New Atheism's Idiot Heirs or 2nd Wave Internet Skepticism
October 17, 2017 7:52 PM   Subscribe

In the heydey of the internet messageboard, let’s say in the 1990s, a certain species of idiot materialized. He was male, aggressively pedantic, self-professedly logical, committed to the hard sciences, prone to starting sentences with “actually,” and almost always devoted to the notion that his disbelief in God imbued him with intellectual superiority. This archetype’s golden years were the 2000s, a decade that saw George W. Bush’s politicized creationism and the use of web forums peak in unison.

Echoplex Media has a five-part, ongoing series on this same phenomenon. Entitled 2nd Wave Internet Skepticism And The War Of Bad Ideas. (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

Both articles, along with the work done by Angela Nagle attempt to explain some of the strange origins of current internet culture. How did the Skeptic movement lose touch with progressivism?
posted by Telf (152 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
I miss Douglas Adams a lot.
posted by Artw at 7:56 PM on October 17 [39 favorites]


[Fixed the first link!]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:01 PM on October 17 [2 favorites]


Gods I miss 1998.

(Chosen strictly because that was the year I turned 21.)
posted by elsietheeel at 8:02 PM on October 17 [4 favorites]


I fear that were he still alive, Douglas Adams would have shown his ass on the internet by now.
posted by stannate at 8:06 PM on October 17 [41 favorites]


Yeah, perhaps the best thing about dead authors is that they're not going to go nuclear milkshake duck on us.
posted by Telf at 8:09 PM on October 17 [36 favorites]


Just because one can construct a godless universe
 does not excuse berating an innocent for failing your expectation of customer service, making a public scene over late fees, or failing to acknowledge others' ideation of an ontological dialectic. Besides, money and sex account for 90% of the space-time continuum, leaving 10% that, even in the best of times, can't be adjusted for inflation.
 FSM and Ceiling Cat memes have provided me with years of amusement and assurances some portion of people out there still "get it" with little or no inclination to begrudge less critically minded folks their traditions that only INDIRECTLY sabotage secular fashions and the general advancement of synthetics.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:14 PM on October 17 [7 favorites]


Nothing new here - the standard toxic masculinity that pervades most corners of society has caught up with the Skeptic/Atheist Movement.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:15 PM on October 17 [11 favorites]


AM not entirely sure they didn't lead with some of it.
posted by Artw at 8:17 PM on October 17 [42 favorites]


Heh. I was a member of the skeptic internet back then.

Yeah, the community was kind of a shithole.

I wasn't so much progressive as antagonistic, and frankly, that was the part of the culture that most appealed to me. I'm sort of afraid to go digging through the alt.skeptic and alt.atheist archives to find what nonsense I was up to back then.

Let's say that I've grown and leave it at that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:43 PM on October 17 [26 favorites]


Terry Pratchett never became a strident internet atheist. Maybe sf/f comedy novelists are too good-natured to be sucked into such trifles?
posted by Apocryphon at 8:46 PM on October 17 [16 favorites]


Let's say that I've grown and leave it at that.

The truth is a belief we might abandon as often adhere.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:52 PM on October 17 [2 favorites]


Dear God, I pray thee, if it is true as is rumored that Douglas Adams waded rather more deeply into this realm than most would escape without great suffering, let him have successfully returned without too much slag clogging up his chakras.

When it comes to 90's Internet skepticism, personally I was more into RAW.
posted by sfenders at 8:57 PM on October 17 [6 favorites]


Wasn't Adams close friends with Dawkins, who is basically ground zero for this crap? Not to damn him by association (I love DNA too), but it's something to think about.

One of the things that's caused a lot of soul-searching for me over the last few years is how many things that I felt were positive, or at least gave the benefit of the doubt to (skepticism, video games, anti-authoritarianism, tech, sf, geek culture in general really) have been weaponized in support of the most odious shit. There but for the grace of God go I.

I wasn't so much progressive as antagonistic

Growing up in the Reagan years, these were basically tantamount. Until they suddenly weren't, of course.
posted by neckro23 at 9:23 PM on October 17 [26 favorites]


Yup! Nothing like people who claim to be nonreligious science-believers and then irrationally hate certain religions and invest little effort into understanding science, and still are imbued with irrational self-confidence and support bizarre authoritarian politicians. Although at least two of the obnoxious internet skeptics who occur to me are women, so it's not entirely a male phenomenon.
posted by miyabo at 9:27 PM on October 17 [10 favorites]


I remember all the arguments that my parents’ generation made about computers “rotting the brain.” I remember defending computers, video games and the internet as ways for friendly nerdy people to meet each other and share ideas all across the world. I wasn’t wrong. But neither were they. Something does rot young brains in the internet, from the worst to the best. Exactly how to describe it and what to do about it, I don’t know.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:27 PM on October 17 [22 favorites]


Dawkins and Harris thought they were promoting Atheism and critical thinking, but in retrospect were useful fools tapping into growing anti-muslim bigotry.
posted by benzenedream at 9:41 PM on October 17 [20 favorites]


That's maybe true for Dawkins, but Harris was always a virulent and conscious islamophobe. He knew exactly what he was doing.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:04 PM on October 17 [14 favorites]


I'm a religious Reform Jew, in that I believe in God even if I don't attended any formalized congregation currently. For a long, long, long time, mostly when I was in college, I stuffed that way down deep inside to a) seem smart, nobody would take me seriously if I wasn't a very specific kind of atheist, I thought, and was probably right b) I wanted to impress New Atheist Dudes Who Said They Were Smarter Than Me So They Must Be

every day I am grateful to no longer be doing that
posted by colorblock sock at 10:05 PM on October 17 [20 favorites]


The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.


Both from Harris' The End of Faith (2004). I was 0% shocked to find him providing intellectual cover for white supremacists in 2017.
posted by Iridic at 10:09 PM on October 17 [19 favorites]


Dawkins radicalized over time, as did his movement. That's one of the flaws of the Baffler piece- in its zeal to be Baffly, it assumes that the New Atheists were always inherently reactionary and regressive, rather than the movement simply had tendencies that would lead it to be reactionary. Why, I recall MeFites but six or seven years ago vouching for him and the movement.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:12 PM on October 17 [22 favorites]


Dawkins radicalized over time, as did his movement.

Yeah, this seems to be true to me, too. But it's hard to say, because... well, I was kind of a techbro douchebag back then.

Dawkins in particular I think, has broken Eazy-E's rule "don't get high off your own supply". For a professed skeptic, he sure believes what he thinks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:20 PM on October 17 [13 favorites]


There's something off with the first article, and I assume the author is younger than implied, because he does not seem to be remembering anything himself, and then zips by it so fast as if he hopes nobody will notice. Anyway, went to his twitter feed and noticed he doesn't want to reveal his own views, if any. Even when posing with Steve Bannon and volunteering to be the envoy to the Vatican, he's trying to make jokes each time and lets the context speak for itself.
posted by Brian B. at 10:26 PM on October 17 [3 favorites]


For a professed skeptic, he sure believes what he thinks.

