Thursday, October 20, 2011

fbg responds

fbg responds to my TSIB entry highlighting his (?) criticism of atheist politics:
I just now came across this article, rather late unfortunately. I wrote the second quote above, and I realize now that maybe I could have been clearer in my statements. When I wrote that post and others that are similar, I was in the middle of an incredible streak of reading and hearing atheists spend much more time deriding religious beliefs than furthering the cause of science and reason as a basis for changing society and politics. They pitted their non-belief against belief in such as condescending way as to help nothing except the self-confidence of hardcore atheists. Since that time, I've encountered a lot more atheists who concern themselves with educating and bettering society.

No, in my post I didn't expect to include theists under the label of "atheist", but Dan above was right that I feared that the latter exclusion would lead to the former exclusion. I'm not talking about pure ideologies, though; I'm talking about political movements. Atheists as a group are so weak right now that they can use all the help they can get. I'd take an educated liberal Christian any day over the evangelicals that are running for president these days. Let us unite behind reason instead of a non-belief.

I know that some atheists and theists work together already, but there are a ton of atheists out there who do nothing but alienate rational people. I know this because I've been a sort of atheist my entire life, ranging from "passionate agnostic" like Neil DeGrasse Tyson to "apatheist" like Bill Maher, and until I read The God Delusion I'd never felt comfortable calling myself an "atheist" because so many of them had insulted me simply for not railing against religious belief. "Pussy agnostic" is my favorite of the names they've called me.

I'll line up against creationism or evangelism in politics as readily as the next atheist, but some of you don't make it easy for me. Both of you, Larry and Dan, seem to have assumed that I'm a theist or apologetic, which has never been the case. I'm just focusing on the big, practical picture. I don't care who believes what as long as they don't take it into the voting booths or the classroom. I understand, also, that ignorance begets ignorance, but atheists would be much more effective as a movement if they focused their attention on irrational behavior instead of irrational beliefs.

Let me explain this again in simple declarative sentences. Atheists are a very diverse group, and even a single atheists will have many different goals. If some particular atheist is not acting, for example to further "the cause of science and reason" in a way that fbg approves of, then fbg must consider the alternative that that is not that particular atheist's goal. And indeed to my reading, many atheists (myself included) are not primarily oriented toward furthering the cause of science and reason (although that would be nice); we are, instead, primarily against religion. We are against religion because it is the epitome of uncritical thinking. Just because you are 90% critical doesn't give you a pass on the other 10%.

It is incredibly condescending and rude for anyone to say that (to paraphrase) I am hurting myself because I am against his preferred goals and his preferred methods. Feel free to use your own methods to work toward your own goals, and I will do the same.

Furthermore, I think religion is just stupid. I'm not going to pretend that some stupid belief is intellectually respectable just because a person holding the stupid belief will inevitably be all butthurt that I'm calling his stupid belief stupid. If you want to defend your belief as intelligent — if you want to argue that I'm mistaken — knock yourself out. Otherwise, I'm entirely unconcerned that you think I'm being condescending or rude because I say out loud that your stupid belief is stupid.

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