate certain people as being somehow more important than the masses, and you harp against their moral failings. And in particular you argue how awful it is that their moral failings are going to hurt the sacred institution.

    I have no interest in joining this church. Why should I? By its very structure it’s doomed to repeat the failures of every other such institution ever created — and as you point out, that’s exactly what’s going on!

  11. says

    Here was an atheist leader spending a significant part of his precious mortality actively working to make my life, and the lives of pretty much every human I care about, worse in every way he could.

    This, a hundred times over. I’m not going to ignore how his behavior affects other people simply because he’s an atheist.

  12. says

    It’s a perfect example of a cognitive bias in which people assume that someone who’s their friend on one issue, is their friend on many issues. Shermer ought to know better.

    Trump made sure to be in a position of power such that he could do whatever he wanted and get away with it. Shermer’s just envious.

  13. says

    More to PZ’s point: this is why I avoid “movement” dynamics – if you’re a “movement” you wind up with leaders, and some of them are going to be skeevy opportunistic creeps who are just coat-tailing the movement to get attention, sex and money and adulation. Having a “movement” with “horsemen” or “leaders” or “spokespeople” means owning the Dawkinses, Harrises, Shermers, and in the long run it’s less efficient to spend time distancing yourself from them, than it is to not acknowledge them as leaders in the first place. “Oh, he doesn’t speak for me. I think he’s probably on the right track, but we’re not a ‘movement’ and he’s certainly not my spokesperson.” If you think about it, “leaders” are only valuable to a “movement” (and “movement” itself is only valuable…) in the context of organizing to push a certain agenda. If you’re going to be pushing for legislation, then you need leaders (for the pushing) or if you’re forming a government, marching against injustice, etc. – but overall, Big Leaders are only valuable if you’re doing something that needs that level of organization. Something like atheism: all we need is a general turning away from religion, and it’ll take care of itself. We can each push in our own direction in our own way, and as long as we’re all more or less pushing the same direction, there’s no need for leadership.

  14. says

    @10, Neil Rickert

    There are atheists, but they do not constitute a movement.

    Not all of them, perhaps. But here is an atheist movement. There are indeed activists and organizations, etc.

    I suspect you’re getting caught up in some semantic superstitions regarding the word “atheist”, and maybe it would help if you thought about what movements are, and how they can be composed of anyone for any causes.

    @12, numerobis

    Political struggles (and potential problems they might face due to ideological clashes, like clashes between Shermer-types and PZ-types) are mundane things, PZ doesn’t have to imagine some church into existence in order to perceive them.

  15. says

    @16, Marcus Ranum

    Damn, I think you’re too valuable to waste yourself as a lone wolf :(

    I’m not sure how what you’re proposing can reduce the problems you’re trying to avoid. Especially since you can’t ensure that everyone will take the same approach you do…which is exactly what happened. They did it without you anyways. You weren’t able to stop it.

    And I’m pretty sure the opposite is true: think of how much time and energy would be wasted if every individual had to start from square one themselves. That’s the ultimate lone wolf approach. Operating more and more as a larger whole has all kinds of benefits. Redundant toil can be eliminated. Human happiness can be increased simply by making it easier to find like-minded friends. For both fun, and serious care for each other.

    And think: leaders only stand out because there are few of them. Which means they mostly exist in situations where we are still relatively close to the lone wolf approach. The more people make their own sub-movement that is suitable to themselves (rather than staying lone wolves while the hungry leaders exploit the disparity), the more that shatters into all the unique varieties there really are.

    Unless there hardly even are any different varieties…in which case, it doesn’t matter if you have leaders, because people will get a sense of what your demographic is like anyways. And in that case it will amount to the same perception.

  16. says

    Once again, WHY ARE PEOPLE ATHEISTS? Why do they identify as atheists? For some it’s simply because they don’t believe in gods, but they haven’t examined their own reasoning. It’s always something more.

    For some of us, it’s because we accept science and the natural world. People can reject science while also rejecting gods, but they better have a decent substitute for the science part. People like Shermer and Trump are dogmatics, no better than the religious frauds we generally oppose.

  17. weylguy says

    Shermer is a devout libertarian, who I tend to view as former evangelicals who have abandoned one god for another, which is money, materialism and fame. I have several friends who fit that mold perfectly, and they all voted for Trump. But I have even more friends (and many family members) who are devout Christians who also voted for Trump.

    All this business of mixing religion and the love of war and money with anti-science and anti-reason is having a serious impact on my sanity. Myers may feel the same way, and his outlet is ranting, but in the meantime things are just getting worse. Perhaps a good all-out nuclear war with China and Russia will resolve the problem — that’s how far my mind has gone.

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

    @weylguy
    Nah, we’ve got nothing to worry about there. Trump is the one who’ll reduce tensions with Russia & China, remember? He’s not going to be interventionist at all, it’s gonna be fine. And also great. And also yuge.

  19. screechymonkey says

    He’s careful not to claim Trump as a fellow atheist,

    That would require that Shermer identify as an atheist himself, which to my recollection he’s been rather coy about over the years.

  20. Zeppelin says

    I’m an atheist because no-one taught me that religion was “real” when I was little, and I found the proposition unconvincing once I learned that people actually believed those stories. And my worldview is naturalistic because I got a good education. I was never in a position of constituting my identity in opposition to religion, which seems to be the typical American atheist experience.

    I still don’t think atheistic social justice movements should label themselves by their atheism. All this does is muddy the terminological waters and cause them to be publicly associated with everyone who happens to also not believe in gods, no matter how far removed from the movement’s actual ideology they are.

