How to be an Accommodationist

March 30, 2011

I like the label of "Accommodationist" because it points right at my own view that nonbelievers have a big responsibility towards religious believers. 

This big responsibilty is to help the religious accommodate themselves to the cold hard truths about naturalism and the firm political structures of secularism.

I never could buy into that odd "Accommodationist" vs. "Confrontationist" division as dogmatically preached elsewhere.  That division always sounded like it had to amount to "Confrontationists actually hit believers hard with The Truth" while accommodationists are apparently doing other things besides just demonizing believers and hitting them with The Truth.   We are told that atheism is betrayed by those "accommodationists" who won't attack religious belief every chance they get.  Such an odd division between artificial camps can't do justice to all the great educational work that so many atheists do.  Educators don't just hit people with The Truth.

Doesn't stridently hitting people with The Truth on the assumption that The Truth has intrinsic powers to overcome irrational ignorance, sound more like fundamentalist tactics?  Be that as it may, assaulting people with The Truth hasn't been widely viewed as an effective educational technique since the Catholic Inquisition.  It's never been essential to educated Atheism, either before or after the "New Wave" of sophisticated books by atheist leaders.

Instead, treating people as intelligent adults who frequently can be reasoned with is a method that has worked wonders for civilization since those dark days.  What are some specific techniques, helpful for accommodating the religious towards enlightenment?  You may already be acquainted with many of the best-selling atheist books, too many to list here, but I myself have written on these strategies for waking up believers:

"Science and Religion are Incompatible" explains why science must never accommodate itself to religion.

"Religion and the Madness of Crowds" points out that believers need to realize how religion is not a fulfillment of common sense, although it pretends to be.

"The Totalitarian Ambition of the Religious Mind" warns about the way that mythology can take advantage of our very human need for explanation.

"God Fails a Simple Rationality Test" offers a way to make sure that religious beliefs are tested against six basic rules of sane common sense.

"A Creator God cannot be a Reasonable Explanation" describes how belief in God must violate several basic rules of sane common sense.

"When God Calls, Don't Answer" is a warning against taking any religious experience seriously.

"There is Objective Morality in Nature" refutes the religious claim that naturalism would reduce morality to some subjective arbitrary status.

"The Bible is No Place for Ethics" explains why the Bible lacks moral objectivity and diminishes ethical responsibility.

"Religion is Not Really about Hope" points out the way that belief in Heaven and Hell is not morally appropriate.

"Accommodate, or Confront: Atheists ponder their Options" considers which tactics are most effective for getting more evolution in the classrooms.

"Biology Textbooks Should Stay Out of Religion" is a call to defend the secular principle that science textbooks teach about science, not about religion.

"An Atheist's Guide to What You Need to Know About Theology" explains how public atheism can get even smarter for effective debate in the public marketplace of competing ideas.

"For Atheists and Believers, Ignorance is No Excuse" recounts how both believers and nonbelievers can intelligently debate their opposed viewpoints, despite rampant pessimism that reason is irrelevant.

 

As another example, my new blog on "Where Can Naturalism and Religion Agree?" at the HuffingtonPost takes a look at some shared lessons about the meaning and responsibilties of life.

Nonbelievers who try to helpfully guide believers away from faith towards reason aren't simply "accommodationists yielding to faith."  There's no accommodation to faith in anything I have ever written, and not much in other educators who have been tarred with the "accommodationist" label either. 

Save the pejorative term "Faitheist" for some who actually do want to accommodate naturalism to spiritualism or to God.  As for Accommodationists, we can keep on helping religious believers accommodate themselves to naturalism and secularism.

 

Comments:

#1 Melody Hensley on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 11:49am

I think this is really brilliant. I only take issue with one thing:

“There’s no accommodation to faith in anything I have ever written, and not much in other educators who have been tarred with the “accommodationist” label either.”

Are you saying that most educators in the secular movement that have been “tarred” with the label “accommodationist” have not focused on accommodating naturalism to faith? I can think of several educators that out of necessity or true conviction have done just that.

#2 ShaunPhilly (Guest) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 11:55am

I don’t think the divide is between accommodation and confrontation.  That is too simplistic.  The divide is more between those who think that there still exists within religious traditions something to work with—a discussion to be had that offers reverence for the religious point of view.  On the other side are people who simply think that the religious worldviews are rarely, if ever, meaningful.  There is no reason to accommodate, says the gnu/new atheist, what religious people say about reality.  We are not alwats yelling in a confrontational manner, but we are also not feeling obliged to take them seriously.

#3 ShaunPhilly on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 11:58am

I don’t think the divide is between accommodation and confrontation.  That is too simplistic.  The divide is more between those who think that there still exists within religious traditions something to work with—a discussion to be had that offers reverence for the religious point of view.  On the other side are people who simply think that the religious worldviews are rarely, if ever, meaningful.  There is no reason to accommodate, says the gnu/new atheist, what religious people say about reality.  We are not alwats yelling in a confrontational manner, but we are also not feeling obliged to take them seriously.

#4 Melody Hensley on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 12:00pm

Although I like the new interpretation of “accommodationist,” I think it’s too soon for the label to take on a new meaning. If you do decide to call yourself an accommodationist, I’m afraid that you’ll be lumped in with those who harshly criticize New Atheists and those who wish accommodate naturalism to faith.

#5 Michael De Dora on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 12:34pm

The term “accomodationist,” in current use, means so many different things that it essentially means nothing.

#6 Melody Hensley on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 12:38pm

It certainly doesn’t mean what John is suggesting it should mean.

#7 ShaunPhilly on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 1:02pm

Michael, I think that part of the reason for the ambiguity of the term derives from the fact that many whom I (and the other gnus) had been identifying as accommodationists rejected the label, and the subsequent conversation shifted its use.  The fact is that while those who try to remain respectful towards religious groups and doctrines in order to work towards what they see as larger social concerns (acceptance of evolution, for example) are accommodating the religious beliefs in order to do so.  The problem is exactly what John did with this post; making it about the level of direct confrontation, which is a straw-man division.  One can be extremely confrontational and be an accommodationist, and another can be quiet and be a gnu/new atheist.  It has little to nothing to do with how confrontational a person is.  The distinction used here is, in part, responsible for the ambiguity.  And so while it is true that the meaning of the term has become fractured, the fundamental argument concerning whether we should be concerned with the actual incompatability of rational inquiry and religious beliefs or whether we can put that aside is still very much alive, no matter what terms we used to identify the players.

