08 May 2012

NdGT furor


(that would be his reply to the reply over his initial post and comments).

To be honest, I thought it was kind of weak sauce. He basically threw the numerous but silent atheist who doesn't crusade for the absence and abolition of religion in society under the bus. Effectively implying that they should call themselves something else, remain silent and do other things with their time. This would be fine in theory. It is not so in practice. If there wasn't as much active discrimination and interest in hatred or prejudice against atheists and atheism in our society for example. Arguing over terminology is annoying, but the idea that "atheist" or "atheism" is akin to some kind of militant solidarity club is confusing to a public that already doesn't like atheists very much and doesn't know very much about them. Offering up portraits that conform to their already negative stereotypes is unconstructive as a result. If all Christians were doing was going to churches, praying, performing social work for the poor or disenfranchised, speaking about their personal faith and its interpretation, and trying generally to live their own lives in accordance with their spirituality, I might find them annoying perhaps at times, but not dangerous or threatening to my well-being. That's not what they are doing. They expand vast amounts of time and energy trying to get everyone else to conform to their own interpretations through the construction of laws and procedures requiring them to do so. It is not enough to be contented with the ability to advocate positions and to practice them themselves, it is apparently incumbent to enforce them.

I'm fine if he doesn't want to title himself; he has solid PR reasons not to do so and it would be distracting for him personally if he had to waste time essentially prefacing his talks, interviews, and lectures with his lack of belief. Particularly if, as with most atheists, myself included, that lack of belief is pretty low in importance to himself, his work, or his self-image. It's a far more important qualifier of our status to other people than to ourselves. I'm fine if he wants to focus his energy on science and improving science education, and on opposing the most diligent efforts of others to subvert such things. I think that's a much more worthy cause in the long run than expending a lot of energy trying to get people to abandon their weird canonical texts and beliefs or interpretations thereof and especially their social clubs they've formed around them. It seems far more productive to focus energy on the effect such things have on the rest of us, on our official policies, and on the accessibility to the public forum of people who don't belong to those silly clubs, and to generally advocate for ideas founded and constructed upon available evidence. To engage with religion and the religious among us generally when they force the engagement in a sense.

I just don't think you can take people who agree with those causes, and who share the basic outlook on the non-existence of deities, and offer up a definition that is effectively endorsing the openly hostile views of others to describe a substantial host of people who don't conform to those views in order to distinguish yourself from more "militant" formats. He ought to have known better than to do that much at least.
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