    It’s presumptuous towards people who are atheists but don’t share their views (or don’t want to be appropriated by a “movement” even if they do approve of it in general, like me), and a poor tactical decision because it means your reputation can be tainted by people who actually have nothing (relevant) in common with you, like Michael Shermer. At this point the salient, identity-generating part is surely the social justice, not the atheism. Otherwise why would the atheist community be undergoing schisms DEEP RIFTS along exactly that line?

  21. Zeppelin says

    In other words, I “identify” as an atheist for exactly the same reason I “identify” as a German and a linguist and an occasional vegetarian: Because that is what you commonly call those things, and I see no reason to object to the term. It’s not a performative choice of identity, it’s just a label to concisely describe an aspect of myself. What “more” does there need to be?

  22. dhabecker says

    To be an atheist, all you need to do is not believe in any god. End of story.
    Oh, and live in a society with rules and enforcement so that your fellow citizens don’t kill you or otherwise discriminate against you for your non-belief.
    Oh, and have like-minded friends in sufficient number to push back against those who would change those rules. Maybe you become an activist. Damn! It was supposed to be simple.

  23. consciousness razor says

    Marcus Ranum, #16:

    Having a “movement” with “horsemen” or “leaders” or “spokespeople” means owning the Dawkinses, Harrises, Shermers, and in the long run it’s less efficient to spend time distancing yourself from them, than it is to not acknowledge them as leaders in the first place. “Oh, he doesn’t speak for me. I think he’s probably on the right track, but we’re not a ‘movement’ and he’s certainly not my spokesperson.”

    But that’s just something you say, as if it were some bullshit magical incantation. Whatever it might mean (which isn’t clear, by the way), what good is that sort of thing supposed to do?

    Here’s a claim, which looks like it’s supposed to be a statement of fact: there is no atheist movement (or several such movements). Do you actually believe that’s true? Or not? Are you making a different claim, that you think there is some such thing and that you are not a part of it? I mean, I’m not a part of the Moon, yet here I am and there it is….

    When we point to all of the Dawkinses, Harrises, Shermers, etc., as well as all of the organizations/events/etc. associated with them in one way or another … then what exactly are we pointing at, if it isn’t an atheist movement? What sort of features am I supposed to look for, which makes that thing not-an-atheist-movement and instead makes it something else (since in any case we can point at it, whatever it is)? Would it make sense to think that anything like “Marcus says so” makes a substantial difference here? Is there a reason we should have to ask you, as opposed to anyone else? How can others look at all of the facts and reach similar conclusions?

    To come at this from a different angle…. “less efficient” for what? What are you trying to do over the long run, which you want to do efficiently? (And what if I’m not trying to do that?) It might seem “efficient” to just directly contradict somebody on the facts — that could at least stop the conversation fairly quickly, if your interlocutor doesn’t feel like pressing the issue — but what if that’s not actually what you wanted to do? What if your interlocutor doesn’t eat up that bullshit so easily, in which case the conversation hasn’t ended so quickly, meaning you haven’t even managed to do that (yet).

  24. mnb0 says

    “The president’s distance from religion is hugely refreshing.”
    Then rather give me an unrefreshing religious president like Jimmy Carter.

  25. says

    Michael Shermer has never really been a leader of the atheist movement. He is a leader of the skeptical movement, which is a separate phenomenon. Historically, the skeptical movement has had a mixed relationship with atheism, with most supporters being atheists, but many people arguing that atheism was beyond the scope of their movement. I used to be interested in organized skepticism, but I moved on to other things.

    @People who don’t think an atheist movement exists: You’re ignoring a whole dimension of analysis. I mean, if you don’t like having leaders that’s one thing, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny what is in front of you.

  26. consciousness razor says

    Zeppelin:

    I still don’t think atheistic social justice movements should label themselves by their atheism. All this does is muddy the terminological waters and cause them to be publicly associated with everyone who happens to also not believe in gods, no matter how far removed from the movement’s actual ideology they are.

    Doesn’t this also apply just to plain, vanilla, garden variety “social justice movements”? People are going to be associated with those, no matter far removed they are from an atheistic ideology or a religious ideology, since all you’ve done is simply refrain from saying anything about any religious issues…. As if somehow that had nothing to do with social justice. It looks like those waters are awfully muddy. How are we supposed to clear that up?

    The strange part is that you already came up with a formulation that makes a coherent distinction. It doesn’t seem like there’s any trouble talking about atheistic social justice movements, as well as theistic ones, since those adjectives certainly look and sound like a meaningful part of the descriptions of those things. There are also atheists involved in a type of atheism which isn’t promoting social justice (or is actively hostile to it), just as there are religionists who do likewise. So the second half about that is also a functional and important feature of the various social groups we’re talking about. So what’s the problem?

  27. starfleetdude says

    Atheism as a philosophical movement is nonsensical, as it’s a negation. Say what you may about Shermer, but being a skeptic is a theory of knowledge that has a methodology. You can’t be an atheist without being a skeptic.

  28. says

    The Politico article disappeared. Did they take it down for some reason?

    As far as the article goes… well, it’s funny that people like Shermer accuse liberals of focusing on identity politics instead of more important issues, but here we see Shermer focusing purely on Trump’s personal religious outlook while ignoring any of his substantive positions. I guess identity politics are only acceptable when it’s *your* identity, eh, Shermer?

  29. Saad says

    The president’s distance from religion is hugely refreshing.

    *looks at his VP*

    *looks at his AG*

    *looks at his Energy Secretary*

    Hehe, rapey atheist white dude being silly again

  30. consciousness razor says

    Atheism as a philosophical movement is nonsensical, as it’s a negation.

    – It is the case that there are fruit trees.
    – It is not the case that there are fruit trees.