#8 ShaunPhilly on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 1:08pm

I want to add the following because I think that Eric MacDonald’s views on this issue are very well put, as well as perhaps not seen by enough eyes:

“David Bentley Hart and Alister McGrath seem to think that an atheism that acknowledged the importance of religion, as, for example, Marx and Nietzsche did, is essential to a fully mature atheism, an intellectually serious atheism. Perhaps that is precisely what is “new” about the “New Atheism,” that it no longer chooses to engage seriously with religion, that contemporary nonbelief has recognised, at last, that religion does not provide a serious way of thinking about being human, and that, for all his nostalgia, perhaps Larkin got it wrong, and that churches are not, as he thought, serious houses on serious earth. Perhaps that has been the mistake all along, that we have taken the claim to seriousness too seriously, and that truly human seriousness lies in a completely different direction, one yet to be fully explored. And, perhaps, just perhaps, it will only be explored when the realisation comes to us that religion is simply no longer the place to look.”

http://choiceindying.com/2011/03/30/and-the-greatest-of-these-is-freedom/

#9 Michael De Dora on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 1:49pm

@Melody in #6,

You’re right. I welcome John’s reframing of the word.

#10 Ophelia Benson on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 3:15pm

We are told that atheism is betrayed by those “accommodationists” who won’t attack religious belief every chance they get.

Are we? Are you sure? That’s certainly not my view of “accommodationism.”

#11 Michael De Dora on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 3:31pm

Ophelia, what is your view of accomodationism? Because in my experience it ranges from those who think science and religion are compatible, those who take issue with some of the New Atheist communication tactics, and even those who question the wisdom of building a movement centered on atheism. Those are not necessarily the same type of people. In fact, they can be very different.

#12 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 8:44pm

John, you don’t even cover the issue of selective or situational accommodationism.

For example, I as a secularist can support the work of Americans United for Separation of Church and State on First Amendment issues without wanting to go to church with the Rev. Barry Lynn.

Or I can support Eugenie Scott having people of faith involved with the National Center for Science Education while disagreeing with their personal belief in theistic evolution.

===

@Shaun ... you’re partially true, but, not nearly totally so. Look at a PZ Myers or a Jerry Coyne. They’re confrontationalist with Scott, for example, on precisely the issues where I seen no problem with accommodation.

===

Bottom line overall, as I’ve said again and again, is that **atheism is NO guarantor of rationality.**

Take Myers again, and Vic Stenger. They continue to insist they can prove the nonexistence of god, even though in philosophy, in logic to be precise, that’s the equivalent of dividing by zero. Harris is even worse.

I don’t know about Stenger, but, IMO, Myers somewhat, and Harris definitely, more than any “gnu” other than Hitchens (who is sui generis on this) live for confrontation for confrontation’s sake.

#13 ShaunPhilly on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 9:27pm

@Gadfly

I only said that a gnu does not HAVE to be confrontational to be a gnu, not that you could not name a couple of confrontational gnus that are confrontational (And whom I agree with more often than not).

And as far as proving the nonexistence of god, I disagree with PZ’s view as well (as I have said here: http://shaunphilly.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/missing-the-dendrology-for-the-trees-pz-myers-and-evidence-for-gods/),

However, it is clearly possible to disprove the existence of clearly defined and contradictory gods, which many argue the God of the Bible is.  That was Stenger’s point in God: The Failed Hypothesis.  PZ has not made a clear distinction regarding that, so I cannot comment on what he thinks.

#14 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 9:56am

Please, please don’t come up with a brand new sense of “accommodationism”—-it will only muddy the waters.

As I understand it, “accommodationist” is a term for a group of people united in their criticism of the new atheist who say things like this:

1. Science and religion are compatible, although some religion (e.g., fundamentalism) is incompatible with science.

2. Science and religion are compatible, because methodological naturalism restricts the scope of science to the natural world, and religion’s supernatural claims are unfalsifiable.  (Except when they’re not, e.g., the fudamentalists who claim that god magically created the world 6000 years ago.)

3.New Atheists are philosophically naive to say that science and religion are incompatible, and should stop saying that.

4.New Atheists are undermining the cause of science acceptance by alienating religious believers, and even if they think science and religion are incompatible, they shouldn’t say so, for the sake of a centrist political strategy, i.e., to avoid backlash.  The New Atheists do more harm than good.

The term “accommodationist” was coined to describe these people, most emphatically not to describe anybody who isn’t critical of religion and religious people at every opportunity.

It was a substitute term for a less flattering term that had been used for those people—-appeaser.

The big question is where the line is between reasonably accommodating religion and bending over backward to appease it—-e.g. saying flattering things like “science and religion are compatible,” and the National Center for Science Education seeming to endorse liberal theology, not just disagree with conservative theology.

#15 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 10:13am

Seriously, John, you should not call yourself an accommodationist if you write stuff arguing that science and religion are incopompatible.

The term “accommodationist” was coined to describe people who not only don’t do that, but criticize people for doing that.

Those people were incessantly criticizing people like the Four Horsemen and especially PZ and his commenters for saying that.  They were telling the New Atheists to shut up about that, because it’s politicially inconvenient according to their strategy of criticizing fundamentalism and Young Earth creationism ONLY.

The Mooney-Nisbet and NCSE stance is that we should promote evolution teaching by making it seem compatible with mainstream and liberal religion, even to the point of dropping “unguided” from the description of the evolutionary process,

Seriously.

If you don’t know that history, and don’t know the controversy, you should not identify your self as “accommodationist.”

Of course it’s a silly term.  We’re all accommodationists in a broad sense, and we’re all selective about when we do and when we don’t make an issue of religion and atheism.

But do realize that “accommodation” is code for something that some people think is “appeasement” in the sense of bending over too far backwards, and giving too much ground.

That word has too many negative associations, and prejudges the issues, so the term “accommodationist” is better.

#16 Melody Hensley on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 10:22am

Paul, I agree with you, but of course John knows the history and controversy. He’s been a part of it. He’s one of the most knowledgable people on secularism, secular humanism, and atheism, and the movements that surround them.

#17 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 10:43am

@Shaun ... I agree with you on that, on what can be disproved about gods. That said, I think both Stenger and Myers have made the claim about god in general.

@Paul_w ... who’s the master, me, or the word? Who’s the master of a word, me or the gnus? That’s what it boils down to. And, given how the “horsemen” struggle with issues of logic, definitions and critical thinking at times, they’re sure not going to be my masters on word usage.

That said, i repeat what I said to John. Why isn’t he talking about situational accomodationism?

#18 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 12:08pm

SocraticGadfly,

I’d be happy to have “accommodationism” mean something reasonable, if people didn’t have a habit of conrasting accommodationism and gnu athiesm to make gnu atheists look unreasonable.

In particular, there’s a tendency among acommodationists to equate accmmodaitionism with being nice and reasonable, and equate New Atheism with being nasty and unreasonable.

