The destructive narrowing of internet atheism


Hussein Kesvani writes about how internet atheism sucks. As an internet atheist, I have to agree.

To understand where online atheism is at the moment, you only need to do a quick search on YouTube – the platform that acts as a gateway for most people entering the internet atheist community. Some of the most popular viral videos include “How Feminism Destroyed ‘New Atheism'” by ThunderF00t; “Rape, Feminism, and The Amazing Atheist” by “The Amazing Atheist”, TJ Kirk; and various videos of Milo Yiannopoulos talking about atheism on college campuses.

Spend some time looking at this stuff and you’ll find there are few videos critiquing religion intellectually, or offering support to new atheists. Instead, the videos that seem to resonate most are those that use atheism as a smokescreen to comment on the horrors of female body positivity, of sex dolls “triggering” feminists and, of course, those hooked on British tabloid articles claiming the impending overthrowing of Western civilisation by invading Muslims. It’s the kind of thing you might see your Britain First-following uncle post on Facebook, before calling for all halal butchers to be closed because “they fund ISIS”.

There are of course some youtube atheists who do provide the intellectual critiques they want; try Aron Ra, or Seth Andrews, or The Atheist Experience, or…oh god, I just searched youtube for atheism to remind myself of all the great channels out there, and just got a long horrible list of just the worst people. It really is drowning in hateful noise.

It’s also oppressive noise. One thing I’ve noticed about the rational, conscious side of the youtube atheists community is that they tend to avoid calling out the bad actors on the other side — this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’ve got an intellectual focus it is a huge distraction to have to slap down the horde of rotten atheists in addition to the hordes of rotten theists — but it does mean that there isn’t a lot of vocal opposition to the corruption of youtube atheism. It also doesn’t help that when someone like Steve Shives does directly attack the regressive atheists, he gets a ton of demented alt-right squirrels throwing 90 minute long raging monologues by talking kangaroos or suits of armor or chattering cow skulls.

The thing is that we need to do more than just declare how stupid believers are while shackling atheism to the likes of anti-feminism, racism, alt-right imperialism, and libertarian economic bullshit. We have to remember that our audience is more than our fellow smug unbelievers happily slapping each others’ backs at how clever we are. We have to also provide an intellectual and social home to people who are searching for answers.

“The majority of ex-Muslims leave Islam because they have issues to do with theology. There is a fear of being cast out by your community, but the process of leaving Islam is basically the same as anyone leaving a religion. Yet, the online atheist community – whose spokespeople are apparently white straight guys – make these videos talking about Muslim barbarians raping white women, or imposing sharia law on schools and cinemas. They don’t realise that they’re implicitly talking about our families, friends, the people we still care about.”

Those people, and people like them. Do you think black atheists want to share a space with people who argue for scientific racism? Or that women atheists find it pleasant to be told to go make a sandwich? We’re doomed if the only people favored by atheists are arrogant white dudes. Like me.

Comments

  1. A Masked Avenger says

    One thing I’ve noticed about the rational, conscious side of the youtube atheists community is that they tend to avoid calling out the bad actors on the other side…

    Somewhat understandable, though. If you call out a monkey, it will plaster you with poo — then it will swing into the tree above your head and masturbate furiously over you while mugging for the kids visiting the zoo. It’s like pigeon chess, except that the monkey really does win.

  2. A Masked Avenger says

    And yes, I realize I said the same thing as you:

    It also doesn’t help that when someone like Steve Shives does directly attack the regressive atheists, he gets a ton of demented alt-right squirrels throwing 90 minute long raging monologues by talking kangaroos or suits of armor or chattering cow skulls.

    I just wanted to get that out there, so if “monkey chess” becomes a thing I can get the credit.

  3. doublereed says

    What’s the solution? Overtake such videos in YouTube’s algorithm?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most politics and religion on youtube is pretty toxic. How does it compare with other groups?

  4. says

    “We’re doomed if the only people favored by atheists are arrogant white dudes. Like me.”