The internet was a mistake, and Twitter is among the worst.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:41 PM on October 17 [5 favorites]


Even when posing with Steve Bannon and volunteering to be the envoy to the Vatican

?

But anyway he's kind of a generic lefty Twitter guy. Definitely more into making jokes and and clever potshots than anything else, yeah. I think he is pretty young.
posted by atoxyl at 10:42 PM on October 17 [3 favorites]


I think Apocryphon's point is excellent.

As the main article points out, a lot of the tenets of New Atheism made more sense under Bush and might become relevant again under President Pence. I always think of Spiegelman's father in Maus. The exact personality traits that allow somebody to thrive in adversity, might be maladaptive in different settings.

Modern debate has a way of radicalizing people. This happens on both sides of the argument. It's so easy to self-sort yourself into an echo chamber that it's hard not to radicalize. As I often bemoan, Metafilter is also guilty of this. We don't police our own radical tendencies. It feels so good to rally behind people you think you should agree with. Also, anger is such an efficient way of organizing people that it help to keep outrage dialed up in order to maintain the cohesion of any social group.

Interesting observation by Brian B. I fell into the Skeptic movement in the late 1990s when I moved to northern Florida and was blindsided by Southern Culture. In New England, everyone believed in evolution and moving to the deep south really shook my sense of reality; I realized that America was not what I thought it was. There was a lot of comfort in Shermer et al.'s writing for a teen living in the middle of nowhere. I'm not sure if the community serves the same role as it used to. I just wanted to talk with people who believed the earth was more than 10,000 years old and that bananas probably weren't intelligently designed by god.

Obviously society has changed a lot as well. I was a far left progressive in the late 90s and 2000s. Most of my beliefs haven't changed on any topic, but I'm moderate-center in some circles nowadays. That may because, as stated above, being pro-science meant being anti-Bush II. A lot of modern left movements aren't really explicitly pro-science any more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, perhaps we're adopting more complex mental models.

Also, I'm a minority here but I do believe that Sam Harris acts in good faith. I feel that he's made a series of conclusions that took him in a different direction from my own beliefs, but he believes that he is acting for the greater good. I feel that a few of the above comments take his statements out of context in a way that is not entirely fair. I do agree that he has some disgusting people in his fan base and that some of his ideas have fed the problems outlined in the above articles. I'm not defending all of his conclusions, but I do think he is acting in good faith based upon his own moral compass.
posted by Telf at 10:48 PM on October 17 [21 favorites]


One of the things that's caused a lot of soul-searching for me over the last few years is how many things that I felt were positive, or at least gave the benefit of the doubt to (skepticism, video games, anti-authoritarianism, tech, sf, geek culture in general really) have been weaponized in support of the most odious shit. There but for the grace of God go I.

There are lots of people now who each healthily enjoy a majority of those things who aren't obnoxious shitbags. The Mythbusters guys, Weird Al, Paul and Storm, generally the MST3K guys, TMBG, Devo and John Hodgman come to mind. Geekery need not be the same thing as douchery. Being pro-science is just as needed now as ever, indeed far more so in this the age of Trump. Being against the agendas of fundamentalists doesn't mean you have to be anti-Christian, anti-Muslim or anti-religion.

Empathy for your fellow human beings is a thing none of us can do without, is perhaps the foremost virtue. Anyone that forgets that is bound to become an asshole, sooner or later but probably sooner.
posted by JHarris at 10:56 PM on October 17 [52 favorites]


I think we need to be clear about which atheist or skeptic community we're talking about. Is it the YouTube community or the blogger community or the podcast community. There are appreciable differences between them.
posted by RedShrek at 11:10 PM on October 17 [2 favorites]


How are they different? (Genuinely curious)
posted by Omnomnom at 11:30 PM on October 17 [4 favorites]


so, did this group of trolls shift their ire to women and people of color from their earlier target of religious people because they just like attacking whatever they think is the movement of the moment? and they thought that had changed in the obama era? they just think they're smarter than whoever happens to have social juice when they do not?

sidenote: ben shapiro was in my undergrad poli sci classes. he was an insufferable moron. i think the only reason he attended class at all was to raise his hand to berate the professor as a liberal so that he could later complain that conservatives were the victims of discrimination.
posted by wibari at 11:43 PM on October 17 [19 favorites]


I haven't paid much attention to the podcast community, or the YT community, and certainly not a number of blogs, precisely for the reason of avoiding these people. But there are areas you'll find people still managing not to be assholes (at least for the most part). You'd probably have found a lot of them recently at QED. Then there's Crispian Jago's blog in which he tells his ongoing cancer story. There's the offline London Skeptics in the Pub meetup I still sometimes get to not as often as I like, which while not an online segment of the community absolutely stands steadfast against the side of skepticism discussed here, and rightly insists on maintaining its inclusivity - but then I couldn't guarantee all the other branches are so forward looking.

Unfortunately I don't know how easy it is to actually find them from a starting point of Dawkins et al.
posted by edd at 12:02 AM on October 18 [1 favorite]


so, did this group of trolls shift their ire to women and people of color from their earlier target of religious people because they just like attacking whatever they think is the movement of the moment?

My feeling has always been that it's always been more about making themselves feel special than any deeper values, so, yes?
posted by gusottertrout at 12:05 AM on October 18 [17 favorites]


Wasn't Adams close friends with Dawkins...?

Yes, Adams introduced Dawkins to his third wife, Lalla Ward (who you may remember as Romana II on Doctor Who).
posted by The Tensor at 12:14 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


Yes, name-calling, that'll teach them. Honestly, where is all this hatred coming from?
posted by Laotic at 2:28 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]


i'm not "bright" enough to tell where all this hatred is coming from

yes, old old stuff, but the kind of arrogance that produced dawkins and his "brightness" is now running everywhere through our culture and society

whatever one might say about their opinions they've not made the world a better place with their arguments for them
posted by pyramid termite at 2:38 AM on October 18 [8 favorites]


Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents. They were after the burst of dopamine that comes from feeling smarter than other people, from exercising some pathetic simulacrum of masculine power, from seeing someone else feel bad and knowing they were responsible. Strangely enough, this is also the goal of modern right-wing politics. Just as conservatives discovered they could skip straight to the “angry liberal” portion of the argument by electing Donald Trump, the worst New Atheists discovered they didn’t need atheism at all. They could just be as insufferable alone, on Youtube, spitting nonsense into the vacuum.

New Atheism came with some liberatory promise. Elements were good for my evolving teenage brain and I'd probably be something like a conservative if I hadn't run into that discourse at a critical time in my life, even if it was clear that the historical and cultural bits ("we could have been exploring the galaxy by now") were myopic childish nonsense from the get-go.

But dang, this is an absolutely accurate depiction of the significant figures' trajectory and that of the wider community. Maybe RedShrek is right and that there's been some splintering but I've not seen if from your Dawkins and Harris types.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 3:02 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


Living in a country where the default is a kind of soft atheism with a bit of harmless 'a bit spiritual' woo... New Atheism is basically 'who the hell are these loudmouth loons?' Then they kicked off a whole load of Islamophobia/GG nonsense and it became a lot less funny. Not very Bright (unless it was their intention all along)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:10 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


The quintessential Sam Harris: talking about how the Nazis were peacefully marching in Charlottesville.