Jerry Coyne—-a gnu if ever there was one—-recently gave a talk at a methodist church (IIRC), and he wasn’t mean to them. He didn’t scream, he didn’t call them a bunch of morons, etc.  On the other hand, he talked about evolution and did NOT say it’s compatible with religion, and I think he said he didn’t think it was.

Mooney latched onto that and praised Coyne for acting like an accommodationist—-to the amusement of a lot of gnus.  We never thought being a gnu atheist was about being a gratuitous asshole.  We never thought gnu atheism was about refusing to talk to religious people, or to work with them to promote shared goals like social justice.

Our point all along has been that we don’t want to sacrifice our principles, and tell religious people things they like to hear, but which we think are importantly false.

We don’t think we should say that science and religion are compatible, because for any interesting sense of “compatible,” they’re not.  (We’ve always and frequently acknowledged that some religious people can be scientists and do good science. That’s a different issue.)

I find it odd that John wants to call himself an “accommodationist” after writing a “New Atheist” piece on how science and religion are incompatible.

The accommodationist / New Atheist controversy has been mostly about such claims, whether they’re true, and whether you should say them in public whether they’re true or not.

And John is taking the New Atheists’ side, saying one of the main things that accommodatists have consistently criticized New Atheists for saying, and even for believing.

(They’re inconsistent about whether it’s false, or just something you really shoudln’t say, to avoid scaring religious people away from science.)

I think that if we go this route, the term “accommodationism” has become meaningless, and inevitably it will just be used in stupid ways.

Coining a better, less ambiguous term would be preferable.

Like “new atheism”, “accommodationism” is, at this point, a proper noun, like French “new wave” cinema, or 1980’s “new wave” music.  It doesn’t mean just what it says on the tin—-it refers to a roughly identifiable set of claims and preferences by a roughly identifiable group, which was itself defined largely by its opposition to another group, New Atheists.  It’s not just being anti-gnu, though—-its being anti-gnu in certain ways.

I think its reasonable to be an accommodationist, in a broad sense having nothing to do with those proper nouns—-but then, so do New Atheists in general.

There are several issues in play, but there’s really only one defining issue that makes the group known as “accommodatists” clearly a group, and distinguishes them from gnus, with all the recognized accommodationists on one side, and all the recognized gnu atheists on the other.

That is the issue of whether we or scientific bodies should say that science and religion are incompatible, say that they’re compatible, or just not say anything, and talk about science.

Many fights have gone on ad nauseam about statements by NCSE, AAAS, and NAS, which cay that science can’t study the supernatural, that science and religion are (just) “different ways of knowing,” and so on.
There’s a clear intention to suggest that science and religion are really compatible, stressing that many scientists are religious, and talking about liberal theology and so on.

Gnu atheists have criticized this—-NOT saying that scientific bodies should endorse their view (and John’s) that science and religion are INcompatible, but saying that they should not say and suggest the opposite.  Gnus don’t think that scientific bodies should say or intentionally imply things that most of their members think are FALSE.

The recognized accommodationists have citicized the gnus for disagreeing with such statements, and undermining their political strategies by doing it publicly—for saying what John quite rightly said in his recent article.

Given that John disagrees on this central and defining point with the people called “accommodationists,” I don’t see why he’d want to call himself that.  Maybe he’s not a gnu atheist, but he’s saying something important that accommodationists constantly criticize or even vilify gnus for saying in public, and sometimes for even believing.

Seriously, the accommodationists frequently have tried to make gnus out to be philosophically naive, and spouting philosophical views above their pay grade, when they made the VERY SAME two basic points John made in his article.  They used convenient quotes from two convenient philosophers to make it sound like the gnus were ignorant of basic philosophy on the subject.

They conveneintly ignored the fact that the gnu view (and John’s) is actually the mainstream view, and that they quote mined at least one of chosen philosophers (Barbara Forrest) who herself has published philosophical arguements that the success of naturalism undermines supernaturalism quite broadly—-essenitally the same argument that the detested gnus make.  (E.g. Vic Stenger did a whole book on the subject.)

If John’s going to call himself an accommodationist, I hope he’ll take all of the the other noted accommodationists to talks for this—-and very publicly make it very clear that all the accommodationist were wrong, and all the gnus were right, on the central, defining issue of the controversy, all along.

John, will you do that?

If not, I think you should look for a different word.  Otherwise “accommodationist” will just be ambiguous to the point of meaninglessness—-or even ludicrousness.


John, is that likely to

#19 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 12:28pm

Michael, in light of my last couple of comments, do you still think it’s a good idea to reframe “accommodatinist,” and if so, why?

I don’t think you can get away from the sense of “accommodationist” I gave, or the OTHER common sense of the word, which basically means nothing but “I don’t like gnu atheists.”

The latter sense is important, too. To date, the term “accommodationist” has largely been used tribalistically, to identify people united in their criticism (and often vilification) of gnu atheists, especially Richard Dawkis and PZ Myers.  The most important leader of that tribe has been Mooney, and his blog’s comment section has been the most important meeting place for the tribe to get together, and get their hate on for Dawkins and Myers and their supporters.

That largely fell apart when it turned out that much of the tribe, including the leading gnu-hating commenter, consisted of many sock puppets of one pathologically hateful and hypocritical lying sock-puppeteer, Wally Smith, who’s still out there socking up the internet and conveniently misrepresenting gnus (and himself).

(Anybody who blogs on this issue should be very wary of comments coming from IP addresses in Tuscaloosa AL or Gainesville GA.)

Given that Mooney and Wally Smith have largely defined the term “accommodationist” so far, I think it’s a write-off as anything BUT a tribal term, with a few traditionally associated stances.

It will inevitably seem attractive to people who dislike the gnus, and unattractive people who like them, and it will not be helpful in identifying particuar positions and strategies—-it just means that gnus are bad, if you’re on one side, or that people who think gnus are bad are bad, if you’re on the other.

Whateve the “right,” desirable sense of the term turns out to be, other than gnu-dissing, nobody sympathetic to the term is going to identify with it, even if they agree with those positions or strategies.  No way.

Similarly, anybody who thinks it’s really important to criticize gnus, and identifies with the term, is likely to use it, even if they don’t fit John’s new definition.

That will inevitably lead to people using the same terms for different things, mostly as an ambiguous term of praise or opprobrium, and utterly useless arguments of the “no true Christian” sort.

#20 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 12:36pm

Melody (at #6)

I think I disagree that John knows the history of the controversy.  I don’t think he’s been paying close attention, and I think he’s misrepresented it.  (Unintentionally, I assume.)

The fact that John’s an expert on a lot of related stuff does not mean that he understands the dynamics of these two particular warring tribes—-and I think it’s pretty clear he doesn’t understand the latter, and doesn’t give them due weight.