    The second one is “nonsensical”? Why? What if I phrased them differently?

    – It is not the case that dividing the whole world into things that are fruit trees and things which are not fruit trees gives the same as the world without such a division. (Because there are fruit trees.)
    – It is the case that dividing the whole world into things that are fruit trees and things which are not fruit trees gives the same as the world without such a division. (Because there aren’t any.)

    Now, the whole first statement is “a negation,” while the second one isn’t. So what’s going on? They’re all nonsense? You seem to be implying the statements are both nonsensical and not nonsensical (by virtue of being “a negation,” as if that were a persistent property), since the previous versions are logically equivalent to the latter ones, yet you presumably had no problem with at least one of them. That’s a contradiction. You’re saying “P and not P,” which certainly is nonsense, if saying something is nonsensical is supposed to mean anything at all. But saying “not P” by itself (or “P” by itself if that’s how it goes) certainly isn’t like that.

    Maybe you should start over…? What’s the idea supposed to be?

  31. consciousness razor says

    You can’t be an atheist without being a skeptic.

    Buddhism, Scientology, Raelism, Bigfoot, Nessy, and on and on and on and on…. The point is, you can believe there are no gods, and fail at skepticism in a million different ways. If you can fail at skepticism in a million different ways and still “be a skeptic,” then it doesn’t mean shit to “be a skeptic”.

  32. starfleetdude says

    @35

    I’m obviously tired, and shouldn’t be doing this right now, but what the heck. I don’t think of atheism as a philosophy or a mode of thought, but a conclusion about the validity of theism. (I’m an atheist because of this, that, and the other thing.) Skepticism is a way of approaching a claim with respect to judging same, but skepticism isn’t itself a philosophy. (My skeptical toolkit is stocked with tools I bought from David Hume’s philosophy store.) Naturalism is the philosophy I find most useful when addressing questions about the universe, and science is grounded in naturalism.

    How’s that for starters? ::yawn::

  33. consciousness razor says

    I don’t think of atheism as a philosophy or a mode of thought, but a conclusion about the validity of theism. (I’m an atheist because of this, that, and the other thing.)

    Meanwhile, a theist can say that they have a conclusion about the “validity” of atheism, because of this, that and the other thing. They’re the negations of each other, at all of the various points where they disagree. That itself doesn’t constitute a logical problem for either of them, as long as we’re not claiming that both are correct … which would be a silly thing to do.

    I don’t know what you mean by a “mode of thought,” and I don’t have a way of telling whether or not it should count as one. Is that really what we’re looking for here — a mode of thought?

    It’s an ideology in the sense of a system of ideas, and it can be a coherent one in the sense that altogether those things can paint a coherent picture of what the world is like, what happens in it and what doesn’t, which is important information to have if you’re going to understand it or do anything about it (to draw conclusions, make it better or worse, and so forth). That picture may not have every single last detail in it (who has the time to do that anyway?), but it nevertheless is very detailed and very useful. Were you expecting to get something more or something else?

  34. starfleetdude says

    I don’t know what you mean by a “mode of thought,” and I don’t have a way of telling whether or not it should count as one. Is that really what we’re looking for here — a mode of thought?

    In my current sleepy free-associative state, I conflated something I heard about science fiction recently – that SF isn’t a genre with defined characteristics, but a mode of thought – that is a way of thinking and approaching a subject. One succinct way to say this is to ask the question: What if this goes on? (Of course that came from Heinlein’s story If This Goes On – where Heinlein made use of a scientific toolkit to tell his story.)

    I wish I could come up with something more formal and rigorous. Sorry.

  35. says

    @starfleetdude,
    I don’t see what being a “philosophy or mode of thought” has to do with being a movement. I don’t consider civil rights to be a “mode of thought” but there was still a civil rights movement. I don’t consider LGBT to be a “mode of thought” but there is still an LGBT movement.

    We must distinguish movements from the identities and ideas they’re named after. Consider: I support civil rights, but I’m not part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s because I’m in the wrong decade. Not every LGBT person is part of the LGBT movement, and some even work against it. Likewise, not every atheist is part of the atheist movement. The views of the movement aren’t defined by any philosophical definition of atheism, they’re defined by the views of the participants.

  36. Zeppelin says

    consciousness razor:

    To be clear, when I say that atheistic social justice movements “shouldn’t label themselves by their atheism” I mean that they shouldn’t be called things like “Atheism+”, or claiming that sexist/racist/politically apathetic/whatever atheists are somehow “bad” at being atheists while they are “real” ones. To pretend that their social views are the only logical and reasonable outcome of disbelief in gods and therefore Atheism Proper, when in reality atheism by itself is perfectly compatible with a wide variety of thoroughly abhorrent views. I don’t mean that they should pretend that atheism isn’t part of their ideology, or be quiet on religious issues.

    So my problem is that
    1. I want to be able to refer to my lack of god-belief without implying that I am also a member of some particular movement, which I won’t be able to if PZ gets what he wants, and
    2. I see no actual advantage in trying to redefine (or broaden, if you want) the term “atheism” to include social justice advocacy, when we already have a perfectly good name for that (“social justice”) and it leads to atheistic social justice advocates getting conflated with people like Michael Shermer, who only share their atheism and not their other views.

    I think using the term “atheism” in this politically charged way is arrogant towards atheists outside the movement, confusing for “outsiders” as well as “insiders” trying to communicate with them, and has no actual propagandistic advantage for the movement over a more honest, more descriptive name.

    The term “atheist” has plenty of baggage already and I really don’t think we need to add any more, be that by allowing it to be poisonded by association with hyperskeptic dudebros OR by letting it be usurped by a political movement, even one I happen to agree with. That’s all.

