Yesterday, I made the long drive to St Paul to to talk to a small group at Minnesota Atheists about some entertainingly bad science, and explain why it’s bad science. While I was there, I talked with August Berkshire for a bit, and he knows I’ve been despairing of the state of the atheist movement (David Silverman’s behavior is just the most recent example of trouble), and he tried to reassure me that American Atheists is getting back on track. August is a good guy, a long-time local leader of the atheist movement, and Minnesota Atheists has always been an inspiration — they’ve never questioned a commitment to social justice as part of atheism. They’re good people and I’ll always listen to August’s opinions.

We drove away at the end with good feelings, and then I made the mistake of reading Twitter. No, never do that if you want to retain some vestige of joy. I discovered that…Richard Dawkins has spoken again.


He’s endorsing a conference by something called Sovereign Nations, and just the name of the organization ought to set off klaxons, sirens, and alarm bells. I had to check, and it’s as bad as my first impression told me it would be. Sovereign Nations is a Christian Nationalist front by a guy named Michael O’Fallon. As near as I can tell, it’s one of those things where a rich conservative decides that he’s a leader of a movement and he starts hiring speakers and contriving conferences to support his views, sort of like another Travis Pangburn (who, by the way, is now tweeting climate change denialism). It’s great for the grifters who will leech off of him for a while, but there’s no there there, and we can expect it all to collapse like a flaccid balloon soon enough.

Meanwhile, O’Fallon is spewing the most awfully written glurge. Dawkins, who if nothing else is a phenomenally lucid writer, ought to be curling up in shame at endorsing a guy who could write this:

The purpose of Sovereign Nations is best understood as a prolegomenon to the formation of a new, and not just sentimental, conservative and Constitutional Republic. Sovereign Nations serves as an exploration of the intellectual viability of the conservative political habitat, with a view to establishing the groundwork for the construction and elaboration of a broader and more comprehensive vision for the movement in relation to the exegetical intent of our founders through the national founding documents. The essential precondition for a renewed conservative engagement with intellectual life is confidence in its own coherence and credibility.

As can be seen over the past 8 years, the goal of Open Society Foundations is to demean and destroy the tenets of traditional conservatism and thus create a crisis of conscience within the mind of the conservative. In order to succeed, we must rebuild the confidence in the presuppositions of conservatism in all of its exercised forms including in economics, civil liberties, family, sovereignty, theology, rule of law, and foreign affairs. What was once heresy is now law and what was once law is now heresy. The issue for progressive Open Society Foundations is that their new “law” has no foundational presupposition.

It is our hope to engage with the ideas and concepts that are at the center of Open Society Foundations without descending into ad hominem argumentation. We would seek to be upfront with our disagreements, respect our philosophical and ideological opponents, and look forward to creating a common ground of open discussion.

O’Fallon also writes for Whirled Nut Daily.

The first-century B.C. poet Virgil stated, “Fortunate is he who understands the hidden causes of things.”

This statement is as brilliant today as it was 2,000 years ago. Why has the entire foundation of law and justice been cast aside in an all-out embrace of Marxist-sourced social justice conformity?

Why have the Judeo Christian concepts of freedom and liberty been thrown into the ash heap of history as the nations of the earth sprint toward the chains of global manipulation?

Will the United States succumb to open borders and the manipulation of leftist billionaire George Soros?

Well, wasn’t that a lovely collection of right-wing buzzwords? He’s also, as you might expect, vigorously pro-Trump.

Knowing that President Trump has been dragged through the mud and his reputation has been sullied and attacked viciously by the Open Society Foundations, the progressives they fund and their media proponents – but he has not backed down – has shamed all of us who react in fear instead of purpose. We must follow Trump’s example.