If he did, he would not espouse prototypically gnu positions, and turn around and blithely identify as an accommodationist, without commenting on the apparent irony and its major implications.

#21 Melody Hensley on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 1:23pm

Paul, I think you underestimate how stubborn John Shook is.

#22 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 2:23pm

Melody, I don’t understand what you’re telling me.

Are you saying he knows he’s disagreeing about something of central importance in accommodationism wars, and that he’s knowingly siding with the gnus, and he’s determined to convince the accommodationists they’re wrong, and acknowledge that the gnus have been right all along?  (And that much of the accommodationist anti-gnu rhetoric has been unfair?)

If so, cool.  Way cool.

And if so, my sincerest apologies and strongest encouragement to John.

#23 Michael De Dora on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 3:47pm

Paul, if it were up to me, we would never use the word “accomodationist.” It already means everything, and thus, nothing.

#24 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 5:31pm

Melody, I guess one reason why I’m skeptical that John is committed to making accommodationism mean something I approve of is that his post says this:

—-

We are told that atheism is betrayed by those “accommodationists” who won’t attack religious belief every chance they get.

—-

That’s just a pathetic straw man.  I have hung around in gnu circles and been an active participant, and I’ve never heard such a sentiment expressed, not even by the more strident commenters at Pharyngula, much less by any of the prominent gnus.

It’s just not something people say, and not something people imply.

Gnus almost all are, and always have been, people who recognize the value of reasonable accommodation between irreligious people—-or science—-and religious people.

For example, absolutely none of the prominent New Atheists, and extremely few if ANY of the commenters at Pharyngula, says that the NCSE or the AAAS or the NAS should endorse OUR position that science and religion are INcompatible, even though we think it’s TRUE.

We quite explicitly say that those organizations should NOT endorse our anti-religious position, but that they should NOT endorse the opposite position either. 

In other words, what we want is not for everyone to attack religion all the time—-and we ourselves don’t do that.  We not only don’t think everybody should do that, we don’t think anybody should.

Nobody.  Really.

What we want is not even that others attack religion as often as we do.

We think there are important roles for reasonable accommodatinists to play, and important roles for more assertive atheists to play.  Really, we do.  We really do.

We even think it’s unreasonable to be unaccommodating all the time—-that there are contexts where we should try very hard to focus on other things.

Really, we do.

What we want is for others to stop attacking us as though it is unreasonable for anyone in any context to frequently criticize religion—-and especially for people who actually agree with us to stop attacking us as if they didn’t agree.

John’s straw man is a good example.  Who are these people who think they’re betrayed by people who don’t attack religion EVERY CHANCE THEY GET?

Nobody is actually saying that, certainly not the leading, visible gnus, and certainly not typical gnu supporters, even in the comments section at Pharyngula, the most notoriously gnu place in the universe.

It’s just not true.  We’re not that bad.  Nowhere near that bad.  (I don’t think most of us are bad at all.)

We do NOT, in fact, think that you should make a big point of convincing granny, on her deathbed, that she’s not going to be in heaven with Jesus.

We do NOT, in fact, think that everyone should criticize religion every chance you get—-we have never said that, and always denied it.

Most of us—-and certainly the leading gnus—-do NOT, in fact, even think that most people should criticize religion most chances that they get, in all contexts, public and private.

What DO we think?

We DO think that religion should be criticized more often than it is, especially in public fora.

Why?  So that more people get used to the ideas that religion is not immune to criticism, and are not shocked if somebody disagrees with them about religion.

For example, my wife, an atheist, recently participated in several prayer circles for a dead relative, because that’s what the relatives do when somebody dies.  Nobody realized that it was rude to expect her to participate, and she didn’t speak up about the litany of stuff she didn’t agree with, including stuff that implied that she will burn in hell forever.  She just held hands with people, bit her tongue, and tried to smile at people.

When the minister was talking to her, personally, about Jesus and how the dear daparted came to Jesus and is now happily with Jesus, she let him know, as politely as possible, that she was not a Christian, and changed the subject.

Her mother is still angry with her for that—-for failing to show “respect” to the minister by AGREEING WITH HIM.  (The minister didn’t make an an issue of it.)

Her mother has no sense whatsoever that she’s actually being insufferably disrespectful to her daughter, by expecting her to simply agree with someone else, and ditch her well-considered views.
No sense of that at all.

Minister good, disagreeable daughter bad.  To her, it’s that simple.  She hasn’t even thought through the fact that she’s asking her daughter to lie, or change her views without argument.  She’s disagreeing with the guy who’s obviously Right and Good, and so her own daughter is obviously Wrong and Bad, period.  She’s disrespectful.

Like many Christians, Mom’s unclear on what reasonable *respect* consists of, and that it’s unreasonable for “respect” to imply *agreement*.

My wife is now in deep doodoo with her mother.  Her mother has been complaining about her terrible disrespectful atheism to various relatives.  She won’t let it go, even though the minister didn’t seem to think it’s a big deal.

That’s what millions of atheists face, in our culture.  A large fraction of the population thinks it’s unconscionably rude not to *agree* with the majority, no matter how polite you are about it.

They are unused to disagreement.  Disagreement, in itself, is shocking, even when the atheist didn’t bring it up, didn’t want it brought up, and only revealed her disagreement when forced to either disagree or disagree.

Thats why my wife—-who is the furthest thing from an in-your-face atheist herself—-is grateful to the Four Horsemen, PZ, and others, who make atheism more visible and less shocking.  She’s glad atheism is publicly visible, and that more people realize there are atheists out there, and hear what they have to say about why they’re atheists, so that it’s less likely she’ll be put in that position.

She wishes Hitchens was on TV 24 hours a day, so that her mother couldn’t help hearing him say what he has to say.  She loves Hitchens on atheism precisely because he openly and very publicly says what she doesn’t *ever* say, even privately, to anyone who doesn’t already basically agree.  She wishes he’d say it to absoltely everyone, everywhere, precisely so that she’d never have to be so rude as to say it to anyone, anywhere, herself—-but at least they’d have heard it from *somebody*.

I myself identify with gnu atheism for a similar reason.  I don’t talk about religion with my family, and, sadly, I don’t see my own family as much as I otherwise would, because my atheism is an issue to them, even though their Christianity is not much of an issue to me.

I really don’t want to talk to my own relatives about atheism, and why I don’t agree with their Christianity.  It’s too loaded, and too personal.  I want somebody else to, so I don’t have to.

By the same token, I do feel a certain moral obligation to oppose religiosity in other contexts, when it’s particularly appropriate and opportune—-to disabuse people of the notion that religiosity is the default assumption, and that anybody who disagrees is just being disagreeable.  I feel an obligation to explain atheism, and criticize religion, and criticize knee-jerk praise of religion and condemnation of atheism SOMETIMES.