And yet he claims to not be courting the alt-right (and alt-light, but who are we kidding, that's just a branding exercise).
posted by Yowser at 3:11 AM on October 18 [4 favorites]


People, including self-proclaimed skeptics, are not actually rational enough to be basing their day-to-day lives on science and evidence. Both of which are good things, but not actually the things you're turning to when you open the fridge, or when you flirt with someone, or when you do your homework, or whatever. People who think their daily actions are almost entirely rational are people who aren't actually aware of how their feelings are influencing their behavior--and if you aren't aware of that, you can't do much emotional regulation. A person with some relatively moderate levels of bias against women or Muslims or whatnot, by the standards of the wider society, who thinks they are rational? That person ends up a more dangerous bigot than someone who is aware that they have biases and isn't trying to justify them. And much more dangerous than someone who is actively trying to manage their feelings and behave in a way that shows empathy towards others.
posted by Sequence at 3:19 AM on October 18 [38 favorites]


Rationality goes out the window when the subject has any emotional stake in the outcome of the discussion.

I'm tired of "rationality" and "atheism" being co-opted as some sort of rhetorical misdirection. If you want to be a dick on the internet and shout at people then at least own that shit. Stop hiding behind junk science/reason.

If this behaviour was restricted to the internet, then it would be fine, but it's not; it's in the White House and on FOX and it's muddying the discourse on a number of topics that are literally going to change the lives of billions of people in the near future.

That people can and do resort to this sort of deceitful dialogue to win an argument or line their pockets is horrifying.

If calling this crap out is inciting hatred then I don't want to live on this planet anymore.
posted by trif at 3:23 AM on October 18 [15 favorites]


While I remember clearly being firmly onside with the Skeptics, their explosion during the 2000s definitely sent me to the other side. What I perceive to be the trigger was Dawkins' pronouncement that it was right to openly mock believers. It seemed to motivate people who enjoyed being abusive - certainly on Metafilter, where it sometimes felt, in those pre-Mod days, like the Hell's Angels running security at Altamont - because being abusive under those circumstances was no only not wrong, it was the right thing to do.

I came to feel that the steady dopamine hits that you get from declaiming righteous abuse clouds the judgement, and whether it is deserved is irrelevant to the corrosive effect it has on the speaker. I still do - I sort of skip over comments that are epithet-heavy, not because I'm offended but because it's most likely just someone else's catharsis. And so what? Whether or not I think Trump is an asshole, a discussion dedicated solely to reiterating that proposition with some variation in epithet is unlikely to generate either heat or light, but rather just noise. In a culture dedicated to the generation of noise, I feel the need for something more ordered and (dare I say it) rational, though I have no idea where I would find it. Not because I'm ordered and rational, but because I'm not.
posted by Grangousier at 3:26 AM on October 18 [27 favorites]


I'm sort of disappointed that the article didn't include anything on Mythicist Milwaukee, which is the preeminent example of how far things have fallen.

It included such highlights as the organizers proudly announcing that a skeptic was visiting their event, then a cautious warning that he was a teenager when it was revealed that he defended child pornography, then a disinvite, then him showing up.

It also included minorities feeling frightened as an audience of MAGA hats cheered on as Carl Benjamin (the garbage human) defended making a rape threat.

It proceeded with a vigorous denouncement of postmodernism, in a way that veered very, very closely to William S. Lind's anti-semitic work, which inspired the terrorist attack in 2011 in Norway that left 77 dead.

It finally concluded with the organizers siccing their new fans on event attendees who dared to speak out about what a shit-show it turned into.
posted by Yowser at 3:30 AM on October 18 [15 favorites]


Re: Mythicist Milwaukee.

A defense of these shitlords

A more centrist or perhaps slightly leftist perspective, which is also about the husband stitch, bringing this into very MeFi territory.

I'd link to the leftist perspectives, but you can just check out (Twitter link) KWintie's Twitter feed. My apologies for not picking out anything specific.
posted by Yowser at 3:51 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


Luckily I'm just a member of the Cult of Metafilter and get my dopamine hits off favorites... oh, those sweet sweet faves.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:01 AM on October 18 [18 favorites]


I spent some time involved with the Skeptics movement in Columbus when I first moved to Ohio. At the time, our local group was organized by a few really awesome women, and they sort of took me under their wing. They had me lead a trip to the zoo where I talked about evolution, and I have a talk at a con about responding to common anti-evolution talking points.

Then they left - moved, had kids, etc - and I started reading between the lines of the writings of bloggers like PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne and then came Elevatorgate and an amazingly neg and harassment filled conversation I've ever had with someone at a local atheist event, and I decided that the movement wasn't for me and didn't particularly want me there and I didn't particularly want to be there.

I wouldn't be surprised if lots of other women and progressives started having those realizations at about the same time, and the heart fell out of the movement and it turned into what it is now.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:18 AM on October 18 [30 favorites]


As someone who certainly had been a skeptic before the skeptic movement, I always felt there must be some sad story behind most of the loudest proponents.

There are almost certainly many more agnostics and atheists quietly at church or synagogue for family reasons or that they just like the music and the fellowship than ever in any of the skeptic movements.
posted by sammyo at 4:21 AM on October 18 [1 favorite]


ChuraChura, it absolutely crushes me that this is a reality. It sounds like you were doing really good, relevant stuff, and it's infuriating that we can't have nice things.

How do we address this behaviour though? Do we start again? It seems that important work is being abandoned because society can't be trusted not to devolve into a pissing contest.
posted by trif at 4:27 AM on October 18 [1 favorite]


For me personally, I have those conversations and try to do that outreach in other contexts that do have a low-grade miasma of Islamophobia and misogyny. Especially in the current political and social climate, I don't need to seek that out. I'm not going to work for a movement where I fundamentally disagree with the loudest voices in it.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:38 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


I've called myself an atheist since I was about 16, I consider atheism to be an unexceptional null position, and I have a special loathing for people who think that their atheism is some kind of mark of genius or rationality which transfers to unrelated fields.

Wow, you figured out something that I thought was obvious when I was a teen? Amazing! Well done! What do you want, a medal?

I do think that a lot of these people become radicalised because they grow up in a hyper-religious environment where they feel constantly under assault. It's the same kind of environment that spawns the insufferably childfree, or smug vegans.

I know it's easy for me to judge when my own profession of my atheism came with no significant negative consequences. But just because something is difficult for you to do given your circumstances, that doesn't make you intrinsically more intelligent than other people if you manage to do it. It may make you brave or persistent or resilient, which can all be admirable qualities. But none of those things make you better at understanding social justice, or economics, or heart surgery.