  37. says

    Fine. So you want to be an atheist without all those annoying expectations of being a decent human being at the same time.

  38. Zeppelin says

    PZ: I want to be an atheist without the expectation being that I must be a decent human being because I am an atheist, correct. Not because I don’t want to be decent human being, but because being a decent human being does not logically follow from atheism. I like to think I am a reasonably decent person, and very little of that has to do with my atheism.
    You shouldn’t tack your preferred ideology onto one label that happens to apply to you, like “atheist”, then claim that this label now refers to your ideology as a whole. I sympathise with your goal of taking over a fairly useless, narrow movement like organised atheism and turning it into something useful with a broad social impact. I just think calling the result “atheism” is weird and misleading.

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

    Not because I don’t want to be decent human being, but because being a decent human being does not logically follow from atheism.

    Isn’t that what the + is about? “Atheism… and also this thing which is not automatically implied by the word atheism”?

    Incidentally, how are people still upset about this? Is atheism+ even still a thing beyond a general concept of being an atheist and also being focused on other things?

  40. Zeppelin says

    Athywren: Well, as PZ just pointed out he wants the term “atheist” to also imply that one is a “decent human being”, i.e. subscribes to his ideology* **. Whereas I want to be able to say “I am an atheist” and be understood as saying “I don’t believe in gods”, not “I am a follower of this-and-this ideology, which is atheistic”. Just as I don’t want people to assume that I’m a communist just because communism is atheistic.
    As I laid out earlier I see on use, either to me or to PZ’s goals or to anyone else, in muddling the term “atheist” in this way. We’re not suffering from a words shortage.

    *Which, just to be clear, I DO. I agree with him on practically everything. But that’s not the point.
    **I know many people use “ideology” pejoratively, but I don’t. Any system of ideas about how the world works and how it should work is an ideology.

  41. screechymonkey says

    I’m curious. Does anyone know if Doctors Without Borders gets a ton of hate mail from doctors who bitch and moan about how, while they aren’t necessarily against helping people in foreign lands, they really resent having the word “doctor” attached to some charitable ideology?

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    i.e. subscribes to his ideology*

    What ideology, other than we live in this world without an imaginary deity, and if it is going to be better, we must work to make it better?

    Just as I don’t want people to assume that I’m a communist just because communism is atheistic.

    Non sequitur bullshit.

  43. consciousness razor says

    To be clear, when I say that atheistic social justice movements “shouldn’t label themselves by their atheism” I mean that they shouldn’t be called things like “Atheism+”, or claiming that sexist/racist/politically apathetic/whatever atheists are somehow “bad” at being atheists while they are “real” ones. To pretend that their social views are the only logical and reasonable outcome of disbelief in gods and therefore Atheism Proper, when in reality atheism by itself is perfectly compatible with a wide variety of thoroughly abhorrent views.

    Has anyone said that all such things logically follow, strictly and only from the fact that no gods exist? NO. Has this been pointed out in exhausting detail, practically every time a discussion like this takes place? YES. So please come up with something better than this tired old strawman.

    Some specific things do follow from it, of course. For instance, it follows that gods (like all other nonexistent things) aren’t responsible for the social order that we happen to have, nor have they had any historical effect which led to the way things are. So on the one hand, as an atheist, you can’t coherently credit them for any of the good things that actually work in our society; and on the other hand, you also can’t blame them for the bad things. Because in fact gods don’t exist, and as an atheist, your beliefs are aligned with those particular facts.

    If you believe blacks are meant to be slaves, that women are meant to raise children and clean the dishes, that everybody should be straight and make babies, that people of a lower caste are meant to work and suffer for their superiors, etc., etc., — then as a matter of fact, you do have beliefs which can’t make sense in an atheistic world, because there is nobody out there somewhere intending the whole world to be one way or another. Such things are the unfortunate result of people structuring their societies and relationships that way, so the blame goes to them (or credit, as rare as that may be). That tells us something about how we can act, even if it seems like a roundabout way of getting to the point. We don’t need to worry about gods striking us down with lightning bolts, for example, if we decide to act against what they supposedly wanted, because there aren’t any such gods intending or doing anything else. And we can’t expect any presents from them either, if we and the gods supposedly agree on a course of action. And if any beliefs/practices/rules/traditions/etc. are justified by the fact that a god supposedly wants that, and if atheism is true, then we have to reject all of those, since they have no grounding in the real world.

    So, first of all, what I just said above? That’s not nothing. Don’t even pretend as if you could have some “pristine” version of atheism, which doesn’t have a single logical consequence about anything else in the real world. You should put that on your list of nonexistent things, along with gods.

    Anyway…. If a person’s views (implicitly or explicitly) amount to any notions like that, which are incompatible with facts pertaining to the nonexistence of gods, then they simply do not have a collection of views that you could seriously and coherently entertain as an “atheistic” collection of views. That would not really be atheism, even if some of that person’s views are atheistic, and even if they brand themselves as “atheists,” because none of this implies a person is infallible about all of the consequences and logical interactions of all of their views. People can be mistaken about such things; and we’re not assuming that any random people who identify as “atheists” must exhibit rationality or reflectiveness or honesty or integrity or whatever. It’s not about characterizing that huge and diverse array of often-confused and often-mistaken people, when we’re simply trying to talk about what the idea of atheism entails. This shouldn’t be surprising or hard to figure out, because a group of people is not like an idea plus its logical implications.

    1. I want to be able to refer to my lack of god-belief without implying that I am also a member of some particular movement, which I won’t be able to if PZ gets what he wants, and

    Seriously? How could PZ obtain such power? And supposing he has it, why do you want to be able to do that? What exactly do you hope to get out of an activity like that, and why can’t it be done if PZ gets what he wants?

