I was going to avoid to further involve myself in this issue until I read Ronald Lindsay’s blog today and also reading more comments which then brought a few thoughts to mind.
First is a comment by Jerry Coyne on Ophelia Benson’s blog highlighted in an above post of mine [#4].
Jerry’s comment - HERE
I don’t mind so much someone identifying his position (after all, if it was just “John Shook” with no ID I’d have to look him up, but it should always be stated CLEARLY that any opinions given are those of the individual alone and not necessarily of his/her organization.
I would also recommend going through the comments on Jerry’s post - 504 comments at last check - which also includes an update with a quote from Shook - CFI Declares War On Atheists
To also read through the comments on Ophelia post - 46 at last count. I realize reading through all the comments is a bit much, but spending a little time on them is a good idea I think.
Jerry’s an Ophelia’s comments are very troubling for obvious reasons. I’m also worried about what this may bring - after all I’ve been a reader of Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquiry for over 15 years now. I have learned a great deal about open debate through these journals. The question of what these shoddy arguments could bring was made crystal by what I read on Lindsay’s blog post.
Ronald Lindsay - Commemorate Blasphemy Rights Day—Have a Bake Sale or Read the Bible - September 26, 2010
Specifically this quote:
But in a textbook example of poisoning the well, soon after CFI’s announcement of Blasphemy Day some opposed to CFI’s mission redefined the purpose of Blasphemy Day, claiming that CFI was sponsoring Blasphemy Day solely to ridicule and belittle believers. Unfortunately, this tactic had some success. Mud does stick.
I recall criticism of this announcement coming from within and outside of CFI - Lindsay’s blog taking on the issue - Two Different Understandings of Blasphemy—Two Different Visions of CFI - September 29, 2009
It appeared to me at the time that Lindsay did a fine job of defending his position. It is worth noting the ‘other side’ of the coin concerning arguments about the direction CFI is taking, briefly mentioned in a comment by Lindsay today on his blog when he notes: “It’s bad enough to be considered a fundamentalist atheist (in the view of Kurtz and company) or someone hostile to atheists (in the view of Coyne and company).” I would assume by “company” that Lindsay is referring to people within and outside of CFI.
The later argument was taken up by Lindsay in his blog post - Have “Atheist Fundamentalists” Taken Over CFI? - October 21, 2009
The above is a spirited defense of CFI with statements worth highlighting here, such as:
In this regard, I am troubled by recent claims, strewn over articles, blogs, and other sites on the internet, that “atheist fundamentalists” are now directing policy at CFI. [Snip]
In short, there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that “atheist fundamentalists” are now running CFI. That claim falls somewhere between windy rhetoric and a desperate, unprincipled slur. Whatever its appropriate characterization, that charge has no place in reasoned debate. If you disagree with CFI, its positions, or its tactics, by all means let us know and, more importantly, let us know why you disagree. But if you have any respect at all for the staff of CFI, please drop the insults. You’re wasting our time and yours.
I have not seen this type of defense of CFI coming forward with this latest bought of faulty arguments and accusations. In fact, in my opinion it has been fairly quiet considering what has transpired. I could surmise a few things then. First, that these criticisms of CFI have dealt a body blow. Second, that the arguments themselves are not well understood as to their potential ramifications and groundlessness (the caption: CFI declares war on atheist was written by the author). Lindsay does seem to grasp these to a degree as clarified in his response to Coyne on his blog (see my post #2].
Worth noting also because it at times falls into the same type argumentation is a blog post up today by Russell Blackford - The Shook Distraction (3) - September 27, 2010
The better resourced the organisation becomes, the better in the scheme of things ... especially as it goes through a period of adjustment now that the Paul Kurtz years have come to an end.
But the Shook distraction shows how the good will built up by all the good work can be negated by bad organisational communications. No one sees the totality of what CFI is doing - except, of course, for a few insiders - but a statement at a highly-visible outlet such as the Huffington Post is seen by very many people all over the world, most of whom have no idea what CFI does ... or even what it is.
Individuals associated with the CFI (and other such organisations) would do well to keep this in mind. They have it in their power to do enormous damage very quickly, and to undo an organisation’s reputation built up by countless hours of hard work, some it spectacularly successful, by many, many people. That’s the kind of responsibility that is on your shoulders when you speak for an organisation - even if you don’t think you’re speaking for it on that particular occasion.
The question for me then is how much of this will “stick”. The prospect is frightening to say the least and I’m no longer sure I want to stick around to find out.