And my patience and sympathy runs out pretty quickly when people like this abuse and alienate people in that same environment who could use their help and could be their allies (e.g. women and religious minorities who get shat on by conservative majority religions just as much as, if not more than, proudly out atheist men).
posted by confluency at 5:24 AM on October 18 [31 favorites]


To come back to the comment about there being multiple “skeptical communities” online, I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve found the podcasting community to be often positive, constructive, and humanist-oriented. For example, just a few that I’ve stuck with over the years:

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
Reasonable Doubts
MonsterTalk

I think it helps that many members of these communities are formerly religious themselves, and still have religious family and friends, which can bring some much-needed humility and respect to their efforts to promote science and education.
posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 5:38 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


If people were so into skepticism, you'd think it would occur to them that a handful of successful physical theories, developed over a couple of hundred years, doesn't add up to a complete understanding of the universe.
posted by thelonius at 5:46 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]


In these discussions, my thoughts continually return to the feminist, Humanist atheists who do tremendous (and too often overwhelming) emotional labor dealing both with prejudices of fellow atheists (sexism, xenophobia, and more) and with anti-atheist stigma in their wider society.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:47 AM on October 18 [16 favorites]


It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to consider yourself a rational skeptic and also listen to Alex Jones.

When I was a teen I bought hard into all kinds of SFnal woo, UFOs, telepathy and the like. Browsing in my school library I came across a magazine with a UFO on its cover. It was The Skeptical Inquirer and it helped me learn how to think critically about what I read, heard and saw. I hope that the magazine is still fighting the good fight, but I fear to check.
posted by Kattullus at 5:49 AM on October 18 [8 favorites]


It seemed to motivate people who enjoyed being abusive - certainly on Metafilter, where it sometimes felt, in those pre-Mod days, like the Hell's Angels running security at Altamont - because being abusive under those circumstances was no only not wrong, it was the right thing to do.

We really were a bunch of assholes back then. Also really overtly sexist in a way that just isn't acceptable here anymore. One of the reasons you'd see spectacular flame-outs was, I think, because we'd provoke them in some of the more sensitive contributors. Honestly, we can still be pretty socially tough on those who are new to the culture here, although I think the good eggs outweigh the bad, and the moderated environment fosters that.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:04 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I noped out of the online atheistic/skeptic/secularist communities because it rapidly became very clear that they were not humanists. Too much "science shows that women are garbage subhumans" and not enough "humans have agency and value and that means all humans."
posted by xyzzy at 6:05 AM on October 18 [13 favorites]


this paragraph stated well something I have been saying for a while: there's usually an inverse relationship between how loudly someone yells about how "logical" they are, and their actual knowledge of logic:

Molyneux’s latest book, titled The Art of the Argument, is riddled with errors and displays a complete disregard for the conventions of formal logic. He provides incorrect explanations of intro-course concepts like syllogisms and inductive reasoning, but it makes no difference to the Infowars-addled target demographic. For the average Molyneux reader, who was almost certainly explaining Darwin to video game forums circa 2006, rhetoric is less a field of expertise than a trove of context-free buzzwords to throw out during online spats. Simply owning a copy of The Art of the Argument provides the amateur logician with enough confidence to unleash Molyneux’s signature retort, “not an argument!” To anyone with more than a cursory understanding of these concepts (or a familiarity with the Molyneux cult) an accusation that their retort fails to meet Molyneux’s jumbled, self-contradictory criteria for an “argument” is meaningless. To the conduit for Molyneux’s sophistry, its use is akin to a fatality move in Mortal Kombat.
posted by thelonius at 6:07 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


The internet was a mistake, and Twitter is among the worst.

Twitter did disprove one sunny piece of folksy logic: that everyone's opinion matters...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:19 AM on October 18 [7 favorites]


Team Amazing Randi 4 Life.
posted by whuppy at 6:43 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


I suspect that as with a lot of religions the folks who've always been that way are fine and it's the converts you have to watch out for.
posted by Artw at 6:48 AM on October 18 [8 favorites]


A former boss was one of these types. A skeptic who believed his mind was superior because he didn't believe some stuff that other people did. He sincerely said after watching The Matrix that other people weren't capable of appreciating its genius (a Red Pill type before that was even a thing). He was also into PUA stuff for a while, unsurprisingly. And also a yuuuuge narcissist (pre-2017 stories of what it's like to work for Trump resonated very strongly).

I would not be at all surprised to learn he's used the phrases "LOL triggered", "SJW snowflake" or "lock her up" in the last several months, and "ethics in games journalism" before that.
posted by Foosnark at 7:06 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: an inverse relationship between how loudly someone yells about how "logical" they are, and their actual knowledge of logic
posted by sammyo at 7:08 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


Citations Needed Podcast, October 11: The New Atheists: Celebrity Crusaders For Empire
posted by indubitable at 7:13 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]



It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to consider yourself a rational skeptic and also listen to Alex Jones.

When I was a teen I bought hard into all kinds of SFnal woo, UFOs, telepathy and the like. Browsing in my school library I came across a magazine with a UFO on its cover. It was The Skeptical Inquirer and it helped me learn how to think critically about what I read, heard and saw. I hope that the magazine is still fighting the good fight, but I fear to check.


Exactly. When I was a kid I was super interested in hard science, and super interested in all the Erich Van Daniken, Fortean Times, paranormal and ghost-hunting books I could get my hands on. There was a process of eventually realizing that some of this material was of value or some wasn't.

(Erich von Daniken is still kicking! Who knew?)

It may mean something that one of the most salient (and pre-internet) meditations on the pseudo science obsessive is also deeply misoginystic: Philip K. Dick's Confessions of a Crap Artist.
posted by lagomorphius at 7:14 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


Team Amazing Randi 4 Life.

James Randi is a sweetheart, but the JREF forums have been horrible since way before Elevatorgate, and JREF president DJ Grothe has distinguished himself in the worst way.

I've always been an atheist but I'm not getting anywhere near the movement because ugh.
posted by sukeban at 7:18 AM on October 18 [10 favorites]


* Former JREF president DJ Grothe, since 2014. Sorry, it's been years since I checked up on them.
posted by sukeban at 7:31 AM on October 18


Can't wait for the followup article on libertarians.
posted by touchstone033 at 7:44 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]


James Randi is a sweetheart

Maybe, but his response to widespread accusations of sexual harassment and assault has basically been "I don't know who to believe, and in any case boys will be boys."
posted by zombieflanders at 7:44 AM on October 18 [15 favorites]


It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to consider yourself a rational skeptic and also listen to Alex Jones.

It is very easy to get suckered into a hamster wheel with so many subversive elements at play. You know someone is wrong, and then you assume the opposite belief is right by default, and usually that isn't the case, either. When you are running on binary mode, you pick a side opposite to the one that is either flat-out wrong, or one that seems to work against your own interests.

A person is now already primed to go down a particular ideological path, but on the surface, seems to be going in the correct direction.

But then that person is not going hang out with people with a variety of beliefs, but seek those who validate his own ideas, whether it is on the left or the right. Competition comes into play, and then people go more extreme to proof they are the most correct or the most dedicated or true to that belief. Extremism sets in, and heaven forbid someone admitting they were wrong because they don't want to lose face to their designated enemies or face the wrath of those who supported the person in the past. Saul Alinsky had one of his rules for radical that suggested forcing people to live up to their ideal in order to knock them down.