Why?  One reason is that maybe, just maybe, the next time those people are actually face-to-face with an atheist, they won’t be so terribly shocked, and they won’t assume that somebody’s atheism is primarily a matter of being rude to them for no good reason—-that atheists have their reasons, which they take seriously, and are not just doing it to piss off Christians, or because they’re simply evil.  It’s not just a phase, and it’s not affectation, and it’s not thoughtless.

Much of the criticism of public, forthright not-very-compromising atheism by accommodationists amounts to urging them to keep their atheism and their reasons for it to themselves.

I don’t want that.  I want people who have access to the media—-any media, including blogs—-to come out, and acknowledge their atheism, and make their case—-to justify their atheism.

That inevitably involves criticizing the dominant ideology—-theism.  The dominant ideology says that it’s far better, and that we’ll deservingly burn in hell forever (in the conservative version) or are at least less entlightened and morally inferior (in most more liberal versions).

I’m really tired of that.  I want atheism to seem unexceptional and unexceptionable.  I want it to be ubiquitous.  Not dominant, but always there, in the background.

That’s why I want public atheists to be very public about being very atheist.

That unfortunately requires telling the majority they’re wrong about some things they think make them special.  (And better.)

And that requires offending some people.  It requires SEEMING rude, by daring to do things that most people don’t do—-challenging religious standards of judgment, and necessarily challenging religious reasons for belief.

We can’t make it clear that we’re not wrong—-or eve that we have reasonable reasons for thinking we’re not wrong—-without saying why we think they’re wrong.

It can’t be done.  You can’t explain to religious people why atheists are not wrong, and are not bad, without challenging the things that make them think they’re right, and that they’re better.

Often, you decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and you let it go.  Pick your battles, and for the most part, talk about something else—-anything else—-and do something else good.

Gnu atheists generally *do* understand that.  They do generally *do* that. The vast majority of gnu-identified atheists are not all atheist all the time.

Not even PZ Myers himself.  He doesn’t try to talk his own mom out of being a Christian, or tell his readers to do that sort of thing—-that they must go around converting their friends and relatives, getting up in their faces at all, much less every chance they get.  He just writes a blog, and suggests that people shouldn’t keep too mum too often, because general silence by atheists is one of the things that keeps us invisible, marginal, and freely vilified, and thus negatively stereotyped.

This is something that accommodationist just never seem to get—-that public, forthright, argumentative atheism has has two positive roles in private behavior, neither which is not to encourage individual people to be gratuitously rude in less public contexts.

One is to encourage people do some things that are WRONGLY considered rude in private behavior, like disagreeing with somebody who thrusts their religious beliefs and values in your face, and unthinkingly expects you to assent.  People should sometimes speak up, and say “Don’t assume I’m a Christian.  I’m not.” (And if it seems doable, maybe explain a little before changing the subject.)

The other is to make such “rudeness” unnecessary—-if public atheists are publicly atheistic, and explain why, it’ll seem less weird and rude if somebody turns out to be a atheist in private.

The lessons of the gay rights movement are pretty clear.  You don’t win acceptance by staying in the closet, and it’s especially helpful if public figures “come out,” and explicitly reject common stereotypes about them, and explicitly deny the reasons they’re being negatively judged.

That necessarily involves some substantial amount of explicit disagreement with majority beliefs, and majority values—-you have to tell the majority that they’re wrong about something they care about, and consider themselves morally superior about, and religiously justified in.  You actually have to criticize religion to some substantive extent.

Very forthright public atheists, who “aggressively” make their case, break the ice for the rest of us.

Gnus all seem to understand that—-we know that it’s not normal gnu behavior to go around picking fights with grandma or her minister in private.

Accommodationists, with their black-and-white views of being nice or gnasty, seem to think we’re a bunch of autistic fanatics.  We’re not.  We know about picking battles, and we all do it, every day.

Yes, we’re more likely to be up front and assertive on the internet than in private, and sometimes we think that gets out of hand and goes too far.

But on the other hand, that’s what the internet is for, isn’t it?  It’s where people get exposed to people speaking more freely than most people can do in most private contexts.  It’s where you say what you think, and make your case, so that some poor schmuck (like my wife), face to face with a judgmental Christian (like many of her relatives) doesn’t have to, in a context where it’s all very personal.

#25 Melody Hensley on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 5:49pm

Paul, friend, no one is going to read a post that long. I say this with love.

“We are told that atheism is betrayed by those “accommodationists” who won’t attack religious belief every chance they get.”

I think what John is criticizing is the fact that he gets called an accommodationist when he writes more nuanced pieces - when he’s not going for the jugular of religion. His body of work speaks for itself. He is by no means an accommodationist. However, the statement you presented makes it unclear that he recognizes the true agenda of the real accommodationists. I know John so I know that he is aware of those who want to accommodate naturalism to faith. I would like him to acknowledge that on this thread. However, he doesn’t have a good track record of commenting on his blogs.

#26 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 6:38pm

Melody: “Paul, friend, no one is going to read a post that long. I say this with love.”

I guess gnus have longer attention spans.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/we_serve_no_molly_before_its_t.php
(From his comment about treatises,though, PZ may agree sorta agree with you.)

#27 socraticgadfly (Guest) on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 10:03pm

@Paul ... interesting info on Coyne. That said, wonder if people of the church knew of his background.

That said, in a larger sense, there’s plenty of tribalism on the Gnu side. Look at PZ’s “Pharyngulacs”; they’re practically a cult.

And, beyond that, there’s probably “sinning” on both sides. That said, I think Gnu leaders do like confrontation for its own sake at times. Not just leaders, either. Go read “Anne” on Lindsey’s second-most recent blog post. She breathes confrontation like a fire dragon.

And, I think you overstate the ‘practically none.’

#28 ShaunPhilly on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 10:04pm

Michael,

How the hell do you get to be on such a blog as rationally speaking while being that dense.  I don’t know, but part of it seems to be by being unwilling to throw your cards on the table and say what you think the actual anwser is.  Instead, you play absurd semantic games and claim that a word means nothing in the midst of a person trying to obfuscate the term. Shame.

The term is meaningless because the accommodationist is playing a game with language that jukes the term in such a way that they cannot be branded with it.  Mooney is a master at this, you have done some of it in the past (although I tend to agree with you more), and even the so-called great Massimo with is PhDs in philosophy and the sciences pretends to side-step it by playing the sophistication card.

The term accommodationist does not mean nothing, it means a great deal in this conversation.  It’s just that people like John Shook muddy the waters to make it mean less, because he is trying to be an accommodationist in terms of the debate between accommodationists and gnus.  That’s the point he, and possibly you, are missing.  (The irony is that he misses the logical structure of the problem he is tied to while trying to avoid it).

