I get a good chuckle over them. Like this claim that I am bitter about not being one of the Four Horsemen.
PZ went off the rails when he didn’t get included in the 4 horseman group and their popularity soared. Since then he’s been in a bitter echo chamber with his hoard, attacking/banning everyone who disagrees with him. Never seen such a strong example of group think.
— James Waller (@Giliair1) April 10, 2019
That’s practically an article of faith among the slymier trolls. It says they don’t know anything about me, but are colossally good at projection.
I would first point out the curious fact that I’m not and never have been an administrator of any atheist organization (I’ve fallen into the role of maintaining a blog host for a rag-tag squad of diverse writers here at FtB, but go ahead, ask them how much “administration” and “leading” I do), nor have I been on the board of any organization. I haven’t even tried to acquire any kind of leadership position, ever. Nor has anyone tried to recruit me to such a position — I think it’s been clear to every responsible person on the internet or the atheist movement that maybe I’m a little too independent (or disorganized) to be a good choice to be given any power at all.
I’m OK with that, too. I think of myself primarily as a teacher and a biologist, and I’m in my dream job right now. I haven’t even put myself up for promotion to full professor because I mainly see that as a position that would saddle me with more administrative responsibilities…although that may have to change, since I’m getting pressure from my university to fill out the paperwork and do my share of more committee work.
So this clown’s first mistake is to think I have any ambition to fill that role.
His second mistake, though, is a far more common one, and one that I consider destructive to the movement. The “Four Horsemen” were nothing but hot air. It was the equivalent of a Google hangout, with four friends getting together and filming themselves while talking. It is not an appointed position. You can’t join it now. It was four people who were already popular who hung out one afternoon, made a video, gave it a snappy title, and sold it. It’s simply perverse to think I’m upset that I wasn’t rewarded with an opportunity to shoot the breeze with some other guys, one of whom I never even liked.
What’s bad about this argument is that it has become canon that the Four Horsemen were some kind of sacred institution within atheism, something with more weight than a casual conversation.There was so much anguish expressed after Hitchens died — who now will sit in his throne? We must have a fourth horseman! It was fucking weird. It got even weirder when Sam Harris decided Ayaan Hirsi Ali ought to be crowned. There was no crown, no throne, no authority here! I said that at the time, and I say it now, the peculiar coronation of the Four Horsemen is a sign that even atheists are susceptible to symbols and myths and religious thinking, and the worst are the ones eager for authoritarianism.
Shorter answer: we never had an atheist tetrarchy, and it’s silly to think I aspired to become part of a non-existent, imaginary leadership. It’s flattering that some people think I was close enough to want to join that club, but honestly, I was also close enough to see how empty the title was, and to have a realistic view of its meaning. Which was nonexistent, except in the minds of people who desire some kind of intellectual domination.