This isn’t his first conference, either. In January, he promoted something called Social Justice & the Gospel: the God-Breathed Hierarchy and the Postmodern Crisis Within the Church. In 2018, he hosted something called Identity Politics & The Marxist Lie of White Privilege at the Trump hotel in Washington DC, featuring Jordan Peterson as a speaker. O’Fallon has obsessions about Marxism, about the Holy Mother Church, about George Soros (call that what it is: anti-semitism), about post-modernism, about retaining the privileges of class and race.

Dawkins says he had no idea about any of that. All I can say is…goddamn it, LEARN. As an influential voice in atheism, you’ve got a responsibility to figure it out.

Furthermore, this is a “conference” with just 3 speakers, Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose, who have a deplorable reputation as bad scholars who make up shit in their crusade against post-modernism, just like Peterson, while not having the vaguest notion of what it is. O’Fallon, who is a Florida man, is flying them off to a “conference” in an arbitrary location, London, which none of them have connections to, and the trio have cheerfully accepted, apparently without looking crosswise at the Catholic conservative who is funding their junket. This is a guy who publishes articles like Hitler the Progressive, which argues that the problem with Nazis was that they abandoned Christian morality, and they’ve just unthinkingly joined his crank crusade.

Can we someday have an atheism that isn’t all tangled with the likes of Dawkins, Boghossian, Lindsay, Pluckrose, and their mob of slimy ignorati? Please?


  1. leerudolph says

    As an influential voice in atheism, you’ve got a responsibility to figure it out.

    Perhaps someone could elaborate a theory about individuals associated with a larger movement (say, atheism) who act so as to enhance their own influence even at the possible expense of the movement. You might call them, oh, I dunno…Selfish Dicks?

  2. says

    I miss Dawkins before he let his ego take him off the deep end. What is it with prominent atheist personalities these days? I hate to use the term, but too many of them seem to be spiraling into the depths of, for lack of a better term, “Social Darwinism”.

  3. raven says

    Richard Dawkins:

    Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose are heroes in the fight against it (pretentious postmodern nonsense).

    This is just wrong.
    Peter Boghossian is a nobody alt right wing crackpot.
    He is a racist, misogynistic anti-intellectual tenth rate thinker.
    He isn’t fighting against postmodernism.
    He is fighting against the 20th century in the 21st century.

    Scratch another writer off of my list.
    Up until now, I’ve cut him a lot of slack for his past writings on both evolution and atheism.
    To be fair, at one time Richard Dawkins was a courageous and influential writer.
    On my way out of xianity, I read the God Delusion and liked it.

    Something happened, maybe he is going senile at 78.
    Whatever it was, Richard Dawkins should have followed the old advice.
    Better to remain silent, than to open your mouth, and prove that you are a fool.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    When I say the post’s headline, my immediate reaction was: Oh Shit! What did that asshole tweet now?”

  5. raven says

    Who in the hell is Peter Boghossian and why should I care?
    I’ve heard the name before.
    I just put it into Google with some keywords and read a few articles.

    I still can’t see why I should care about him or anything he says.
    He’s nobody with nothing interesting to say.
    Milo Yiannopoulos without the wit and charm (yeah, this is a sarcastic insult).

    He is an atheist. No big deal.
    Not so long ago, that took courage and insight.
    These days, that the gods probably don’t exist is almost obvious.

    He is also a self described racist, misogynist, homophobic cisgender, privileged white male.
    No big deal either.
    There are literally millions of those everywhere.
    Peter, the 19th century is calling you. They want you back where you belong.
    PS Take Richard Dawkins and Dan Simmons with you, when you leave.

  6. says

    Ray @4

    Their egos weren’t prepared for any criticism from other atheists. Religious folks? Yes, and it was expected. But they got to a point where atheists were treating them as nobility. Up until they were criticized by some (also, most are straight cis jars of malennaise and it’s hard to puncture that balloon of privilege without a big bang).

    The ones who still praised them though? The dregs. So a feedback loop was formed and shit like this is the result.