    It’s moments like this where I feel somewhat bad about being a white dude. If I speak up, it feels like I’m just continuing the trend of the conversation being dominated by white dudes, even when I’m trying to be supportive of minorities in the community. :(

  5. rietpluim says

    doublereed It’s not about which group is better. It’s about us wanting ours to be better.

  6. rietpluim says

    What’s more, ours should be better. After all, we’re supposed to be the critical, rational ones.

  7. Matt G says

    It is incredibly frustrating to be a straight, white, educated male atheist and come to the realization that a lot of other straight, white, educated male atheists are assholes. This includes many I respected as recently as a couple of years ago. Are we better at being decent humans than straight, white, educated male theists?

  8. says

    In my early atheist days I spent a lot of time in forums discussing many things. I was searching for my identity after having shed Christianity. Once I generally had most of it sorted out, I no longer needed the forums, the community. It became more of a mental drain, especially concerning trolls and those who would rather argue about minutiae than actually do something constructive.

    Now it appears that this sort of mentality has taken over most of the internet. Populism has brought the rednecks out of the woodwork and the vast social botnets echo and magnify it all. Perhaps it is time to make atheism simply a part of who we are, not the focus. If I start the conversation talking about my feminism and my preference for a multi-ethnic, multi-culture world then I’m more likely to avoid the recent stigmas. I should probably change all header images and avatars and signature lines to reflect this as well. Bonus: it’ll piss off my few remaining friends and family members who are still Trump-loving christians…

  9. robro says

    …oh god, I just searched youtube for atheism to remind myself of all the great channels out there, and just got a long horrible list of just the worst people. It really is drowning in hateful noise.

    Interesting observation. I can’t help but wonder if your experience is the result of gaming the search algorithm. There are techniques to influence what users see in the first 50 results of a Google query. There’s ample evidence that analytics, micro-targeting, data mining, NLP, SEO, and similar techniques can be used to manipulate results, particularly when there is a supporting horde to do the leg work. The manipulators might not be interested in a domain like “internet atheist,” but some other space loosely associated or even antithetical to it. Poke here, watch what happens over there…a stock manipulation technique Jim Crammer describes in an old interview as “fomenting.” There’s a lot of experimentation going on in these areas, some of it by some of the worst people.

  10. doublereed says

    @rietplum

    Yea but YouTube is a pretty specific platform. If religious and political discourse is often disgusting and terrible on YouTube, then pointing out disgusting and terrible atheist content is more like cherry picking. Again, what exactly should we do about that? Overtake these youtubers somehow? The solution tends to be specific to the platform.

    Like r/atheism is also a pretty toxic place, too. I’m sure there are more positive atheist circles on reddit, but they’re just not as popular on that particular site.

  11. dhabecker says

    I agree w #9. Atheism should not be the focus; rather humanism, freethought, secularism, and decency. The crazies hate those words.

  12. handsomemrtoad says

    PZ, I love ya dearly, but you are buying into a cliche when you write “Do you think black atheists want to share a space with people who argue for scientific racism?” –as if only White people ever believe in “scientific racism”. I have known plenty of Black “scientific racists”, and they were every bit as stupid and arrogant as any White “scientific racist”.

  13. jerthebarbarian says

    I’ve reached the point where I prefer to identify as a humanist rather than as an atheist. Partly because the atheist label is fairly meaningless really when you get right down to it. I know that PZ has had this fight before, but anyone who doesn’t believe in gods can call themselves an atheist, and there are a lot of people who believe in reprehensible things who lump themselves in with me under the “atheist” label because they happen to not believe in gods. To call yourself a humanist you have to affirmatively believe in something bigger than just one thing – there’s a whole umbrella of things that are covered under humanism that the “atheist” label doesn’t have going for it. So emphasizing my humanism instead of my atheism means that I’m more likely to find friends whose beliefs coincide with mine instead of assholes.

  14. says

    @15, doublereed

    What happens when you search youtube for humanism?