    I see no actual advantage in trying to redefine (or broaden, if you want) the term “atheism” to include social justice advocacy, when we already have a perfectly good name for that (“social justice”) and it leads to atheistic social justice advocates getting conflated with people like Michael Shermer, who only share their atheism and not their other views.

    Once again…. Who is doing that, and why would they do that?

    You used the phrase “atheistic social justice movement,” and now we have “atheistic social justice advocates.”

    Do those look like they’re supposed to be synonyms for “atheism” or “atheist”, or as if the latter set are being redefined or broadened? You’re not using them that way, so those particular labels are okay, I guess…. or maybe not. Is there still a problem? I definitely can’t tell what it’s supposed to be.

  44. says

    There are groups of human beings organizing around athiesm. There is an atheist community. Full stop.

    If someone wants to argue that we should not group based on that characteristic that’s a seperate issue. Overtly change to that subject, but don’t act like you will get anything if you don’t offer a social too of equal value. Why should they do anything for you? I sure as fuck won’t.

    There is an atheist community now and it is useful to people to have one. Go look at the group names, that shit happened naturally. Talking as if there is no athiest community is insulting.

    Pointing at a definition like it means anything independent of it’s current real world use among human beings is also insulting. Especially a term with implicit social meaning. Don’t sit there and act like words are not bound by the concepts they are necessairly attached to for that definition to make sense.

    Finally if society has a problem broadly that problem does not become suddenly off limits “cause not-problem group”. Fuck that. The point of social justice is you take it to society. The problem still needs fixed HERE. Or you not care about the health of your groups? That’s a nice little system for fixing nothing you have there.

  45. applehead says

    Good gravy, the “no movement” people use the same semantic tricks as the dictionary atheists. “Atheism is simply the absence of religious belief, therefore your social justice crap is an outside intrusion into our treehouse. And since it’s a negation, it can’t possibly a movement!”

    Meanwhile, the “New Atheist” folk are happy to espouse positive beliefs, such as that being atheist makes you smarter, more rational, open-minded, etc. How can an absence create character traits that need years of learning and self-improvement?

    And moreover, “New Atheists” are also busy proselytizing through these beliefs, trying to grow their ranks. Sounds pretty movementarian to me.

    Whenever you have a group of humans that work together to advance a shared goal, however vague, you have a movement.

  46. Zeppelin says

    Nerd of Redhead: The ideology by which one becomes, as he puts it, a “decent human being”. Secular humanism combined with more specific social justice concepts, basically. The ideology he wants to instil in movement atheism to make it about more than just anaemic “skepticism” for white men. A goal I agree with, but which I don’t think is served by redefining the already perfectly useful term “atheist”.

    consciousness razor: I am aware of all of those things which, as you say, have been pointed out repeatedly and in exhaustive detail before. They’re also thoroughly irrelevant to my point, which seems to have gone over your head again.

    Don’t even pretend as if you could have some “pristine” version of atheism, which doesn’t have a single logical consequence about anything else in the real world.

    Case in point. The fact that atheism has moral consequences does not mean that the definition of the term “atheism” should include those consequences. That isn’t how words work. Especially as there is no consensus as to what those consequences include, which means that if we actually go through with it, we’ll have replaced a well-defined, simple meaning (“lack of belief in gods”) with a muddy, useless one (“lack of belief in gods and whatever other views I happen to hold as long as I think they’re logically compatible with my lack of belief”). Why would we want to do this? Why not make use of some of the many excellent words available to us and use actual names for our various atheistic ideologies and their components? A useful philosophical term must have a clearly delineated, minimal definition.

    So I do in fact have a “pristine” version of atheism: I don’t believe in gods, which is all the word means (or should mean, if we want it to be useful). I have other views that are much messier and harder to define, but they’re not “atheism”. Even if I happen to think that something absolutely, indisputably does follow logically from atheism it’s still not part of “atheism”, it’s a logical consequence of atheism. And what moral consequences my atheism has depends entirely on my other moral views, which don’t simply derive from my lack of belief in the existence of a thing but depend on my limited and faulty knowledge of the world, are culturally conditioned, and based on goals (like, say, human flourishing) that are ultimately arbitrary. I can be an atheist nihilist, an atheist humanist, an atheist fascist… It’s not that “atheism has no logical consequence about anything else in the real world”, it’s that those consequences aren’t “atheism”, they’re, well, its consequences. I don’t say “combustion” when I mean “heat”.

    “What exactly do you hope to get out of an activity like [referring to your lack of god-belief without implying that you are also a member of some particular movement]?”

    I am hoping to get concise, clear communication out of it!

    You used the phrase “atheistic social justice movement,” and now we have “atheistic social justice advocates.” Do those look like they’re supposed to be synonyms for “atheism” or “atheist”, or as if the latter set are being redefined or broadened?

    I am using the terms “atheistic social justice movement” and “atheistic social justice advocates”. PZ on the other hand doesn’t want to make this distinction, instead preferring to use the term “atheism” as if it necessarily includes them. As evidenced by his comment in this very thread, where he accuses me of “wanting to be an atheist without all those annoying expectations of being a decent human being at the same time” because I insisted on the distinction between atheism and views that may or may not result from or be logically compatible with atheism.

