Monday, June 18, 2007

The atheist schism

According to Lisa Miller at Newsweek
what's happening in the "atheist, humanist, freethinkers" community is more like what happens to any ideological or political group as it matures: the hard-liners knock heads with the folks who want to just get along, and the cracks are beginning to show.
Miller, however, makes a fundamental error: The "atheist" community is not an ideological or political group. It is an ad hoc community of those who do not believe—at least—any God exists.

There is no schism because there's nothing to "schis". There is no such thing as atheist politics or atheist ideology. There are political and ideological positions—such as First Amendment secularism or Humanist ethics—held by many atheists, but these are accidental, not essential, characteristics of atheists.

Atheist "secular rabbi" Greg Epstein seems to think he can tell his fellow atheists what to believe and what to say: He calls Harris and Dawkins "atheist fundamentalists." (According to Harris, "An empty play on words.")
"My problem with the atheists," he told NEWSWEEK, "is not that they're saying God doesn't exist. What I'm saying is we've got to build something."
Well, Epstein is full of shit.

No one is stopping Epstein from saying or building anything; if he accepts the responsibility "to speak out for the positive aspects of disbelief," then he's free to speak. No matter what he says, regardless of whether I or any other atheist agrees or disagrees, he is an atheist in good standing if he does not believe any God exists.

Epstein has missed the whole point of "freethought". Freethought entails no dogma, no party line, nothing but a sincere, dedicated commitment to the rational truth, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient. Epstein is free to build whatever organizations, institutions or social movements he pleases. If I like what he builds, I'll support it. But I'm not going to support anything by keeping silent about the rational truth, and if that's what Epstein requires, he can kiss my hairy atheist ass.

(h/t to Freethunk)

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