    You get an endless supply of introductions to the concept of humanism, people answering the question “what is humanism” etc. Not much progress happening past that :(

    And when you search youtube for feminism…well, you basically get the same things you would have gotten had you searched for “anti-feminism” instead (which I just discovered by trying exactly that, many of the exact same videos, in fact)

  15. brucegee1962 says

    YouTube – the platform that acts as a gateway for most people entering the internet atheist community

    Really? Is there evidence to back this up, or is it just an assumption? I hope this isn’t true.

    I’m willing to believe Youtube is an intellectual desert — but I blame the medium, not the message. I maintain that video is, in all ways, an inferior method for communication than text. Good for some things — showing the antics of cats, for instance — but lousy for ideas. When you’re reading, you’re processing ideas at your own pace. You can slow down for challenging bits, speed up for bits you already understand, stop for a while to integrate a new concept, even go back a bit and look at something that was said earlier. You don’t do any of those things when you’re watching a video, which means whole important areas of your brain just aren’t engaged.

    In higher education, there was a big move a few years ago to “flip” college classrooms — to put most of the content in video form for the students to watch outside class, and do discussion or activities in class. I think this is a terrible idea, and I’m doing everything I can to combat it in my institution.

    When I’m scanning the news, I usually just read articles — if there’s a video symbol next to the link, I skip it. When I visit Skepchick, I just read the transcripts of Rebecca’s videos. (Everyone who does videos should transcribe them.)

    So if you say that Youtube naturally attracts shallow thinkers, I say, obviously.

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

    Quick thought (sorry) re “atheism” v “humanism”:
    One way to consider the difference is in terms of ‘positive’ v ‘ negative’; as in, “atheism” is “negative”. (semantically) — NOT belief in God. As opposed to “humanism” being semantically positive, “belief IN humans (and the value thrreof).
    Such a quick thought, no further expansion I can provide. Just a thought.
    ?

  17. says

    @brucegee1962, #17:
    Rewind and pause. They work wonders.

    There are plenty of good, information communities on YouTube. Mostly related to niche hobbies, but for those it is an invaluable resource.

  18. Alex the Pretty Good says

    FWIW… A few (in my experience) good YT atheists that actually post about the subject (working from memory):
    BionicDance
    Theramin Trees

    A little more rough of language but up ’till now they seem to be on the right side of Social Justice:
    The Bible Reloaded/the Quran Reloaded

  19. consciousness razor says

    handsomemrtoad:

    PZ, I love ya dearly, but you are buying into a cliche when you write “Do you think black atheists want to share a space with people who argue for scientific racism?” –as if only White people ever believe in “scientific racism”. I have known plenty of Black “scientific racists”, and they were every bit as stupid and arrogant as any White “scientific racist”.

    Don’t be an ass. A good response is to say that many white atheists (like myself) don’t want to share a space with such people either. Because that is of course true, and you may reasonably think it’s an important thing to acknowledge in some cases. (I wouldn’t have bothered in this case.) It’s not so good when you try to point a smelly both-sides-R-bad finger at “plenty” of black people, as if that happened at anything like a comparable scale. There is no sensible argument to be had about whether some “scientific” racism is less stupid or less arrogant than others — it’s all the same awful shit, and the issue is where you probably will encounter that shit and where you probably won’t.

    Brian Pansky:

    You get an endless supply of introductions to the concept of humanism, people answering the question “what is humanism” etc. Not much progress happening past that :(

    Sad, I guess, but it isn’t surprising, right? I mean, that’s the kind of superficial content you get from youtube videos almost all of the time, no matter what the topic may be. There are of course some university classes published on it, as well as other more or less professionally-made lectures and documentaries and so on. (They’re out there, at any rate, although they don’t typically get a lot of views.) But the vast majority of youtube videos are not like that.

    I’m not sure I agree with everything from brucegee1962 at #17, but it is unfortunate (or odd or I don’t know what) that the least-effective form of mass communication, in terms of how well we’re able to engage with the ideas at a deeper level, is the one that people tend to flock to the most. Then again, it’s not exactly video vs. text … twitter is a perfect example of how to not use text for a prolonged discussion of a serious and complicated topic. So, it’s more like “traditional” writing that you’d find in books, essays, and such.