When ideology is poorly defined -- or defined as merely tweaking the nose of people who are not applauding your every thought -- you can have people who are convinced they are not paranoid conspiracy theorists or haters being the very thing they hate. That is why propaganda works.

And just because someone does not believe Alex Jones, it does not mean they are right in their beliefs by default. They could be equally wrong, but in the opposite direction. It's why I have always thought humility was absolutely crucial in navigating through life -- as was having the confidence not to always compare or compete with other people to create some pecking order where you always seems to be rigged to put you on the top.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:49 AM on October 18 [4 favorites]


touchstone033:
"Can't wait for the followup article on libertarians."
There is definitely a large, obnoxious overlap in that Venn diagram.
posted by charred husk at 7:56 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


I'M NOT CRAZY!!
I'M COMPLETELY LOGICAL!!1!
posted by benzenedream at 8:00 AM on October 18 [1 favorite]


Dawkins radicalized over time, as did his movement. That's one of the flaws of the Baffler piece- in its zeal to be Baffly, it assumes that the New Atheists were always inherently reactionary and regressive, rather than the movement simply had tendencies that would lead it to be reactionary. Why, I recall MeFites but six or seven years ago vouching for him and the movement.

That doesn't tell us anything. 2011 wasn't exactly a high point in Metafilter's relative level of progressiveness, and certainly not around sexism. In fact, I noticed a couple members from that thread that have since been banned for being egregiously bigoted (and not just misogynist, either). The infamous Rebecca Watson story and the (absolutely horrible) response from Dawkins happened in 2011, and boy howdy was the MeFi thread about it still stands as being a memorable example of how absolutely fucked up many male MeFites were when it came to discussions of women. A lot of dudes jumped into that thread to just shit all over women, throw out personal attacks, and basically act like what we would later see as the nastier, more radical MRA/RedPill/Gamergate types.

In any event, many of the actual instances of bigoted behavior occurred well before 2011. The Islamophobia started pretty much right after 9/11, and the white boys' club that the New Atheism movement was and largely still is didn't just start being misogynist in the last six or seven years. For instance, Hitchens' "Why Women Aren’t Funny" article was in 2007, and Shermer was sexually assaulting women--and getting away with it because of misogyny--since at least 2008.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:04 AM on October 18 [26 favorites]


People who think their daily actions are almost entirely rational are people who aren't actually aware of how their feelings are influencing their behavior--and if you aren't aware of that, you can't do much emotional regulation. A person with some relatively moderate levels of bias against women or Muslims or whatnot, by the standards of the wider society, who thinks they are rational? That person ends up a more dangerous bigot than someone who is aware that they have biases and isn't trying to justify them.

Yeah, it turns out that assuming your emotional biases are The Truth because they are the result of Pure Reason is maybe just as toxic as assuming your emotional biases are The Truth because you supposedly got them from The Word of God.

Maybe some of the tools religious people have developed to help fundamentalists see how their own biases have determined what they decide their scriptures are saying might help atheists too? Not that our success rate is very high.
posted by straight at 8:04 AM on October 18 [8 favorites]


Dawkins radicalized over time, as did his movement.

Ehh, they've been solidly shitty for a good long time now. Maybe it was less noticble back when he was a scientist? But that's over a decade ago.
posted by Artw at 8:06 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]


Somewhat relevant recent xkcd.
posted by quinndexter at 8:06 AM on October 18 [8 favorites]


Dawkins was more tolerable when you only read his books because he never went as asshole as Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens on paper and most of his books were about science, but then he started commenting on websites and opened a twitter account and next thing you have him going dear muslima in PZ Myers' blog and linking to Christina Hoff-Summers videos.
posted by sukeban at 8:10 AM on October 18 [7 favorites]


Also, I'm a minority here but I do believe that Sam Harris acts in good faith. I feel that he's made a series of conclusions that took him in a different direction from my own beliefs, but he believes that he is acting for the greater good.

Stuff like this is "acting in good faith" for "the greater good"?
“I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”
C'mon, let's not try and paper over Harris' many, many examples of just being an awful person with some evidence-free nonsense about he's just misunderstood. There's no amount of context that makes many of his more egregious statements significantly less misogynist, Islamophobic, or whatever other bigotry he likes to get up to. At every opportunity he's been given to prove that he acts in good faith, he does the same thing the Baffler article and several posters here describe: get defensive, lash out in a way that nearly always reinforces whatever shitty thing he was doing, and then double down on smearing his critics with the usual rants about PC and SJWs. His behavior doesn't occur in a vacuum, it's both the catalyst and positive reinforcement for the other bigots in the community, and the sooner people realize that and stop giving him platforms, the better.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:16 AM on October 18 [17 favorites]


To me, the strain of thought between the 'New Atheists' and conservatism (or even the alt-right) is the idea that empathy isn't necessary. The people howling about logic are really saying 'I don't need to consider your feelings, because I'm rational and you're not.' The same thing happens with radical christianity - 'I don't need to consider your feelings, because that's God's job.'

What both sides have in common is a lack of empathy for other people or their positions. Science or faith could be tools, but without empathy they're basically weapons.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:24 AM on October 18 [30 favorites]


Can't wait for the followup article on libertarians.

I'm having trouble finding it, but there was a great MeFi post from a few years ago about an essay that documented the deep historical ties between American libertarianism and white supremacy. The two movements have heavily overlapped from their very early beginnings.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:26 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


When you give mediocre people a reason to feel superior to others, no matter how nonsensical, they become garbage. Nearly 100% of the time.

Sure, I'm a nothing human with nothing going for me, but at least I'm not X. I really hate X and if anyone was as worthy as me they would realize how horrible X people are.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:33 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


There's a fascinating irony I've noticed when encountering these people in the wild, the former active atheists who turned to "race realism" or whatever. They crave scientific validation for their unfounded beliefs. They grab at any statistic or study that can be interpreted as supporting their argument, either by taking it out of necessary context or by outright making crap up. They portray themselves as intellectual outsiders speaking truth to a mainstream that was blinded by ideology, and they latch on to anyone in their movement with any kind of academic credentials. They seek out debates with anyone willing to pay them attention, where instead of crafting an argument with step-by-step reasoning they shovel out a huge pile of unconnected prepared points and declare victory if their opponent doesn't answer each one individually. In short, they're playing from the creationist playbook. (Honestly, I'd prefer the creationists if a lot of them weren't horrible bigots too.)
posted by skymt at 8:42 AM on October 18 [12 favorites]


Despite being like a couple blocks from me, that the Center For Inquiry has moved into New Atheism (merging with a Dawkins org; promoting "Blasphemy Day" to celebrate the anti-Islamic Dutch cartoons) is part of why I've never actually engaged with them. I can be an asshole on my own, thanks, I don't need a club to do it in.
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


Sangermaine: I'm having trouble finding it, but there was a great MeFi post from a few years ago about an essay that documented the deep historical ties between American libertarianism and white supremacy.