  7. says

    Hopefully O’Fallon doesn’t come to Saskatchewan. Or maybe he should. because here when a lot of people hear the term sovereign nations they’ll think of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, formerly the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. I’m sure he thinks indigenous rights are another evil plot of “Marxist-sourced social justice conformity.” He probably thinks the old residential school system, and the “’60’s scoop,” where aboriginal children were taken from their families and adopted by white folks, were good ideas.

    Given his use of both Judeo Christian and “global manipulation” I’m guessing he’s one of those guys who claims he’s not anti-Semitic, just opposed to “globalists.” But of course he rarely if ever finds a Jew who isn’t a globalist.

  8. Saad says

    Lofty, #2

    The tragic decline of a once interesting person.

    There are only so many ways of saying there’s no god.

  9. mnb0 says

    “As an influential voice in atheism”
    That would be an argument against atheism, so I suppose you mean atheist movement. That confirms my view that atheist movement is and always has been a silly idea. A progressive movement pro social change etc. should include believers who largely share this agenda. Yes, I realize that I’m repeating myself, but so are you.

  10. PaulBC says

    Why have the Judeo Christian concepts of freedom and liberty

    Uh, what “Judeo”-Christian concept of freedom? Do these people even know what’s in the Bible? St. Paul states that being a slave doesn’t stop you from being a Christian (Galatians), but conversely, neither does being a Christian stop you from being a slave. A key metaphor of Christianity is the shepherd and his flock. This doesn’t leave much latitude for freedom. The Old Testament enumerates onerous requirements for leading a good life. Those who attempt to follow them today have to schedule everything around them. That’s freedom and liberty?

    I mean, seriously, I grew up in a religious Catholic family, but what is the “freedom and liberty” of which this knucklehead speaks? Christianity was never about freedom, not in this life anyway.

  11. says

    Well, wasn’t that a lovely collection of right-wing buzzwords?

    If those buzzwords were at least internally (is that the right word?) consistent, they’d maybe be more bearable, but it’s the contradictions that drive me batty. One question is griping about “freedom and liberty having been thrown into the ash heap” and the next about “open borders.” Shouldn’t a person who supposedly wants freedom and liberty generally (not necessarily 100%) be supportive of open borders? To me, the answer should be “Yes,” but (somehow) these supposed freedom lovers want to put up walls. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  12. PaulBC says

    Leo Buzalsky@15

    Shouldn’t a person who supposedly wants freedom and liberty generally (not necessarily 100%) be supportive of open borders?

    In the mid-90s, some dittohead friends (no, really, they subscribed to Limbaugh Letter) explained to me that exploiting cheap Chinese labor was actually good for Chinese laborers because it brought opportunities and would eventually lead to higher salaries for them. I gave that some thought and actually, there is truth to the claim that global trade has brought economic benefit to China (though not democracy). There is disruption as well, but I’ve met enough Chinese people to be convinced that many people are benefiting.

    But here’s the thing. As soon as these great benefits of capitalism accrue to Chinese laborers, globalist dittoheads suddenly transform into Trumpies claiming that the Chinese are ripping us off. So which is it? I have this funny feeling that it’s whichever answer benefits said dittoheads, and any argument they offer to explain why it’s a win for all is purely a cover story.

  13. =8)-DX says

    Well I, for one, think its aobut time we acknowledged that people like Dawkins (and Harris and Boghossian and others) didn’t suddenly turn bigot overnight (or even the past few years), but that they’ve always held those prejudices, except that the New Atheist community (in the US and worldwide) was willing to accept their bigotry because it was a criticism of fundamentalist christianity (which still directly harms many) and funadmentalist Islam (which we in the west were scared of post 11.9.01).

    When Dawkins went of to Sudan and other places to talk to Islamic extremists and show how they wanted all atheists dead, it was the same bigotry as today, but we allowed it because Christianity was treating some cishet white men shittily and teaching kids pseudoscience in schools in the US.