    I’m wondering how much criticism ought to be directed to the good atheists out there on youtube, who (I guess) aren’t hammering away very much at the bad ones. (Or they’re just a small minority and don’t show up on the radar.) I don’t expect them to wade through thousands of hours of video, from theists and atheists and whatever else they may be interested in, then spend lots more time making their own nicely-produced videos about all of the shitty shit they found. They may not be much of a video consumer at all, if they mainly want to produce their own content and reach a wide audience. But one criticism is that we don’t need a bunch of personalities building brands and trying to make themselves internet-famous; we need good, thoughtful, focused, well-articulated ideas. If history is any guide, nobody ever really wants those; but that is what we need, wherever we can get it.

    Anyway, when it’s ludicrous crap from people like Amazing Atheist or Thunderfool, I know I don’t have the stomach to sit through much of that at all. I’d say it’s so terribly bad to not merit a response, but it is astonishing how large their shitbrained audiences are. Still, it’s not obvious that youtube is a great venue for that sort of dispute/troll-stomping/whatever-we-should-do-about-it. Obviously, the problem is also not limited to a few fuckwits on youtube (nor is it just atheists of course), which seems to call for a much broader strategy.

  20. says

    It’s been obvious for years that youtube atheism is predominantly a dumpster fire. I don’t know why that is. Contra brucegee @17, my default hypothesis is that it’s a historical artifact, and not intrinsic to the medium. Once anti-feminist atheism gains momentum on youtube, feminist atheists less likely to stay on the platform. Note, there are also plenty of text-based media that are also bad, like Reddit atheism.

  21. Vivec says

    @17

    Interestingly, the educational trend has greatly improved my performance. I have attention deficit issues, and large text-only classes are largely inaccessible to me. I simply cant focus my eyes well enoygh to read a 200 page text with any degree of retention, but I could listen to a recording of the same text and come away just fine.

    Classes that offer audio or video presentations as an alternative are a godsend to me, and on average I score a whole 10-20% better when I have access to those forms of teaching.

  22. doublereed says

    I don’t think it’s as much an attention thing. It’s been known for a while that different people learn differently. That’s why there’s usually a textbook to supplement lectures and such.

    It’s not unusual to process better through video and audio as opposed to text.

  23. Dark Jaguar says

    I remember the attempt to rebrand or redefine atheism a few years back that didn’t pan out. Unfortunately, words are, and have always been, defined by the majority. So, these jackasses are atheists, and they are representing atheism, whether we like it or not.

    The best we can hope for is to be better people who also happen to be atheists, to display to the world that not all atheists are “like that”. Beyond that, I’ve taken to calling myself a humanist lately. I’m also an atheist, and I also consider myself a “rationalist” (whatever that is these days), but primarily I’m concerned with humanist causes, like feminism and a large number of progressive causes.

    This situation does remind me of how a bunch of Hollywood weirdos spouting nonsense about healing crystals and how the “earth mother is alive and can heal itself” also are considered left wing progressives, even though their ideas are as anti-science as not believing in global warming. Strange bedfellows, when you find your allies also believe in global warming, but not due to any understanding of the science, rather just because it’s part of the package of ideas they identify with. I consider that sort of hollywood liberal potentially dangerous. We’re allied for now, but the next time they go on some crusade about vaccines, there’s trouble.

  24. consciousness razor says

    Siggy:

    Contra brucegee @17, my default hypothesis is that it’s a historical artifact, and not intrinsic to the medium. Once anti-feminist atheism gains momentum on youtube, feminist atheists less likely to stay on the platform. Note, there are also plenty of text-based media that are also bad, like Reddit atheism.