I think you mean this post: Reason magazine and racism.
posted by Kattullus at 9:15 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


ok so this guy is trying to post a thing about how the "new atheists became radical" but starts by saying that he ran with a gang of trolls who sought out people to fuck with on the internet and is considering this a normal starting point

i'm glad that he is speaking out against bad politics in his stupid little clubs but it seems like the culture these people are awash in still thinks that abuse and a weird, mean no-holds-barred approach toward interacting with people on the internet is normal, cool and ok. and theres plenty of that shit on the left and its gross to watch people act like its not gross

fuck this guy's thinkpiece
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 9:19 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


so, did this group of trolls shift their ire to women and people of color from their earlier target of religious people...

No, women and people of color have always been targeted by them.

Reference: I am a woman and was on the internet starting in the late 80s.
posted by fraula at 9:27 AM on October 18 [19 favorites]


Speaking as an atheist, the New Atheist worship of science is amazing to me. One of the things about science that New Atheists miss is that science is constantly realizing things it thought were true, solid facts are, inf act, wrong. New Atheists/Skeptics are, essentially, looking for a Religious Absolute Truth in science, which science cannot provide---by definition.

I've shocked people, even on MeFi, by mentioning the undercurrent of homophobia, racism, and transphobia in New Atheist circles. Because your New Atheist type is looking for Absolute Truth, they'll go "No, homosexuality is unnatural because sex is inherently reproductive," or "Transgender people are mentally ill because your gender is determined by your chromosomes," or "Black people have a lower IQ than white people, just look at these tests."

But science---actual, hard science---hasn't proven any of those. And the more we research some of this stuff, properly, scientifically, we find that homosexuality occurs pretty regularly in nature and that sex is about more than just reproduction. We find that gender is more complicated than just XX/XY. We find that, all other things being equal, race has no impact on intelligence and that IQ tests are shitty measurements.

But that would require the New Atheist type to admit that science is not a source of Absolute Truth, but just as fuzzy and what science knows today is as likely to be as wrong as anything else tomorrow.
posted by SansPoint at 9:29 AM on October 18 [31 favorites]


Recently I moved, and as you do, before I moved I cleaned out all the books that I didn’t think I would read again. When I found Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things, I didn’t put it in the donation pile, I put it in the recycling pile. Somebody who’s interested in science and goes to the library book sale will have options from Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan, who were not always exemplary men, but aren’t out there now as part of this toxic sausage party.

(Incidentally, when I used the dictation app for the title of that book just now, it rendered it as “white people believe weird things.”)
posted by Countess Elena at 9:34 AM on October 18 [17 favorites]


I was a regular on an atheist forum when the "elevator gate" occurred. It was divisive.

I mostly shut up and listened, and I did gain an appreciation for how "just say no and he'll go away" doesn't address the discomfort of being put in that position in the first place, (I think this is when I first heard of "Schrödinger's Rapist") and probably became less of a creep in my real life as a result.

I suppose some people came out of that with a different result.
posted by RobotHero at 9:59 AM on October 18 [7 favorites]


I feel that a few of the above comments take [Harris'] statements out of context in a way that is not entirely fair.

OK. If anyone is interested in seeing the fuller context for "The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists" and "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them," they can visit this 2013 blog post in which Harris attempts to justify some of his more notorious words. (Or, as he would have it, his most "selectively quoted and misconstrued" words.)

He doesn't convince me. As properly addressing all 10,000 words of protestations would gum up the thread, I'll just say that Zombieflanders was spot fucking on about Harris' argument style: get defensive, lash out in a way that nearly always reinforces whatever shitty thing he was doing, and then double down on smearing his critics with the usual rants about PC and SJWs—in this case, Glenn Greenwald, who is "ignorant, dishonest, or insane" for accusing Harris of irrationality in his attitude toward Muslims.
posted by Iridic at 11:09 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


Sure I'll believe Sam "peaceful protestors who were Nazis" Harris that his intentions don't lean towards the fascistic.

That's what a True Skeptic does, right? Take people at their word*?

*Note: I don't endorse removing context from whether you do or do not take someone at their word.
posted by Yowser at 11:21 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


I consider atheism to be an unexceptional null position

Yeah, it turns out that assuming your emotional biases are The Truth because they are the result of Pure Reason is maybe just as toxic as assuming your emotional biases are The Truth because you supposedly got them from The Word of God.

New Atheists/Skeptics are, essentially, looking for a Religious Absolute Truth in science, which science cannot provide---by definition.


I fit into that Atheist, skeptical, whatever mold when I was young. But I got disenchanted when it started, or I started noticing, it becoming evangelical. That part was hard to square.

It bothers some people, but I really don't see a difference between evangelical Atheists and evangelical religious people. It's all based on thinking you know the answers, which seems like a ludicrous position, and that everyone else must agree.

Anyone that starts their introductions with their religious beliefs, or lack of, is suspect to me.
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on October 18 [1 favorite]


I was a young, atheist and skeptic. Now I'm older, and still an atheist, and still skeptical. But I've tried to temper both with a bit of humility.

Basically, whatever I think about the existence or non-existence of a god or gods, whatever I think about the latest piece of woo that comes down the pike, there is always a possibility that I could be wrong. Even when all the evidence is on my side, it takes only one piece of evidence to prove all the evidence I have wrong.

I'm confident I'm not wrong that there are no gods, that homeopathy is bunk, and that psychics are just really good as tricking people. But I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong about all of these things, should someone find good, solid proof. Which is, you know, the entire story of science.

There is always the possibility that we are wrong, and it's useful to maintain that sense of humility about what we think we know. Accepting even the tiniest amount of uncertainty about what we know and believe is a healthy thing.
posted by SansPoint at 11:37 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


I just find it so depressing when people engage in this kind of debate and talk instead of getting seriously curious about the Universe we find ourselves in. When people spend time and energy arguing that "consciousness is an illusion" when they could be exploring and mapping their experiences. This pattern of behavior indicates what is a largely unconscious ideology, so it's no big mystery that all this ugly shit seems to swim alongside [atheism or fear of the singularity or whatever.]

Are we talking about people that have found themselves powerless aside from their own ability to declare themselves right about something fundamental, absolute? It kind of makes sense. "I hate the reality of my own existence so much that I find myself compelled to deny the possibility of a meaningful relationship with it." ...or something. I really wish I had better access to the root cause of this, though, as it seems a pure and visible manifestation of our more general and slippery cultural malaise.

And things are not getting better. I just sat through a presentation declaring that more than 400M people worldwide engage with their mobile device "more than 300 minutes a day," which sounds like a recipe for us being more fucked, not less. Someone cheer me up, already.
posted by n9 at 11:38 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]


(I think this part should be separated into a second comment, so sorry for double-posting.)

There's also something I've been thinking about which ties into the idea of wrong beliefs, right beliefs, and intellectual humility. I'm calling it "The Green Sky Theory". Let me explain:

Suppose you're talking with a friend, and they say, "Boy, isn't the sky a lovely shade of green today?" This is a friend you know well, and they've never shown themselves to have an understanding of the world that's terribly different from yours.

