I am, like Christopher Hitchens and very much like Shalini, an "angry" atheist. I have nothing but contempt for religion, supernaturalism, woo-woo, and secular philosophical bullshit, and I'm more than willing to say so in no uncertain terms. I don't think simple rational argument is enough. If people really could be swayed by simple rational argument, we would have been rid of supernatural bullshit a thousand years ago. It's really not that difficult intellectually; you don't have to be a genius.
The fundamental problem that I see are the socially constructed values which promote supernaturalism and deprecate naturalism. The problem is not that we haven't thought the issues through well enough, the problem is that all human societies, including Western civilization, deprecate to some extent the activity of thinking things through and accepting the conclusions. Values are facts, not rational conclusions, and cannot be established by truth-seeking discourse. They must be established by propaganda and negotiation.
Truth-seeking discourse is still an important and indispensable tool. Many arguments for supernaturalist claims use truth-seeking discourse as a model, and it's important to be able to rationally deconstruct and disprove these truth-claims. If you're going to call someone a liar and a bullshit artists, it's important to be able to prove these labels. But, on the other hand, you need not stop at deconstruction and disproof: you can then go on to employ specifically pejorative labels.
I don't just think it's possible, I think it's important to do so. I think it's important to say out loud that there are not only millions of rational naturalists who disagree with the religious, superstitious and supernaturalists, but also that there are a lot of people who hold such ideas in contempt. I'm in favor of some degree of tolerance and pluralism, but I have my limits. And lies and bullshit, essential components of supernaturalism, cross some of those limits. So I speak up and say what I say.
Not everyone has the same opinion. Some atheists favor a more friendly approach. Good for them. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. More power to 'em. I have been, on occasion, intolerant of such people in the past for no better reason than they choose a different approach to promoting rationalism and naturalism. I was wrong and I apologize.
Friendly atheists (as a class, not just Hemant) do not use pejorative words, but still hold the line that supernaturalism is still wrong. They may not call you a liar and a bullshit artist to your face, but they will still point out the falsity and fallacy in your supernaturalism and the suffering it creates. Fair enough.
I'm not, however, going to apologize for my hostility towards appeasement and rhetorical censorship. These positions go beyond mere advocacy of friendliness.
Appeasement entails that we recognize superstition and supernaturalism as "just as good" as rationalism and naturalism, that the conflict between supernaturalism and naturalism is a fundamentally irreconcilable difference of opinion, of no more moment than chocolate vs. vanilla, or classical vs. punk rock. Appeasement is often based on appeals to "pluralism" and "tolerance".
I'll hammer on DJW yet again: "A society that contains deep disagreements regarding these sorts of questions will be benefited by deep pluralism and ecumenicalism." There can be no misinterpreting DJW's position: If there is deep disagreement about "these sorts of questions" (questions on which DJW does not have a strong opinion?) no one should judge the other position.
I'll hammer on Robert Farley yet again: "Dawkins statement [that teaching Catholicism to children is more harmful than child sexual abuse]... isn't just illiberal; it's virtually totalitarian," for no better reason than that, if true, we might then use the violent oppression of the state to prohibit the religious indoctrination of children by the threat of torture.
The enormity of this appeasement is staggering. It is very clear that the truth or falsity of Dawkins' opinions is not immediately relevant to DJW's or Farley's argument. DJW says that "In addition to being demonstrably false, this view is an awful and appalling thing to say." In addition to is the key phrase here. If Dawkins view were simply false, why not condemn it for being false? Why condemn it for reasons other than its falsity? It's important to note that neither DJW nor Farley actually demonstrates the "demonstrable" falsity of Dawkins' statement.
If Dawkins' statement is bad for reasons other than its truth or falsity, we must therefore conclude that it would be bad even if it were true. Therefore, we must conclude that DJW and Robert Farley would (in theory) condone an activity as harmful as child sexual abuse in the name of "deep pluralism and ecumencalism."
I have to repeat: I don't condemn DJW and Farley for disagreeing with Dawkins. If Dawkins' statement really were false, it would be perfectly acceptable and entirely sufficient to demonstrate its falsity and then, if they were so moved, condemn Dawkins for error, stupidity or mendacity. But to condemn the statement because it is "virtually totalitarian*" or non-pluralist in addition to perhaps being false, is to imply that the condemnation would still stand even Dawkins were correct.
*I really would like Farley to explain precisely how it is "virtually totalitarian" to use the violent oppression of the state to prevent children from being threatened with hellfire and damnation. Especially since such threats establish priests' coercive authority facilitating the sexual abuse Dawkins uses as comparison.
Shalini objects to some atheists' rhetorical censorship: demands that angry atheists sit down and shut up, not because our position is false, but because it "hurts the cause". Rhetorical censorship is not so egregious and despicable as appeasement, but it's still profoundly objectionable.
It's a bullshit position for several reasons. First, it's not demonstrably true: how does anyone know angry atheism is hurting any cause other than the cause of appeasement, tolerance and respect for supernaturalism, which we're explicitly trying to hurt? Furthermore, precisely what cause are they talking about? My statements may hurt their cause, whatever it might be, but my cause is different: I'm not particularly interested in converting individual theists. I explicitly want to make it so that supernaturalists — i.e. theists, woo-woos, and bullshit artists in general — ashamed, embarrassed, defensive, and ultimately socially marginalized in polite society.
Third, why should I shut up just because I'm hurting any cause? One of the causes I support is that people should, with few restrictions*, say whatever the hell they damn well please. Advocate anything you please: Child molestation, Nazism, Stalinism, Catholicism, Islam, or mopery on the high seas. I'll tell you why I think you're wrong, I'll tell you that I disagree so profoundly that I hold your opinions in contempt and disgust, but I'll never explicitly demand that you shut up just because I don't like what you have to say.
*specifically advocating extra-legal violence, lying, and negligently repeating lies.
Please note that I don't demand the appeasers or censors shut up. I grant them every right to say what they please, and I demand only the same right to say that they're full of shit.
I'm an angry atheist, and damn proud of it. If you don't like it, tough. Go start your own blog.