    Hmm, I wouldn’t say that either. I don’t like being in the middle. Look, it’s not about video itself. But there’s something about grunting aimlessly in front of a camera in your living room for some minutes or hours, then probably doing no editing and publishing it to the world, which is not very conducive to meaningful, impactful expressions of feminism (for example). If you’re expressing something like that, you’re not doing it just to get a bunch of attention for yourself. And you’re not trying to collect all of the subscribers like they’re fucking Pokemon. And you’re also probably not writing badly-punctuated screeds on Reddit about any old random shit that comes into your head, because you feel like venting about something or for whatever fucking reason people write that shit.

    You actually have something important to talk about, and you understand well enough that it has to be done with some care about how you express what you’re saying, so the message will have the right kind of impact. You’re doing something quite purposeful and you know that you’re doing something of that sort. So you very naturally think to yourself something like “maybe this won’t work so well on youtube (reddit, and so on),” whereas other people doing other things aren’t even thinking about that. If they’re posting funny cat videos, let’s say, then that kind of thought isn’t likely to enter their heads, for good reason.

    So, certain venues (not necessarily certain types of media) are not so great for certain content. A lot of them seem almost custom-built for trolling and assorted other bullshit. The only “impact” that counts is that you get a reaction, not that you’ve changed a mind or provided people with valuable information or did anything that might not seem like a total fucking waste of time. The fact is, many people tend to go to youtube (and elsewhere obviously) to waste their fucking time, not to learn something or improve themselves or for whatever nice-sounding reason you like. At some places, because of how those places are run and how people (producers and consumers) use them, you won’t have any problem expressing your hateful nonsensical garbage to people looking for your brand of hateful nonsensical garbage. There are plenty of those people to go around, and (no surprises) their standards are in the fucking gutter — any old shit will do, if it sounds like the “right” kind of hate. And I suppose if it’s not their preferred form of hate, they’re often perfectly happy to spew hate at each other and fling shit in every imaginable fucking direction. You see that happen too, and they’ll even proudly suggest to you that they’re not like those bigots over there. (Not a monolith! But who fucking cares?)

    Let me ask you this. Are there other online video sites like youtube, all-purpose ones catering to people releasing all sorts of content, where feminist atheists did “stay” in large numbers, because historically it happened not to have that kind of anti-feminist momentum? If so, I’d love to hear about them. If not, what’s the explanation then? Lots of independent historical artifacts, with this weird thing that they all just so happen to have in common, as implausible as that sounds? Or is there something more regular or systematic going on, maybe about how people tend to use those types of venues as opposed to other types of venues?

  25. says

    consciousness razor @26,
    Yeah, that’s very plausible, and thanks for making the opposing case.

    It’s hard to say whether it’s about the video medium because Youtube really dominate that market. Another big one is Twitch, but being mainly used for video game streaming, Twitch would seem to be affected by many historical artifacts of its own.

  26. F.O. says

    Maybe the enemy has never been religion.
    Maybe we overestimated its effect on people.

    Maybe our brains are so good at compartmentalising that whether someone’s religiosity has insignificant correlation with their goodness.

    Maybe the problem is authoritarianism, privilege, xenophobia.

    Maybe we have been fighting against religion for so long that we don’t want to abandon the idea that religion is, after all, not a big problem.

  27. Elladan says

    I think this sort of view of the problem suffers from the typical problem of mistaking marketing for reality.

    Seriously: YouTube (and also, blogging!) is a commercial enterprise which exists to make money. YouTube, like blogging platforms, makes money by monetizing you. Youtubers, like bloggers, make money by getting you to watch their videos.

    In both cases, reasonable and intellectually sound arguments, uplifting ways of thinking about the world, truth, kindness, anything, are irrelevant. It’s all irrelevant. The point is to get money by creating clickbait, managing search results, playing with peoples’ emotions and tribal identities, and in general use fighting, trolling, and self-promotion.

    People who have ethics, want to tell the truth, elevate their viewers, and challenge peoples preconceived notions aren’t people who like to FIGHT. They’re not going to take on a false persona to get clicks, they’re not going to baldly lie, they’re not going to pay for SEO clickbots, troll, sock puppet, take outlandish positions on purpose just to get views, etc. Because those things are unethical. The other side doesn’t have ethics, what do they care? There’s no ethics in marketing.