  47. Zeppelin says

    applehead: I don’t know if you’re referring to me as well there, but just in case: I think social justice is great, and the atheist movement is better and more useful for adopting it whenever it does so. My contention is just that the resulting ideology shouldn’t be called “atheism”. Because that word already has a clear, simple, useful definition, and because there are atheists who don’t follow that ideology.
    In fact that’s sort of the point: lack of belief in gods wasn’t enough to sustain much of a movement — all you can do with an absence of belief is sneer at the sheeple who do believe. Even combined with “skepticism” it was fairly sterile and mostly about negating things — debunking New Age woo or bigfoot sightings, easy targets. It needed other ideas like secularism, secular humanism and social justice, ideas which don’t simply follow from an absence of god-belief, to create a movement that actually did anything. Which shows that atheism on its own isn’t an ideology nor a sufficient basis for one.

  48. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A goal I agree with, but which I don’t think is served by redefining the already perfectly useful term “atheist”.

    Evidence to back up your rhetoric? That appears to be MIA in all those who object to SJW in atheism, or call it “ideology” or personal opinion. That is my problem with your “logic”.
    Neither PZ nor myself are anywhere near the “COMMUNISTS”

  49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, the keyboard posted inadvertantly.
    I heard real “COMMUNIST” ideology back in the Viet Nam War protest days. The correlations aren’t there for progressives.
    So why is the liberturdian asshole “COMMUNIST” being used to describe social justice warrior like PZ? Hyperbole like that is the refuge of those without evidential ideas to refute social justice.

  50. Vivec says

    @53
    I don’t think zepplein is trying to refute social justice, they just don’t want atheism to have any connotations beyond social justice. I don’t agree with them, but I think you might be extrapolating a little too much from their argument.

  51. Zeppelin says

    Nerd of Redhead: Every system of ideas about how the world works and how it should work is an ideology! I even clarified that I don’t use the term pejoratively right there in my post!
    I also didn’t call anyone a communist, I gave communism as an example of another ideology which is prominently, vocally atheistic, but which we presumably wouldn’t want to simply call “atheism”. Because that would be, you know, very inaccurate and confusing.

    Vivec: Yeah, basically. My disagreement is entirely with PZ’s use of language, not with the contents of his ideology or his goals for the atheist movement.

  52. consciousness razor says

    Case in point. The fact that atheism has moral consequences does not mean that the definition of the term “atheism” should include those consequences.

    Has anyone said it’s “included” in the “definition”? Who? When? Where?

    Especially as there is no consensus as to what those consequences include, which means that if we actually go through with it,

    But why would we go through that? We’re doing logic when we determine which logical implications a claim has. We have a claim about the world (e.g., it lacks gods), and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask what follows logically from that claim. It’s that simple. We’re not doing some kind of linguistic exercise, which is supposed to prescribe a “correct” or even “better” definition of a word. Words obviously don’t tell us things like that, so what would lead you to think that’s what anybody was interested in doing?

    we’ll have replaced a well-defined, simple meaning (“lack of belief in gods”) with a muddy, useless one (“lack of belief in gods and whatever other views I happen to hold as long as I think they’re logically compatible with my lack of belief”).

    I guess it’s a good thing that it’s not about what you think, nor does it matter what other views you hold. What I mean is that all of the same things still follow from the fact that gods don’t exist, no matter what you or I happen to be thinking about it. Just try formulating this in terms of facts, for once, so you can see how that goes — good, solid, mind-independent facts about the real world. Not your thoughts or my thoughts, which may be wrong or have all sorts of tenuous/confused/mistaken/etc. relationships with the facts themselves.

    What follows from the facts? That’s an interesting question. And again, that’s not a matter of defining (or redefining) words. Because you can’t use words to determine things like this, and you shouldn’t expect that such a definition would change any of the relevant real-world facts about them. For example, there’s the fact that the Moon exists and the fact that Earth’s second large natural satellite (I’ll call it the “Schmoon”) doesn’t exist. Alternatively, there’s a fact about the number of Earth’s large natural satellites, and the fact is that that number is one, no more and no less. (In the case of gods, the number is zero. That’s the claim, and we can all happily leave ourselves out of it, since we aren’t relevant.)

    Do you lack a belief in the Schmoon? I seriously and emphatically do not give a shit. If you do, then you’re factually wrong, not just wrong in my mind in the sense that it’s incompatible with my thoughts. Either way, in fact, its existence would have numerous consequences (big and small) for Earth if it were real, no matter what your beliefs are like or what mine are like. This is not the sort of thing we get to decide in a committee, on the basis of what would be most convenient for us politically or rhetorically or for any such purpose. Like it or not, we’re just stuck dealing with the world, just as it is, as best we can.

  53. cavebear says

    And here I thought that Atheism was going to die because there weren’t enough potlucks. You learn something every day. Shermer really shouldn’t try to use Trump for his own arguments, however tempting. He’ll lose at that game. Trump is a much more accomplished grifter.

  54. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I gave communism as an example of another ideology which is prominently, vocally atheistic, but which we presumably wouldn’t want to simply call “atheism”. Because that would be, you know, very inaccurate and confusing.

    Yet you showed me you was totally confused by using excessive hyperbole. Hence, you didn’t make your point to me. Whatever your point is.

  55. Zeppelin says

    consciousness razor:

    “Has anyone said it’s “included” in the “definition”? Who? When? Where?”

    PZ has, both implicitly and explicitly, for example in the title of this post (“atheism” can only be “killed dead in its tracks” if by “atheism” you mean some sort of movement, since you can hardly “kill” a single-sentence proposition) and in his reply to me (accusing me of wanting license to be immoral while keeping the label of “atheist” only makes sense if you think the label of “atheist” carries a moral onus).

