Sometimes, conflict is the only answer

Mooney says that because polls show that Americans are so blinded by religion that they would choose the words of a bloody-handed Middle Eastern sky god over the evidence of science, Dawkins and all us uncompromising atheists are wrong in our tactics. We are henceforth to heed the words of Nisbet and stop confronting people on their religious biases.


But that’s exactly the problem that we’re addressing — that people will foolishly prefer “white-beard-in-the-sky-guy” over reality. And the message he takes home from this is that we’re wrong? This is nuts. I read that poll and it says we have a serious problem that we cannot simply ignore any more; this rather craven avoidance that Mooney/Nisbet propose is not working and will not work.

I’m definitely siding with Jason on this one.

Those attitudes, and the unflagging respect for religious faith that they entail, must be weakened. Can that be done? I don’t know. It certainly isn’t easy, but other Western countries have managed to do it.

But I am definitely certain that you can not weaken those attitudes by refusing to attack them.

These polls represent the state of affairs today. What got us here was not the vocal opposition to religion served up by Dawkins and the others. They are newcomers on the scene. Instead, what got us here is years of Republican pandering to the religious right, coupled with Democratic cowardice in the face of increasing challenges to church-state separation (among other factors, of course). As I have written before, it is the nicey-nice strategy of non-engagement endorsed by Mooney and Nisbett that is refuted by these polls. The strategy where you publicly attack bad religious ideas has barely been tried.

I have this suspicion that Mooney and Nisbet are drinking too deeply of the kool-aid of public approval. They’ve got a message that says do nothing, avoid criticizing people on their deeply held beliefs, and instead try to smuggle little bits of good policy past them by actively pandering to them by “framing” your proposals in their terms … and of course audiences love that and eat it up and congratulate them on their wise and sensible perspicacity afterwards, because nothing they say will ever confront the root of the problem, and those people will never feel the need to change. Nisbet/Mooney provide a feel-good façade for inertia on our side, and reinforcement for the destructive beliefs of the religious right.

You are doing something wrong if the purveyors of ancient lies and dumb dogma are thanking you for your conciliatory position; we should be making them angry and worried, and if you have deep differences with someone, you are doing neither you nor them any favors if your sole strategy is conflict avoidance. You might as well just surrender and be done with it.