    The thing is though, what you’re seeing isn’t “the community.” This is the media entity that is YouTube and online bloggers, through the rose-colored glasses of search engine optimization, online personas, affected personality, and a constant fight for views.

    The world is full of kind, generous, and loving people. It’s the wicked self-promoting assholes who get all the press, and YouTube is a great microcosm of that.

  28. Paul Cowan says

    I don’t think Internet Atheism, if that’s a thing, is an entirely lost cause. You and your progressive brand of socially constructive and empathetic Atheism are exactly what I consider the ideal for of the movement PZ, and it’s alive and well online.

    I’m happy to ignore the misogynists and neckbeards, nothing I can do about them except refuse to be defeated by their existence.

  29. lotharloo says

    The nasty internet atheism is popular because they have invented an enemy, a doomsday scenario and they also have a constant supply of and fresh material in terms of everyday news to yap about. The youtube atheism is not that much about atheism but about anti-feminism and anti-muslim and other general forms of bigotry so let’s not mix the two. They are simply anti-feminists who happen to be atheists and they have discovered (and partially invented) a market for their constant stream of videos to make some easy money. Almost all of them are young and with possible exception of thunderf00t not good for any other job.

  30. anchor says

    I think one big factor is that people so easily get carried away by belief or conviction. Their adopted worldview becomes something that requires protection against attack by contending worldviews and they hunker down and build conceptual fortresses of dogma against each other. They become obsessed with proving contending views as inferior to their own and will demonize people who hold views that don’t conform to their own. Their belief then becomes a powerful ‘god’, a deity they worship with the same passion and vehemence as any traditional deist worships the supernatural variety.

    It may be simplistic to say so, but one means of regulating one’s conceptual models of reality and prevent them from becoming ideological programs impervious to development, correction, revision, refinement, etc. by staying alert to fresh information or evidence is not only to take the provisional attitude adopted by the scientific method but to ensure that we don’t confuse our conceptual models of reality within our heads with the actuality that exists outside of our heads.

    They are not the same thing. But ‘believers’ often behave exactly as if they are convinced that they are.

    Navigating life on the basis of principles that are updated regularly is an admittedly complex and difficult skill that is acquired over time. And that’s why education is so crucial. So be it: life is difficult. But that doesn’t mean the lazy way of allowing or trusting a monolithic autopilot program to be our navigator or govern our behavior is ‘better’ because its easier. There’s nothing easier than to surrender to entropy and chaos and crash without ever actually getting anywhere.

    ‘Dictionary atheists’ certainly can’t brag about being accomplished in worshipping their convictions. Yes, they are worshippers. If they were not, they wouldn’t be so adamant at whipping up a fine and intricate dogma to preserve the object of their devotion.

  31. DanDare says

    At the Atheist Foundation of Australia we recently announced Clementine Ford as a speaker at the Global Atheist Conference next year. We have had to man the Facebook site 24 7 to moderate the fountain of vileness that has unleashed. What remains visible is very bad. What has been blocked is horrible beyond words. And all from fellow atheists.

  32. says

    AFA has long impressed me as a very good organization — but I have to say, a couple of the worst atheist assholes who’ve plagued my site have been Australian. Good on ya for fighting the good fight.

    Everything I’ve seen from Clementine Ford has been excellent, and she’s a great choice for a speaker — it’s too bad I can’t go to hear her!

  33. Chuck Stanley says

    You just described the Internet. Dominated by noise. Why atheism should be some shining example that is somehow different than most of the rest of the Internet I don’t know.

  34. rietpluim says

    Chuck Stanley Like I said: because we’re supposed to be the rational, critical ones.