In trying to make nice, the accommodationists are trying to avoid the fundamental philosophical issue at play; the role of NOMA v. incompatibility, the role of truth v. pragmatism, and the role of respect v. faux respect towards religion.  (link: http://shaunphilly.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/respect-ideas-people-and-rights-a-message-for-accommodationists-and-ecumenical-theologians/)

#29 paul_w on Thursday March 31, 2011 at 10:38pm

Melody:

“I think what John is criticizing is the fact that he gets called an accommodationist when he writes more nuanced pieces - when he’s not going for the jugular of religion.”

I’m not sure what you’re referring to;  I may have missed something.

The only time I recall that a lot of gnus got ticked off at John was over the HuffPo piece where he talked about the ignorant-and-proud “know-nothing” wing of atheism united by behind certain prominent leaders he still hasn’t named, but who would have to be among but the Four Horseman, or PZ.

If that’s what you’re referring to, I really wouldn’t agree that what gnus were upset about was him being nuanced—-quite the opposite.  It was him clearly playing up a negative stereotype of New Atheists that is not true,and making it sound like modern theology has made great strides that the gnus “slim refutations” haven’t kept up with.

To my knowledge, he still hasn’t named the great theology that we haven’t kept up with—-which would invalidate our arguments, apparently—-either.

What we were annoyed with was that he was saying things that we don’t even think he believes, in order to make his book seem desperately needed, and throwing us under the bus in the process.

BTW, I’d still be interested in what’s supposed to be sophisticated theology we’re supposed to keep up with.  I’ve read a fair bit of varied theology, and I’ve never found any that lived up to the kind of praise John was dishing out, in order to make gnus sound like proud ignoramuses for being ignorant of it.

#30 paul_w on Friday April 01, 2011 at 12:21am

John,

OK, I’ve gone and read several of your recent articles, and I’m impressed.  Science is incompatible with religion, religion’s methods are madness, religious people are deluded, Christian morality is childish, etc.

Cool.

Even better, you’re delighted with Ricky Gervaise when he ridicules religious people, comparing them to people who claim they can fly, and says “f*cking fly, then you lunatic!”

OMFG, that’s ridiculing religious people!

You’ve almost established your bona fides as a gnu atheist of the quite anti-accommodationist sort.

You’ve committed all but one of the cardinal sins: you haven’t said that scientific organizations shouldn’t claim science and religion are compatible.  (You’ve said they’re not, but you haven’t said they shouldn’t lie about that for political convenience.  Or maybe you have said that but I didn’t see it.)

You’re not what anybody else calls an accommodationist.  Those things are the very strident, shrill things you’re not supposed to say, no matter how true they are, and which are rude, no matter how politely you say them.

They’re the kind of thing people at The Intersection have been vilifying gnu atheists for, nonstop, for years.  Especially stuff like about saying religious people are “deluded” or that their views are “foolish” or that their Christian is “childish”.

That’s prime gnu stuff—-very much the stuff that Dawkins gets thoroughly vilified for, when he says it, and which he says at least as calmly as you do.  They’ll even quote mine him to make it look like he says that stuff, when he says something milder, as he usually does.

Now, to really be in the club, you’ve got to get them to notice you saying such things, an criticize you, add then you’ve got to stand your ground rather than apologize, calmly explaining that what you said is true until they whip themselves into a complete frenzy and call you all sorts of very bad things.

In the process, do explicitly disagree with Mooney and Genie Scott about science’s compatibility with religion, in some comments at the Intersection.  (They call it “trolling” over there if you are to disagree with the blogger and his supporters;  if you don’t back down, they call you “a troll,” a lot.)

THEN try and tell them you’re an accommodationist.  I dare you.

That should be very interesting.

But I’m mystified.  Why on earth would you commit all of the cardinal sins against accommodationism, and then try call yourself an “accommodationist”?

Why do you want that tattered, soiled mantle?

Is your point that the so-called accommodationists have been wrong all along in most of their criticisms of the gnu atheists, which they harp on ad nauseam?

If so, why not just say that—-why not come right out and say that the gnus have gotten a seriously bum rap from the “accommodationists,” for years, for doing the same things you’re doing?

#31 paul_w on Friday April 01, 2011 at 12:38am

By the way, John, I do get that you’re trying to make the point, somewhat humorously, that you’re not an accommodationist like Mooney et al.—-you do criticize religion in all the major ways they hate, to get religious people to accommodate to reality.

But you do also seem to be serious about trying to stake out some middle ground, or higher ground, that puts you above the gnu atheists, who are worse—-too extreme or something.

That’s the part I just don’t get, because I think gnu atheists have in general been lots better behaved than the accommodationist stereotype of them, and I don’t see what you’re doing that’s a new synthesis or or whatever.

If you’re doing it right—-somehow doing both “accommodationism” in a good sense and “new atheism” in a good sense, what exactly distinguishes that from plain new atheism?  Where are the lines that you DON’T cross, that the gnus DO?

I am assuming it’s not all just a joke, because of your stance that both tribes are wrong.  Wherein likes the wrongness of the gnu tribe?

#32 Val Eisman (Guest) on Friday April 01, 2011 at 6:40am

@Shook
I didn’t read your book about Objective Morality in religion but this title doesn’t sound right nor grounded in science.  There is no morality in Nature unless you mean humans.  And morality in humans is a learned concept.  It is not innate.

You think there was morality in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami?  Do you think there is morality in baby birds eating other baby birds for survival?

Nature is random and chaotic.  It is neither moral nor nonmoral.  It is a random and chaotic force of the universe.  To ascribe human qualities to it is incorrect and unscientific.

#33 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Friday April 01, 2011 at 10:36am

@Paul Beyond the length of your longest comment here, the main issue I have is that you keep saying, in various ways:

“None of this is the Gnus’ fault.”

That includes saying, again, in different ways, that you and Gnus want to be masters of the conversation, including defining “accommodationist.”

===

@Shaun: You, though in a politer way than Paul, and certainly more politely than a Coyne or a Myers, seem to have the same message, loud and clear, when you make comments like the “sophistication card.”

And, it’s simply not true.

And, again, though you come off as polite enough, you come off as not wanting to dialog on this issue.

Yor gay rights analogy is wrong, too. (As is any with black civil rights.)

Neither black nor gay leaders were, by and large, confrontationalists for the sake of confrontation. Later on, those in the black civil rights movement, like Carmichael, who were, weren’t successful.

===

@Val: Not entirely true. Legitimate ev psych (not Pop Ev Psych) says that morality has some roots in nature. I can flip your birds eating other birds with chihpanzees nurturing each other elephants standing vigil over their dead, etc.