    As to the rest of your post, I typed out a big long reply, twice, and then realised that I actually have no idea what you are on about anymore. So I think it may be useful to repeat my basic claim:

    That PZ uses the term “atheism” to refer to an ideology, and “atheist” to refer to an adherent of that ideology, and disparages people who don’t believe in gods but don’t follow that ideology as “bad” atheists, “dictionary atheists” etc. With the implication that the primary source of his ideology is his atheism, and that therefore anyone who really thinks through their own atheism should arrive at the same one. Which I think is patently false, even though it would be nice if it were true.
    And so I think redefining “atheism”/”atheist” in this way is foolish and unhelpful and will make communication needlessly difficult if it actually catches on. The term already has a perfectly good, clear, useful definition, and there’s no need to make it do more work at the cost of clarity.

    Basically, I have in the past been forced to caveat my atheism by saying “but I’m not one of THOSE [dudebro internet skeptic] atheists”, which I think I’m allowed to resent the dudebros for. And just because in PZ’s case I actually am “one of THOSE [SJW] atheists” doesn’t mean I want the term to pick up that connotation either. I guess I’m hoping that PZ, as someone who has written a lot about the stigma attached to the label “atheist” in the US, will be more careful about attaching additional stereotypes (even ones he considers positive) to the term.

  56. Zeppelin says

    Nerd of Redhead:

    No, what actually happened is that you thought I was being hyperbolic because you didn’t read my posts properly, assumed I must be a right-winger because you incorrectly thought I was opposed to social justice, and therefore assumed I must think communism is the worstest thing ever (I don’t) and be bringing it up as an example of heinous evil to tar “New Atheism” with.
    I was actually pointing out that there’s a good reason we don’t call communism (or Buddhism, or Nietzschean ethics, or…) “atheism” just because they are atheistic. And so we probably shouldn’t do that with PZ’s particular atheistic ideology either. Because it would be confusing and impractical. No hyperbole of any kind involved.

  57. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I want to be an atheist without the expectation being that I must be a decent human being because I am an atheist, correct. Not because I don’t want to be decent human being, but because being a decent human being does not logically follow from atheism.

    “You should be a decent human being” follows from being a human being.

    “You should care, relatively, more about being a decent human being, because a necessary consequence of atheism is that if we don’t establish decency towards our fellow humans, nothing out there is going to come along and do it for us” follows from atheism.

  58. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    One can formulate atheism as, trivially,”not positing the existence of any gods” but it’s idiotic to pretend that has no further implications. It’s like arguing “Hey, gravity has nothing to do with building design! See? It’s a force that’s equal to the product of two masses divided by the square of the distance between them times a constant (without correcting for relativity)! Nothing in there about buildings!”

  59. says

    Ye gods, are we still having the discussion about “I want my definition of atheism so pure and narrow it’s completely useless”?
    If atheism has zero consequences, then why does Shermer tell us that a genocidal racist rapist doesn’t go to church.

  60. consciousness razor says

    PZ has, both implicitly and explicitly, for example in the title of this post (“atheism” can only be “killed dead in its tracks” if by “atheism” you mean some sort of movement, since you can hardly “kill” a single-sentence proposition)

    This is supposed to be in response to my question about whether anyone has claimed all of the moral (or any other) implications of atheism should be included in the definition of atheism. It’s supposed to be.

    My understanding is that PZ is claiming that Shermer is a part of the atheist movement in the US (however much he’s liked by people here), and consistent with that, he was being treated like someone who speaks on behalf of that movement or at any rate some segment of it. It just so happens that he speaks really fucking poorly for it, hence all of the criticism.

    Shermer’s idea is that Trump is supposedly not very religious, which is somehow supposed to be a good thing or signifies some kind of progress for atheism in the US. (“Atheism in the US” meaning the “atheist movement” here, just in case that confuses the fuck out of you somehow, even though it’s a completely normal way of talking about such things.) That idea is of course totally fucking ludicrous on a number of levels, as PZ noted, and one of the main contentions is that this form of tribalistic “reasoning,” which is nothing more than Shermer believing in fairy tales and engaging in a bit of old-fashioned libertarian bootlicking, should not be taken seriously. What we actually have in Trump is not actually good for atheism in the US (or anything in anywhere, for that matter, except maybe assholes in Assholitania or wherever the source of people like Trump may be).

    That’s the basic gist of the article I read. Were you reading a totally different one?

    and in his reply to me (accusing me of wanting license to be immoral while keeping the label of “atheist” only makes sense if you think the label of “atheist” carries a moral onus).

    Being a person carries a moral onus. If you can find any atheists who aren’t people, then let me know how that goes. How should PZ (or anybody) respond to their bullshit? I don’t really know or care.

    Do you think that maybe we can pretty safely assume you’re a person, and that it makes sense to put a moral burden on you, no matter what the topic of discussion may have been initially, no matter what we do or don’t know about your religious identity, because we’re talking to you on the internets? I think we can.

    Is there another plausible explanation for why you’d take the position you’ve taken, on more than one occasion, that maybe somehow there just might be some logically impeccable form of “atheist fascism” and all manner of other abhorrent worldviews? Why exactly would you be motivated to do anything like that, other than the most obvious motivations of course? It’s pretty hard to think of one, and whatever it is would be a pretty complicated story, as you can tell by this thread. Maybe a simpler explanation is just that you’re confused about something (or a whole lot of things). That could explain a lot too, I guess.

  61. Bill Buckner says

    If atheism has zero consequences, then why does Shermer tell us that a genocidal racist rapist doesn’t go to church.

    That logic is flawed. I am not trying to argue his case, but it reads to me (from what was quoted) that Shermer is trying to say that religion has consequences, and that’s why he is pointing out that Trump doesn’t go to church. And that point, right or wrong, is independent of whether atheism has consequences.

