Ed Brayton is a meanie


There he goes again, picking on the distinguished and august Thought Leaders of Atheism, in this case Sam Harris. It’s easy to do; there are a lot of buzzwords that trigger my rage, and Harris is fond of trotting out indicators of inanity like “identity politics” and “politically correct” and, of course, “divisive”.

…why is “divisive” a bad thing? Can you name a single example of progress in our society or any other that was not “divisive”? The push to end slavery was divisive, so much so that it sparked a civil war in which hundreds of thousands died; does that mean we should not have pushed to end slavery? The fight for women’s suffrage was divisive. The fight to end segregation was divisive. The fight for LGBT equality is divisive. Every single movement that resulted in a more fair, just and equal society was divisive. So why do people make such an accusation, as if it was somehow a strike against movements for social progress rather than a point in their favor? This is just lazy, sloppy thinking, and once again the use of buzzwords in place of serious argument.

That last sentence encapsulates Harris neatly.

Comments

  1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Excellent post by Brayton.

    I suspect Harris, without solid evidence, thinks we are in a post-racist society, so paying any attention to skin color is sign of racism. Harris can’t grasp that until the results (like equal murder rates by police) are the same for those of darker skin colors, the vestiges of racism are shown with prima facie evidence by the difference. Harris’ attitudes are consistent with someone not wanting to give up the residual institutional racism that makes them feel superior. Sad!

  2. microraptor says

    How is atheist activism not “identity politics”?

    Because stuff only counts as “identity politics” if it’s something you don’t like.

  3. Erp says

    Has Sam Harris ever been in a situation where being an atheist is a serious handicap? He was raised in a non-religious family in comfortable circumstances, went to good secular universities, and has lived in relatively secular areas of the US. He has never been, as far as I can see, in a situation where being a known atheist would have cost him a job or caused an unfavorable judgment in court. I live in a secular area, come from a non-religious family (and the few religious members tend to be progressive), and went to a good secular university so I know the situation.

    This is quite different from the situation of atheists in conservative religious families or in areas where everyone wants to know what church you go to or who, in divorce court, face the real risk of discrimination in regards to their children solely because they aren’t religious while their spouse is. This is again different from where the color of your skin marks you for different treatment. Or that being male or female guarantees different treatment.

  4. pocketnerd says

    Doesn’t Ed Brayton know that criticizing other freethinkers is the one freethought that must not be freethunk?

  5. unclefrogy says

    that charge of being divisive is such a crock of shit.
    As the examples given where the charge of being divisive was used, all were and are, many are not finished yet, primarily concerned with acknowledging arbitrary and irrational divisions between human beings and trying to eliminate them.
    Defending the status quo is elitist and classist,
    uncle frogy

  6. gijoel says

    Why is that the guys who accuse others of engaging in ‘Identity politics’ seem to be racist arseholes?

  7. Feline says

    Oh, I’ve had disagreements with Ed through the years, but he knows how to deliver truth:

    Sam Harris isn’t just wrong here. He is, ironically, dangerously wrong and his position would guarantee that those who engage in retrograde action would win the battle. And I don’t want to get into a No True Scotsman argument here, but I fully agree with Anthony Pinn when he says, “From my vantage point to do humanism, to be a humanist, is to have a predisposition to conduct work to decrease racial bias and its consequences.” If you’re against that, if you think pushing for reform to lessen racial bias in our criminal justice system is dangerous and retrograde, I will not, cannot, consider you a humanist at all.

    This: “if you think pushing for reform to lessen racial bias in our criminal justice system is dangerous and retrograde, I will not, cannot, consider you a humanist at all”
    is a radical notion that is so very least of hurdles. Being unable to clear that hurdle and complaining when you’re named racist?
    In Swedish you’re “pulling on the victim cardigan” most often when you’re actually named for what you’ve actually done and don’t want to be associated with what you’ve actually done*.
    Screaming “Muslims are all rapists” and being called racist? Pull on your ‘victim cardigan’ and say “Muslim is not a race”, even though followers and detractors both know how you’re using religion as a proxy for race. “I didn’t use those specific words” is of course the last resort of the high school drop-out thinking he’s clever, and they’re always confused about how that gambit never fools anyone with a passing grade in high school English (or Swedish, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Cantonese, Swahili or any other language in the entire world) . Being able to read what they’ve written as they meant it always confuse them.
    It’s also how 4chan can’t figure out how people keep seeing through their clever subterfuge.
    “How do youse guys always catch our dog-whistles, them’s all sorts of secret!”

    *the number of uses of ‘actually’ was a stylistic choice, and not a cross-lingual artefact.

  8. DanDare says

    Sam Harris doesn’t seem to get the difference between racial profiling and psychological profiling. He thinks its Ok for other people to have their civil liberties curtailed especially if they are Muslim. Sigh.

  9. methuseus says

    @feline #11

    “I didn’t use those specific words” is of course the last resort of the high school drop-out thinking he’s clever, and they’re always confused about how that gambit never fools anyone with a passing grade in high school English

    I’ve been guilty of this, and my answer (at least once I was smart enough to understand) is always, “That’s not what I meant, but I will speak more clearly next time.” Why yes, I can be an idiot at times. Thanks for asking.

    I’m not trying to minimize this or anything, just to say that intelligent people can be caught in these traps, but they must own their faults and try to minimize them.

  10. goaded says

    Every thing Sam Harris listed as divisive there was inclusive (and thus worth fighting for):

    Slaves should be free, like us.
    Women should be free to vote, like us.
    Blacks should be free to go to the same schools as us.
    LGBT people should be free to live openly and marry and serve in the military, same as us.

    We will keep being inclusive until “us” includes everyone.

    The only divisive people are the ones saying “No, they’re less than us”.

  11. says

    As of me writing this Ed’s post has received 357 comments. As is often the case there’s been a sudden influx of people commenting who have never been there before. How do they learn about posts like that? Is there some sort of “Harris signal” from some important Harris fan that alerts them?

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