  35. says

    What’s with the slam on libertarian economics? Do you think one necessarily has to be a “progressive” to be an atheist or a humanist? I happen to agree with the late Tibor Machan,* that “However, if humanism remains wedded to collectivism, it will turn out to be a false and dangerous alternative to faith based ethics.” [ http://www.thedailybell.com/editorials/tibor-machan-a-precis-on-humanism/ ] June 05, 2013

    You may disagree. That there is a diversity of opinion within the atheist/humanist community on economics shouldn’t be a strange thing. No “toeing the party line” on issues unconnected to the matter of “is there a god?” and multiple answers to the question “how then should we live our lives?”

    This is not to say that, frex, doctrinaire objectivist/Randians can’t be a bit of a trial, but so can vulgar marxists.

    [Kevrob]

    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibor_R._Machan

  36. says

    Milo Yiannopoulos is a Catholic, not an atheist. And he’s not really sympathetic towards atheism either. I’m not sure why the author would mention him.

    The reason you don’t find many videos critiquing religion intellectually is because it’s become kind of a tired subject in the “internet atheist community.” There are very few new arguments from the religious side and you can only comment on the insufficient evidence for the existence of God so many times. The most prominent youtube atheists aren’t using atheism as a smokescreen to discuss politics; they’ve moved on from the subject of atheism.

  37. secondtofirstworld says

    The reason I’ve unsubscribed from a lot of atheist channels on YouTube was the glaring hypocrisy and ignorance. While watching videos in a calm tone describing the very real occurrences, where coming out as an atheist resulted in being disinherited, kicked out of home, or in some extreme cases, murdered, it lent the impression that cultures with a high number of believers have little love for those with opposing views. Some of these loud and obnoxious atheists have a similarly calm toned, rational approach when it comes to subjects, like physics or astronomy.

    And yet… there’s one thing the original author of the cited article and PZ have not taken into account: the internet has been a steady medium for angry and loud young people well before social media was introduced. Instead of making helpful science videos, which don’t garner much money, they tapped into the market of anger with a short attention span, that delivers steady revenue. The irony of having such loyal followers until anger is provided bears no difference from angry churchgoers is not lost on such atheists.

    If anything, right wing populism has stolen that audience from them, not provided it. There are still attempts to feed conspiracies, like Google leading a wanton crusade on controversial content creators so they lose subscribers. The second irony comes into play here, since it tries its damnedest to avoid applying Occam’s Razor: which is more likely, that a controversial YouTuber welcomes theists into his fold to combat social justice warriors (like TJ did) and said opportunistic subs leave once they disagree on his views on religion or politics, or that a corporation is after him.

    They pretend to be oblivious to the fact, that people leave them either because they lost decency or because the majority sided with Trump instead. They also pretend to be oblivious to the fact, that if you have the time and luxury to complain about people without real power (like feminists and people of color), you’re not a person who was thrown out from your home for being an atheist. Quite the contrary, a person who doesn’t like their comfort zone being challenged. That in itself isn’t a problem, except if the key message is, that people remain being a believer because it provides comfort, and challenging that comfort leads to lashing out, than said believer and atheist have a lot more in common, than the things they differ on.

  38. Kimberly Dick says

    And when will you unshackle yourself from ableism, PZ? You decry atheists accepting bigotry, while at the same time using slurs that harm people with disabilities.

    Your audience is more than just able-bodied people. Though I’m sure you’ve turned away a great number with your continual use of a variety of disgusting ableist slurs.

  39. consciousness razor says

    Nunya Beeswax, #38:

    What’s with the slam on libertarian economics?

    It’s like LARPing, except for the collapsing economies, global catastrophes, dying and suffering people, and so forth. I mean, you could pretend all of that if you were role-playing, but in this case they’re real.

    Do you think one necessarily has to be a “progressive” to be an atheist or a humanist?

    “Ought to be” and “necessarily has to be” don’t mean the same thing.

    People also aren’t “caused” to be progressive when they become atheists*. Obviously, when you look around at various well-known atheists, if threads like this weren’t evidence enough.

    Anyway, if we put all of those pointless distractions aside, what is supposed to be the point of this?

    *I take it that religious people aren’t the topic here, so this “an atheist or a humanist” thing is confusing to me.