  62. starfleetdude says

    Frans de Waal has something worth thinking about in his response to his atheist critics:

    Primatologist Frans de Waal Responds To His New Atheist Critics

    Atheism will need to be combined with something else, something more constructive than its opposition to religion, to be relevant to our lives. The only possibility is to embrace morality as natural to our species. Otherwise atheism will end up in the Big Black Hole that Thomas Henry Huxley created for himself in the 19th Century. He did not believe morality came from God, but also denied its possible evolution. He could not explain where it came from except for saying that we had to fight very hard against our own nature to become moral (which is of course an ancient Christian position related to original sin, and so on). In this, Huxley went against Darwin himself, who did see room for moral evolution, as explained in “The Descent of Man.” To debate these important issues we all need to step back, stop shouting, and move beyond unanswerable questions about the existence of God. Atheists should be interested in this debate and I hope they will join in.

  63. William Clark says

    While I’m generally in agreement with Zeppelin (likely because I as well was never raised as a member of any cult, theistic or not) that ideally the definition of atheism should be kept pure, I also have to agree with those that think the definition is too narrow to be useful; you need to do more than simply convince someone their gods aren’t real, you need to provide an alternative to the “moral” framework their religion provides. If that requires attaching connotations of empathy, reciprocity, and altruism to atheism, if it helps cult members open their eyes to the fiction their lives are built on then so be it. Better than surrendering it to the “there’s no god so I won’t be punished” crowd.

  64. says

    Zeppelin @59

    PZ has, both implicitly and explicitly, for example in the title of this post (“atheism” can only be “killed dead in its tracks” if by “atheism” you mean some sort of movement, since you can hardly “kill” a single-sentence proposition)

    “Atheism” is polysemous and sometimes refers to a position about god, and sometimes refers to the atheist social movement. This is a well-established fact about our language, and is not something new introduced by the title of a recent blog post.

    Ideally, this would have been explained in atheism 101 materials everywhere, but atheists seem to be preoccupied with denying that there’s an atheist movement at all. If you would like to avoid confusion between atheism (the proposition) and atheism (the movement), instead of denying the latter meaning in hopes that it will go away, you should help spread awareness of it?

  65. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I find it amusing how so many of the people who will claim “there is no atheist movement” are the same ones who grovel at the feet of Dawkins, Harris, etc. If there’s no movement, why are you following these “leaders?”

  66. chimera says

    You can decide that when you use Word X, you mean this, that and the other thing. You let everyone know that this is how you are using the word and then everyone will understand what you mean when you use it. But no one can decide for others or for the language in general what a specific word means or should mean. That just isn’t how language works. The meanings of words evolve over time through usage. A word means whatever it is used to mean by a lot of people. The meanings of words are not the same in different social spaces. A word can mean several things that have no connection between them. A word can even have several unrelated meanings. You can describe what ‘atheism’ means and has meant at different times, in different places and spaces to different people, but you can’t control how the word is used and understood by millions of people.

  67. John Horstman says

    That’s because Shermer is doing the same thing, looking at an incompetent narcissist and projecting his own views on to him, which actually isn’t much of a stretch.

    You made me laugh out loud, but I really hope we don’t have to crowdfund more legal defenses; I’m directing most of my resources to opposing literal fascists these days. ?

  68. starfleetdude says

    @ 70

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

    FWIW, dictionaries are merely spelling aids that also provide generally accepted meanings. YMMV.

  69. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    People form groups around shared interests. It’s undeniably what we do this, and there’s no reason to think that that will stop.

    Given that, why shouldn’t we try to attach positive social ideals to atheism as a movement? I mean fuck, if the Catholic church had attached social justice to Christianity back when they were forming maybe it wouldn’t be the rape enabling paedophile mob that it is today.

    I don’t give a good goddamn about philosophical hyper-parsing and this apparent need to keep the term atheism pure. I want the world to be a better place, and making sure that “atheism” is always associated with social justice is just one more way to do that.

  70. Saad says

    Atheism is just an absence of belief in god.

    This is why no true atheist would bat an eye at churches getting government money or creationism being taught in public school science classes.

    Or if they do, they can’t claim it’s because they’re atheists since atheism only means that they don’t hold the belief that god exists. It doesn’t mean children shouldn’t be lied to by teachers or that public funding shouldn’t be used to teach religion to the child of someone who doesn’t believe god exists.

  71. Saad says

    In other words, atheists getting together in any way whatsoever to push for change of any kind must issue a clear disclaimer that it is merely a coincidence that they’re all atheists. Otherwise, they risk muddying up the definition of atheism.

  72. qwints says

    Saad @74. Plenty of atheists would disagree if someone said that atheism implied schools had to ban students praying. Similarly, plenty of secularists would get annoyed if someone claims that secularism was primarily a tenet of atheism (e.g. the NCSE is very explicitly not atheist).

  73. Saad says

    qwints, #77

    Plenty of atheists would disagree if someone said that atheism implied schools had to ban students praying.

    I was talking about all those atheists that are strongly against it. Particularly the prominent Thought Leaders and their zombie followers.

    Activism against prayer in school or intelligent design in classroom –> totally cool with lack of belief in god
    “Guys, don’t do that” –> what does that have to do with not believing in god?!?!

  74. says

    I’ve seen a lot of good takes on this asinine Shermer article, but here’s one I haven’t seen anyone mention yet: It’s boring. The Trump thing is just there to get people to read what is, otherwise, a bog-standard, paint-by-numbers, could’ve been written at any time since 2005 or so, recitation of statistics about the decline of religion in America. How much did Politico pay for this article that, for all intents and purposes, is an article that Shermer’s written a dozen times before with different political references in the lede?

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