Now, on those lines, as I told this “Anne” on Lindsey’s post: Atheism is no guarantor of morality. And, that’s another thing, in my anecdotal impressions, that Gnus don’t want to talk about.

Anyway, I think I’m done on this thread. As noted, I don’t think Paul or Shaun really want a dialog, and I’m not going to try any more. I’ve noted accommodationists aren’t perfect; I’ve noted my idea on what accommodation is, and not just for me, but there’s been no response.

Gnus, I reference for you again the old story about flies, honey and vinegar.

#34 ShaunPhilly on Friday April 01, 2011 at 11:27am

I actually am willing to dialogue.  I don’t know why you think I’m not willing to do so. 

Also, concerning the flies and vinegar thing, I’ll refer you to this, because I think it’s funny.

http://xkcd.com/357/

#35 paul_w on Friday April 01, 2011 at 12:10pm

SocraticGadfly,

Honey catches more flies than vinegar?  That’s just untrue on all levels—-the base of the metaphor, and its intended application.

If you think you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, you have to paid any attention to politics in the last few decades—-think about Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, the Tea Party, and all the trouble the formerly mainstream Republicans are having with the Tea Party movement.  Think about how common negative campaigning is, and why—-do you really think it never works?

One of the huge ironies of the framing and accommodionism shtik is how the accommodationists present themselves as politically sophisticated, and talk down to gnus about political strategy, when their main point—-about catching more flies with honey—-is just stupid.  It’s far more simplistic and politically naive than anything the gnus say.

If playing nice and being a centrist is always better than fighting hard, its pretty hard to explain the regular ass-kickings that the Democrats have gotten from not-so-nice Republicans, and how liberals have given ground, over and over, so that the political center has shifted right.

You need to learn about Overton Windows, and why your basic model of political discourse is largely wrong.

If you’re allowed to say trite platitudes as though they were serious political wisdom, how about we go back to talking about other simple ideas, like “appeasement”?

That would actually raise the level of discourse a bit.

#36 Val Eisman (Guest) on Friday April 01, 2011 at 12:17pm

@Paul excellent post.  This particular forum column by Shook is a dissappointment.  I’ve found his other columns much better.  Also, his comments about morality in nature are bonk if you consider nature to be more than the animal kingdom.  They defy the scientific notion of evolution which Shook needs to bone up on as to how and why we evolve.

I guess comments will soon be closed here.

#37 paul_w on Friday April 01, 2011 at 1:16pm

Gadfly,

Another thing.  I guess you missed Lewis Carroll’s joke if you think the question is actually “who’s to be the master,” and that John’s “Dumptyism” is kosher, and that you prefer it to letting Gnus decide what “acommodationist” means.

We didn’t decide what “accommodationist” means—-accommodationists did.  We’re NOT trying to gerrymander it to mean what we want it to mean.  We just think it clearly does mean certain things, given the major claims of all the major accommodationists, who’ve identified THEMSELVES as a like-minded and so-named group, and stressed certain crucial points quite clearly.

We were happy to drop the vastly more loaded and judgmental term “appeasers,” because we don’t want the name we use for them to prejudge the issues—-we agree that’s not fair.  We’re happy to actually make the argument that much of what they’re calling “accomodation” IS actually “appeasement” in a bad sense.  (Although we’ve mostly stopped using that word at all, even when it is precisely correct, because we agree that it’s got nasty connotations, e.g., with Chamberlain and Hitler.  Appeasement isn’t necessarily a horrendously bad thing, just something to be very careful about, and try to figure out whether its doing more harm than good in the big picture and the long run.)

So we call them “accommodationists.”  That’s a bit unfair to US, because in our view, we’re not actually unaccommodating—-we’re just not who publicly agree with statements that we think are importantly false, like “science is compatible with religion.”  But it’s an okay compromise—-it’s just a handy word for a group and their more or less shared views and strategies, like gnu atheist.

(Our objection to “New Atheist” was not so much that it was a label slapped on us by others, or that it’s particularly negative, but that it’s false—-gnu atheism is mostly a wave of the same old atheism, and we don’t want to suggest that we think it’s novel or original, out of respect for all the atheists who said the much same sorts of things before us.  Accepting the label “New Atheist” without comment would be unfairly self-aggrandizing. I personally use both, tossing in “gnu” sometimes to make fun of the idea that it’s “new,” and deflate the more pretentious sounding “New Atheism” a bit.)

The funny thing here is that neither the recognized accommodationists nor the gnu atheists is actually trying to gerrymander the meanings of either label, as John is trying to do.

Both sides know there are fairly clearly recognizable groups with relatively strong similarities within the groups, and relatively strong differences between those recognizable groups.

Why gerrymander the meanings of the groups’ labels, when they serve the useful purpose of picking out actual things that are actually going on?  Neither label is particularly informative except as a way to refer to a group, and whatever important, distinctive things the members of the group have in common.  That’s a GOOD thing.

(They are what’s called “rigid designators” in hifalutin’ philosophy of language—-you might want to read up on the New Theory of Reference a.k.a. the Causal Theory of Reference, and “natural kind terms.”  Lewis Carrol was right that Humpty Dumpty was wrong—-that was his point, and it was a good one that does apply in this case.)

Seriously, Gadfy, if John’s defenders are going to compare him to Humpty Dumpty, trying to be the “master” of a word in that patently ridiculous way, they’re doing his critics’ job for them.

Nice going.

#38 paul_w on Friday April 01, 2011 at 1:34pm

“Neither black nor gay leaders were, by and large, confrontationalists for the sake of confrontation.”

Sure they were.  Of course they were, in any sense in which the gnus are confrontational “for the sake of being confrontational.”

Consider a civil disobedience group including blacks going and sitting down ILLEGALLLY at a lunch counter, and ordering lunch.  Do you really think that in that particular instance, they just happened to be together, happened to be hungry, and happened to be near a whites-only lunch counter?

Oh hell no.  They were intentionally creating a confrontation, to make a point.

Or is that not what you mean “just for the sake of being confrontational,” because they were making a point?

Same goes for gnu atheists, then.  Gnu atheists don’t think it’s a great idea to tell religious people their beliefs are wrong just for the sake of beating up on them.  They think it’s worth doing, more often than has been done to date, to make a point: that religious people’s beliefs are wrong.

Jumping jesus on a pogo stick, how much more obvious can it be that when you tell people they’re wrong, you’re making a particular point—-that they’re wrong.

We am sick to death of accomodationists who define perfectly good points as pointless, even when they’re points they themselves ACTUALLY AGREE WITH, in order to slam the gnus, and make their behavior seem gratutious, when it’s anything but.

