Friday, February 03, 2012

The sky is falling

Aw... po' widdle Grimmy got his precious snowflake feelings hurt. A few words of advice, readers: I really am a giant asshole on the blog most of the time. I can do it, but it's a real struggle for me to address egregious stupidity calmly and logically. When I get just a reiteration of the original argument without substantively addressing any of the points I made in my criticism, I'm not going to continue the struggle.

Here's the deal. Grizwald Grim worries that somewhere, somehow, some self-described New Atheist might not make the distinction between mockery and violence. But that's a stupid worry. We live in a big world with a lot of people in it. We can't ensure that every person everywhere always acts sensibly and humanely. The same criticism applies to Grim, perhaps moreso: what if someone were to take Grim's words wrong and do something stupid? What if some nutjob were to take criticism of The Phantom Menace wrong and try to do something dumb to George Lucas? At least with atheist criticism, we can draw objective distinctions (no advocating violence, no criticism for ineluctable characteristics, distinguishing between the individual and the general/typical); I don't see any way to distinguish between "dangerous" and "benign" ideas according to Grim. The point is not that we must advocate violence; the point is that every activity might be dangerous.

The lack of priests, bishops, etc. also cuts both ways. Grim is correct: we can't authoritatively decide who is an atheist, or who is a New Atheist. We can't say, "Sorry, mate. You have two felony convictions. You can't get into the club." But neither can we set any authoritative standards as to what New Atheists say. There is no New Atheist authority that Grim can persuade to set standards of discourse. This lack of authority, though, is a net benefit. No, there is no authority to enforce "good" behavior, but neither is there an authority to organize "bad" behavior. I think the danger of the second is greater than the danger of the first. The New Atheists do what we can to mitigate the potential for violence: we don't advocate or justify violence, and we criticize people who do advocate violence. We support (to a point) the ordinary civilized institutions that mitigate violence: democratic laws, police, judges, prisons, etc. But just like everyone else, we cannot prevent every far-fetched hypothetical.

It's always chancy to speculate about motives, especially unconscious or covert motives. Still, the evidence is at least suggestive. Grim has never objectively defined "mockery". Grim has never presented any plausible scenario where our undefined (and probably undefinable) "mockery" would lead to any violence, much less violence that would not be routinely managed by ordinary civilized institutions. Grim actually disagrees with the substance of the New Atheist position, even though he has made no argument that our position is actually untrue. I can see no remedy for Grim's complaints other than that the New Atheists just shut up, that we just not say something that he disagrees with. And he making the same argument made by people who really do want to use violence to shut up critics of their misogynistic, anti-science, narrow-minded, and authoritarian religious institutions. Why is he protecting these institutions? It can't be the prevention of harm: he is protecting people who are doing real, actual harm right now on the basis that some unspecified type of criticism might do some potential, hypothetical harm in the indeterminate future. That argument is nonsensical on its face. I don't think Grim actually supports these institutions, though. Maybe Grim is just a garden-variety asshole who wants to shut up anyone who disagrees with him.


  1. I don't see the need to define mockery, as the definitions in dictionaries do an adequate job as far as I'm concerned.

    Plausible scenario: Ignorant person or small group converts to New Atheism and misinterprets the mockery and ridicule of Christians and Muslims as endorsement for actions of greater magnitude than mockery and ridicule targeting Christians and Muslims. Ignorant person then bombs a church in an attempt to impress New Atheists or to demonstrate his zealousness for the cause.

    Which New Atheist position is it that I supposedly "disagree with the substance of"? What has led you to the conclusion that I disagree with the substance of it?

    How exactly is promoting the infiltration of a fortified enemy structure and denouncing throwing rocks at said structure "protecting these institutions?"

    Also, I'm not a garden variety asshole and you know it. If I were, you wouldn't have wasted the time to address me beyond the 'burning stupidity' post.

  2. I'm not a garden variety asshole and you know it.

    I thought you might not be, but I was mistaken. Even towering intellects such as my own can sometimes err.

  3. Should I take it that your towering intellect has no answers to the questions in the comment, or do I get yet another whole-post response?

  4. I don't want to waste my time giving obvious answers to stupid questions posed by a complete idiot.

  5. And post away. I'm not going to tell you to shut up.

  6. Of course you don't - let's not spend our time justifying our baseless accusations, let's just proceed with rather weak mockery. This behavior, saying things are wrong and expecting people to change their opinion without specification as to what is right - is exemplary of the behavior for the fourth post in the series.

    As for the post, I don't have an abundance of free time, but it's on the schedule - second forthcoming post, third in the series. It's planned as follows:
    2. Faith
    3. The New Atheist Agenda
    4. Why Atheist tactics fail

    I hope to post 2 today and have 3 ready by Tuesday. I hope you're not offended if by me using you as an example of the behaviors I'm criticizing.. but from your latest post:
    "As a self-identified New Atheist, I feel entitled to speak directly and with some authority about what New Atheism actually is and, more importantly, what it is not."

    It seems you won't mind at all.


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