    You may disagree. That there is a diversity of opinion within the atheist/humanist community on economics shouldn’t be a strange thing.

    I doubt many people are terribly surprised by that. Is there a diversity of opinion about alien abductions too? Yes, there is. Should that be a strange thing? I don’t know if it should be, but it kind of seems like it is.

    Are you really satisfied to be lumped in with them? (But really it’s worse for you, because I can sort of sympathize with them a little bit, even though their ideas are preposterous.)

    No “toeing the party line” on issues unconnected to the matter of “is there a god?” and multiple answers to the question “how then should we live our lives?”

    Then what do you have to complain about? One of my answers (because I am just a bit of a pluralist) is that libertarianism “economics” is bullshit and should not be how we live our lives. We also shouldn’t pray to the gods of the seas or the markets or the harvest for their blessings in our endeavors, because they don’t fucking exist.

    So where do you think that leaves us? I don’t have toe your line about how atheists aren’t supposed to criticize libertarian bullshit, or at least I don’t remember seeing that anywhere in the Party handbook.

    Could you explain why “this isn’t a dictatorship” is supposed to sound like a good enough excuse to get away with any sort of bullshit you could dream up? Maybe instead of whining about criticism, you could do some actual work to develop and support your views, assuming there’s anything which is even a little bit supportable about them.

  40. Rob Grigjanis says

    Nunya @38: Laissez-faire is just a weaselly way of saying laissez-mourir.

  41. says

    One thing I’ve noticed about the rational, conscious side of the youtube atheists community is that they tend to avoid calling out the bad actors on the other side…

    Somewhat understandable, though.

    Actually, no, no it isn’t understandable. It makes the “liberal” atheists, who don’t to “lose allies”, when they might some day be needed **exactly the same** as “liberal Christians”, who refuse to call out evangelicals, lest they offend, or lose supporters, or what ever excuse they have for not doing so. If they are wrong, and interfering, by nature of their views, with **actually fixing problems**, they worthless to the cause, and the exact **opposite** of allies. If they are perpetuating ideas that *originated* with religion, purely because they can’t/won’t/don’t want to, question their own privilege, position, or status, and whether or not its deserved, never mind even “natural”, as apposed to invented, then.. they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Its like assuming that every symptom you see is either, “not actually a problem, “unrelated to the disease”, or, “an integral part of the disease”, and demanding that all researches study *only* how to cure the disease, without addressing any of the symptoms. Meanwhile, people are bleeding to death, in pain, and dying, but.. “you need to cure that disease, everything else is a distraction!”

    Its bloody convenient when, once the disease is gone, people are still bleeding and in pain, and you can simple declare, “Ah, that is just how people are, its natural.” Or, damned inconvenient when, on curing the disease, it turns out the all the symptoms persist. But, by gosh, at least we didn’t get freaking “distracted” by all those damn symptoms, while curing “religion”, right? Why the frak would anyone consider these sorts of self serving asses “allies”, which we need to leave alone, and not inconvenience, or worse, actually defend?

  42. Jimmy Boy says

    “Glenn D
    22 June 2017 at 10:33 am
    In my early atheist days I spent a lot of time in forums discussing many things. I was searching for my identity after having shed Christianity. Once I generally had most of it sorted out, I no longer needed the forums, the community. It became more of a mental drain, especially concerning trolls and those who would rather argue about minutiae than actually do something constructive.”

    Yup. Exactly the same. Only for me it was here on Pharyngula. I thought I’d found my internet home. And then I posted a couple of comments: I think it was about the fact that its hard to transition from Christianity because it was such a fundamental part of my identity. A couple of the regular, very-well-versed-in-it-all commenters waded in, ripped me to pieces in a pretty personal way, left me feeling quite desperate and very low – and I’ve not made the mistake again, up to now, for something like 8 years.

    Internet atheists, including some who used to (maybe still do?) have cliquey senior status here, can be utter wankers. The lack of empathy is just as bad as anything Trump can produce, as is the smug certainty.

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