Since when is telling the truth patently pointless?

Is that a standard we should generally apply to other truths?

If not, stop with this BS about confrontation “for the sake of confrontation,” which is just LYING.

You may not think our reasons are good enough, but you KNOW we have reasons, and we’ve given those reasons over and over and over again.

Don’t pretend otherwise.  That’s just LYING.

#39 ShaunPhilly on Friday April 01, 2011 at 1:40pm

What has become clear to me is that the conversation will not continue (especially not here, but also in the larger blogosphere).  I, as a gnu,want the conversation.  But it is usually the accommodationist that takes some mythological high road and walks away from us rabid confrontationalists.

The problem seems to be that the accommodationists just want to avoid any conversation because they don’t like the term or know what it means.  They fail to address the issue that there is a real phenomenon going on here and so rather than address is substantially, they simply state that the term is ambiguous or vague and therefore the conversation is pointless. 

My girlfriend has argued that it looks to her like one pragmatic difference between gnus and accommodationists is that gnus recognize that accommodationist methods are sometimes helpful (and I do admit that).  But gnu methods are never seen as useful to them. In other words, we should just shut up, because we are not helping in a way they like.

#40 paul_w on Friday April 01, 2011 at 1:53pm

It really lays eggs under my skin when these accommodationists criticize gnus for telling truths about religion—truths they explicitly agree with—but feel free to tell patent lies about gnus, e.g., that we do what we do for no reason at all.

If you want to argue strategy—the real issue—get SERIOUS about it.  Learn about how social movements actually work, including the Overton Window strategies that have been so horrendously successful for the right wing.  Do you think Chris Mooney knows more about effective political strategy than Lee Atwater and Karl Rove?

Think about the constant barrage of right-wing scaremongering about Obama for years now, and look at his approval ratings right now.

Is anybody really so clueless as to think that “you catch more flies with honey”?  Well, sadly, you don’t.  Quite often—and quite OBVIOUSLY—you catch more flies with vinegar, and with horseshit from particularly stupid horses.

Mooney has been pontificating about flies and honey, and completely STONEWALLING about Overton Windows for literally years on end.  Many of his critics have raised the issue on their blogs, and in the comment section on his blog, over and over again for LITERALLY YEARS and he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the issue, much less address it.

He then repeats the same simplistic stuff about flies and honey, feigns mystification as to how anybody could fail to agree with such obvious wisdom, and talks about those gnasty gnus being confrontational for its own sake.

It’s a lie he and other accommodationists have been repeating for years now.

We might be wrong about strategy—-the issues are very tricky—-but claiming that our being confrontational is purely gratuitious is simply a lie, which has been repeated way too often for way too long.

#41 Michael De Dora on Saturday April 02, 2011 at 1:06pm

Shaun,

I apologize for being short with you. My basic point is that the meaning of the words “accomodationist” and “confrontationlist” are unclear to me, and I think their use is misleading. I suppose further discussion—like the one here—might clarify how and why these words are used. But still I don’t think we should employ them, because their meaning is so clouded.

#42 ShaunPhilly on Saturday April 02, 2011 at 1:25pm

I appreciate that.  I also apologize for being rude to you.  I get frustrated in talking about this topic often, and being a gnu I am(of course) vulgar and confrontational .  I would very much like to talk about this more, to give my point of view, hear yours, and maybe use it as a jumping off point to either clarify any meanings to the terms or at least figure out what the landscape of the differences are, even if semantics becomes too cumbersome.  I’ll invite you to email me privately or to find some public forum to have a discussion about this, if you are interested.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) //';l[1]='a';l[2]='/';l[3]='<';l[4]=' 109';l[5]=' 111';l[6]=' 99';l[7]=' 46';l[8]=' 108';l[9]=' 105';l[10]=' 97';l[11]=' 109';l[12]=' 103';l[13]=' 64';l[14]=' 121';l[15]=' 108';l[16]=' 108';l[17]=' 105';l[18]=' 104';l[19]=' 80';l[20]=' 110';l[21]=' 117';l[22]=' 97';l[23]=' 104';l[24]=' 83';l[25]='>';l[26]='\"';l[27]=' 109';l[28]=' 111';l[29]=' 99';l[30]=' 46';l[31]=' 108';l[32]=' 105';l[33]=' 97';l[34]=' 109';l[35]=' 103';l[36]=' 64';l[37]=' 121';l[38]=' 108';l[39]=' 108';l[40]=' 105';l[41]=' 104';l[42]=' 80';l[43]=' 110';l[44]=' 117';l[45]=' 97';l[46]=' 104';l[47]=' 83';l[48]=':';l[49]='o';l[50]='t';l[51]='l';l[52]='i';l[53]='a';l[54]='m';l[55]='\"';l[56]='=';l[57]='f';l[58]='e';l[59]='r';l[60]='h';l[61]='a ';l[62]='<'; for (var i = l.length-1; i >= 0; i=i-1){ if (l[i].substring(0, 1) == ' ') output += "&#"+unescape(l[i].substring(1))+";"; else output += unescape(l[i]); } document.getElementById('eeEncEmail_JGOExMOn8g').innerHTML = output; //]]>
ShaunPhilly.wordpress.com

#43 ShaunPhilly on Saturday April 02, 2011 at 1:28pm

huh, some weird javascript error, it seems…

ShaunPhilly (at) gmail (dot) com

Shaun

#44 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Saturday April 02, 2011 at 11:54pm

@Paul .. No, no question or Lewis Carroll reference missed. Just my take on your attitude/approach.

@Shaun ... Take the martyr’s back of the hand off your forehead. I walk away at some point because ... you’re just not worth my time.

Again, I’m not alone on this. I don’t use the word “atheist” about myself, nor do several of my online atheist-type friends, because of stuff like this.

Something for you to think about (or NOT think about) when you and/or Paul tout “Gnu marketing strategies.”

#45 ShaunPhilly on Sunday April 03, 2011 at 12:32am

Socratic,

I thought we gnus were the strident and obnoxious ones…

I don’t know what you are talking about with the martyr comment, and the gay rights analogy which you associated with me above was Paul’s comment, not mine (although I agree with it somewhat). 

Not calling yourself an atheist (if you are one) because some other people use the term in ways you don’t like is simply not rational.  It’s a term that describes your opinion about the existence of one potential set of beings, not a label that associates you with people who also happen to share said opinion.  Nothing I, or any atheist, can ever do makes the term an embarrassment or a term of avoidance for you or any of your cohorts.  Only your own actions can embarrass you (and they should).  There’s something you can ignore, if you like.

You have not added anything to this conversation that helps anyone learn or improve towards your eminent level, so take your high horse and shove it. 

Arrogant prick.

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.