    Fuck Dawkins.

  14. cartomancer says

    Trying to press a Vergilian invocation of the Lucretian/Epicurean tradition into service to defend Christian dogmas eh? Well there’s a spectacularly ill-informed attempt at name-dropping right there.

  15. stevewatson says

    @15: FWIW, the libertarians I’ve encountered seem to be in favour of open borders. Points for consistency. These arsewipes are for “freedom and liberty” for people like themselves; fuck everyone else.

    As for Dawkins’s foibles: Looks like a knee-jerk leap into the enemy-of-my-enemy fallacy. Not the first time I’ve seen supposed secularists jump into bed with the Christian reactionaries, either.

  16. says

    Saad @10

    There are only so many ways of saying there’s no god.

    True, but watching him on TV tear into a panel of assorted religious poohbahs was fun. It made me get his famous book out of our local library. Sadly I found it too tedious to finish.

  17. hemidactylus says

    @7- raven
    Actually Boghossian wrote a somewhat influential book A Manual for Creating Atheists which was an overly specified title. Should have just been called Street Epistemology or Conversational Socratic Method. It was pretty good, though more for atheist proselytizers to ironically dial it down and focus more on how people got to their beliefs than their beliefs. There were some humorous parts- irate parent of student confronts Boghossian who proceeds to ask how koala got back to Oz after the Flood. Parent proceeds to call his pastor for help with the koala question. Hilarious. Boghossian also got into the psychological issues surrounding human need for closure, which street epistemology serves to dissolve.

    Others have run with the ball. Magnabosco is one and his group have published an informal ebook on street epistemology.

    Looking at Boghossian’s twit feed for more stuff relevant to the OP I found this:


    Strangely enough I was listening to that last night.

    But regardless of how I feel about Boghossian’s book, I not about to adopt the IDW stance on pomo, identity, or SJWs. There are aspects of postmodernism I find fascinating [mostly Baudrillard]. Others not so much. Pinker basher John Gray (in *Straw Dogs) looks at pomo as an anthropocentric conceit, given if, in my interpretation, human social constructs disappear with our extinction Gould’s Modal Bacter remains as a brute fact. With pomo the pompous human twig overthinks its projections of reality.

    “By making human beliefs the final arbiter of reality, they [postmodernists] are effectively claiming that nothing exists unless it appears in human consciousness.” From Straw Dogs by John Gray

  18. John Morales says


    Strangely enough I was listening to that last night.

    Had to look up the lyrics, but I suppose its vocalist’s unintelligibility is part of its charm.

    (Interesting that the link is to Apple’s walled garden, not to open source)

  19. hemidactylus says

    @23- john

    Musically Tool works for me as a much harder take on prog rock.Older Lateralus does some very amazing stuff.

    As for Boghossian, his personal obnoxiousness aside, the book I cite above had a positive influence on me even though I don’t engage much in religious oriented conversation in my day to day offline life. The notion of an induced aporic state (Magnabosco’s spider moment) dissolving one’s crystallized preconceptions was my take home message. Learn to embrace uncertainty and not let closure craving slam the door shut. Too bad Boghossian seems to have achieved closure and certainty about his bogeys (my subtly ironic dial it down above). Boghossian’s book had the opposite effect to Harris’ moral landscape turd in that the latter seriously pissed me off.

  20. Owlmirror says

    Too bad Boghossian seems to have achieved closure and certainty about his bogeys

    I’ve had my own thoughts on epistemology/rationalism, and it occurs to me that it might be worth asking Boghossian something like: “How did you get the idea that the social justice/anti-bigotry movement arose from academic journals written on those topics, and that writing hoax articles for those journals was the proper way to oppose that same movement?”

  21. says

    Another dab of cement on my long-maintained belief that Dawkins, Harris, and those sort aren’t atheists, but much more like very secular protestant chauvinists. Just fundamentalist Christians without all the silly mythological stuff.