"Green?" you say. "The sky is blue."

"No," says your friend. "It's green."

So, you prod at this for a bit. Maybe they're color-blind or have some other odd visual anomaly. Maybe their first language has no blue/green distinction. You don't know. They just say that the sky is green.

Assume you're wearing a blue shirt. You ask your friend what color your shirt is. They say "blue." You ask what color the grass is. "Green," they say. So, you've ruled out both visual anomalies and language problems. They're perfectly normal, perfectly sane, they just believe that the sky is green.

Does this person's belief that the sky is green affect you? Is it better to let them go on with their view that the sky is green, or should you try to convince them otherwise?

I'd say... no. You can let that one go.

As an atheist, I find myself feeling the same way about a belief in a god or gods. Their belief doesn't affect me. Other beliefs connected with that might affect me, depending on which religious tradition they adhere to. But, in the general sense, a belief in a god does not affect me, and my non-belief does not affect them.

So, we can just let it go and agree to disagree on either the color of the sky or the existence of a god... right?
posted by SansPoint at 11:48 AM on October 18 [5 favorites]


The sky is obviously grey you heretical unbeliever.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 11:53 AM on October 18 [7 favorites]


I quit right before this shit started up and I wish I could say that I quit for noble reasons. I left because I was bored, because it felt like the skeptics groups were just preaching to the choir. But as I've said before, there is no way I am ever going back. While there are still people like PZ Meyers and Steven Novella around, most have come to resemble Dawkins. Hell, they gave a favorable review to Milo Y.'s book in Skeptic magazine. That's what got me to finally unsubscribe from the newsletter. I started from a leftist point of view, seeing Skepticism as an escape from a patriarchal, superstition dominated view of the world. One that rejected the old religious values of men as the master of the world, one that rejected the pseudo-scientific racism of the 19th century. I viewed it as a means to embrace humanism, to see all as equal, just separated by circumstances.

I didn't know about the libertarian slant that I'd run into. In retrospect, now knowing about the racist and usually sexist nature of libertarianism, I'm not surprised by what this has morphed into. I also should have had some kind of tip off when I realized that there was exactly one woman who showed up to most Drinking Skeptically events in New York.

I suspect that some of my problems with the rationalist movement are seeing so many of the aspects of skepticism in it, in terms of the adherents.
posted by Hactar at 11:55 AM on October 18 [6 favorites]


...I started reading between the lines of the writings of bloggers like PZ Myers...

Waitaminnit, what's this about PZ, now? I used to like him back when Pharyngula was mostly about actual science, and eventually drifted away once it got to be All Atheism All the Time, but he alwayys seemed to be pretty solid on social justice issues, and was quick to side with Rebecca Watson during the elevatorgate thing. Looking at the blog now seems to bear out the impression I had back then (and still a cranky sumbitch). What am I missing?

That aside, while I can get as obnoxiously HAHALOLXIANS as the next jackass, especially on facebook where I still have to deal with the bassackwards hayseeds I left behind in BFE, the level of mean-spirited douchery that the NA crowd has brought to the fore has got even me shying away from the "atheist" label. Though in conversation, if asked I'll usually just say I'm not religous anyway, and let the susequent discussion expose my layers of infidelity as needed.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 11:55 AM on October 18 [3 favorites]


Hactar: I quit right before this shit started up and I wish I could say that I quit for noble reasons. I left because I was bored, because it felt like the skeptics groups were just preaching to the choir.

I was never deep in the Atheist/Skepticism community to begin with, but part of what pulled me away from it was just that. There's not a lot of substance behind the New Atheist discourse, beyond LOLXTIANS/GRRMUSLIMS stuff, and it felt like a circlejerk of counterproofs to counterproofs of counterproofs.
posted by SansPoint at 12:00 PM on October 18 [5 favorites]


So, we can just let it go and agree to disagree on either the color of the sky or the existence of a god... right?

Sure, for the most part, but there's a lot of folks that hitch their belief in gods to a raft of other beliefs that are a whole lot less wholesome. Say what you will about the New Atheist bunch and I'll probly go right along with you, but at least they don't insist their bigotry and misogyny comes with divine sanction.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 12:20 PM on October 18 [2 favorites]


at least they don't insist their bigotry and misogyny comes with divine sanction

Instead they just insist that it comes with totally scientific and logical sanction. Whatever the underpinnings and intent may be, the difference in results is negligible, if not non-existent.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:23 PM on October 18 [25 favorites]


Trinity-Gehenna: Sure, for the most part, but there's a lot of folks that hitch their belief in gods to a raft of other beliefs that are a whole lot less wholesome.

Right. But the belief in god[s] doesn't necessarily have to come along with beliefs that are awful and dangerous. That's the distinction I'm trying to make. It's better to push back on the dangerous beliefs, not the otherwise harmless ones.

Also, what zombieflanders said.
posted by SansPoint at 12:24 PM on October 18 [4 favorites]


I don't think PZ was specifically misogynistic, just smug and holier than thou in a way a lot of New Atheist types are.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:56 PM on October 18


You're right, of course, SansPoint, but let me explain to you about how the satanic influence of liberal theologians is one of the deadliest impediments to true faith and... oh brother please, stop me now. As far as the color of the sky, though, Ima haveta side with rhamphorhynchus. Them pterosaurs usually know what's up when it comes to atmospheric conditions, plus I was just outside.

Also, what zombieflanders said... honestly doesn't surprise me. sigh...
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 12:57 PM on October 18 [2 favorites]


"Saul Alinsky had one of his rules for radical that suggested forcing people to live up to their ideal in order to knock them down."

Uh -- did he think *anyone* would withstand that? Or that a group would be better off if everyone was knocked down regularly? Or what?

"Maybe some of the tools religious people have developed to help fundamentalists see how their own biases have determined what they decide their scriptures are saying might help atheists too? Not that our success rate is very high."

That sounds fascinating if you're having any success at all!
posted by clew at 1:22 PM on October 18 [1 favorite]


I'm plagiarizing my own Facebook post here, but:
BROKE: Jesus says your place is in the kitchen, honey.
WOKE: Evolutionary psychology says your place is in the kitchen, honey.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:12 PM on October 18 [24 favorites]


""Saul Alinsky had one of his rules for radical that suggested forcing people to live up to their ideal in order to knock them down."

Uh -- did he think *anyone* would withstand that? Or that a group would be better off if everyone was knocked down regularly? Or what?
"

That's a little afield from what his actual advice was, which was force your opponents to live up to their own rules, e.g. if they say that every letter gets a reply, write 30,000 letters. It's a way to force organizational opponents to abandon anti-reformist institutional strength by turning that strength to brittleness.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on October 18 [4 favorites]


When PZ Meyers first began to argue that atheism is about more than the mere proposition that there are no gods, I kind of pushed back against it, internally. I thought, "well yes, it behooves an atheist to care about social justice and equality, but that's true of everyone, not just atheists per se."

But with all that's happened over the last ten years, I realize he was mostly right. The correct position on the social justice orientation of atheism as a movement isn't neutrality. There's no such thing as neutrality on social justice. You are either pushing in the right direction or being pushed in the wrong direction.
posted by klanawa at 3:50 PM on October 18 [7 favorites]


One of my least favourite pop-cultural trends is this Last Novemberism thing where we pretend that all the horrible shit people finally started noticing within the past year just sprung forth spontaneously.

The New Atheists rose and became popular not in spite of their Islamophobia but because of it. A secularizing culture demanded a secular-flavoured alternative to the post-9/11 era's crusader ideology, and the "Four Horsemen" were more than happy to provide it while raking in the book money and speaking fees. One can see some of the same things happening again with the rise of the "dirtbag left" to echo the alt-right's "burn it all down" ideology and opposition to "identity politics". There is no new thing under the sun.

Post-9/11 Skepticism was basically built on garbage and most of the good it did was essentially an accident. Women were allowed a seat at the table for the optics and because it lent some credibility to the "we need a crusade regime change because veils and FGM" rhetoric. In retrospect, the blowback that hit Rebecca Watson and other prominent Skeptic women like Jen McCreight was inevitable, because they really were intruding on a boys' club. As soon as they stepped out of line by speaking their own minds about feminism and anti-racism rather than sticking to their prescribed role, the boys' club struck back at them.

(I'm glad that Rebecca, who is a personal friend of mine, had both enough of a personal brand and enough support from folks like PZ and Steve Novella to survive the backlash. I'm endlessly saddened that a lot of other women like McCreight didn't have that and ended up bowing out of the public eye instead.)

Waitaminnit, what's this about PZ, now? ... What am I missing?

You're not missing anything. He's cranky and some would say condescending and I personally don't enjoy his style like I once did, but he didn't suddenly turn into a fascist apologist, Islamophobe, or a member of the He-man Woman Haters Club.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:56 PM on October 18 [19 favorites]


This is tough to read. It's also really hard for me to suppress my knee-jerk reaction and not blame the messenger, or come in here with a #NotAllAtheists type argument. I'm fatigued by a long list of things that I used to identify with that have been infected by red pill, alt-right, MRA, gamergater libertarians, and it's really hard to see the words that represent me dragged through the mud over and over. This is literally why we can't have nice things.

Maybe I'm being over sensitive, and maybe it's because I live in a red state and am also in AA and am an atheist, and maybe also because atheists are a centuries old target for down punching, and there are still some places in the world (including in the US, where I live) where it is violently dangerous to openly not believe, but I have a need to point out that this douchebaggery isn't really tied to the lack of belief in god, so it's not about small 'a' atheism.

I am really tired having to explain that while I don't think there is a god, contrary to the rumor, I don't beat up old ladies for cash or eat live kittens.
posted by Horkus at 4:26 PM on October 18 [6 favorites]


I am really tired having to explain that while I don't think there is a god, contrary to the rumor, I don't beat up old ladies for cash or eat live kittens.

Thank goodness nobody has proposed that either atheists or New Atheists beat up old ladies for cash or eat live kittens.

If you have anything to say about the tendency of New Atheism to also be Islamophobic, that would be more informative than "we don't kick puppies".

And if you don't have anything to say about the tendency of New Atheism to be Islamophobic, maybe spend some time looking into the numerous varieties of atheists and what they profess, instead of jumping in with #NotAllAtheists.
posted by Lexica at 4:30 PM on October 18 [9 favorites]


That was really harsh, and condescending. And ignoring the hyperbole of my last sentence was disingenuous.
posted by Horkus at 4:54 PM on October 18 [11 favorites]


As I see it, the Obnoxious Atheist Dudebros (and some women, to be fair) want to have the same patriarchal and racist privileges that fundamentalist religion gives men, and eat their secular cake too. So, we get evolutionary psychology, the "human biodiversity" movement, etc. I've said this over and over - just getting rid of religion doesn't mean we're all going to sing social justice kumbayah while holding hands. If anything, religious bigotry and sexism is a symptom, not a cause. There are plenty of left-wing, social justice, feminist religious and spiritual people.

There are also many people who want to be told what to do and obey an authority. For some, that is God. For others, that is Science. Right wing authoritarianism is linked to lower intelligence. I think there are people who just don't have the cognitive ability, or maybe they're lazy, or whatever, but who can't really think for themselves and need to be told what to do. Taking away God and church doesn't take away the authoritarianism.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:57 PM on October 18 [7 favorites]


Lexica, are you aware that the belief that people without religion have no morality is widespread?
posted by thelonius at 5:01 PM on October 18 [2 favorites]


Horkus, you said you were having a "knee-jerk reaction" and struggling "not [to] blame the messenger" about "a long list of things that [you] used to identify with that have been infected by red pill, alt-right, MRA, gamergater libertarians" and you recognize that "[m]aybe [you're] being over sensitive". Try spending more time considering why you feel the need to reflexively defend things you no longer believe in that are now being actively pushed by horrible people, and less time getting defensive about things you no longer identify with.

And if you get hyperbolic about "people need to understand we don't eat kittens" back off when other people get oh-so-mildly hyperbolic in response.

(on preview) thelonius, I identified as an atheist for probably my first 35 years. For the last ten years or so I've publicly identified as a non-theist Buddhist, which doesn't earn much more respect in the USA than claiming atheism as a position. I have sat through more "non-sectarian" prayers that didn't apply to me than I can count.

Doesn't change my point. Criticism of the "New Atheist" movement and some of its most prominent voices for being Islamophobic, misogynistic, etc. is valid criticism.
posted by Lexica at 5:05 PM on October 18 [2 favorites]


Thank goodness nobody has proposed that either atheists or New Atheists beat up old ladies for cash or eat live kittens.

OTOH, having no morals, being incapable of morality, being inherently evil, being in league with and/or worshipping Satan, actively working to destroy America or civilzation itself - unbelievers do get accused of these things.
All.
The.
Fucking.
Time.

It's like when Christians have to explain that they aren't all extremist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic fanatics that are trying to make this country a theocracy. If #NotAllChristians can apply to that, folks like Horkus can have their #NotAllAtheists.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 5:08 PM on October 18 [4 favorites]


The correct position on the social justice orientation of atheism as a movement isn't neutrality.

It was atheism that brought me around to the stark reality that the universe is at best indifferent to you, and at worst, actively working against you.

Humans and other intelligent life are the only source of kindness and compassion in the universe. Nobody gets out alive, and we're all in this together.

People gonna people of course, but it is frustrating how people don't seem to really grasp this.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:08 PM on October 18 [11 favorites]


Horkus: I'm fatigued by a long list of things that I used to identify with that have been infected by red pill, alt-right, MRA, gamergater libertarians, and it's really hard to see the words that represent me dragged through the mud over and over. This is literally why we can't have nice things.

Which is why people like us really need to get off our asses and take this shit back from all those hateful fucksticks who have ruined everything.
posted by SansPoint at 5:11 PM on October 18 [7 favorites]




[I think you may be talking past each other a little bit -- Horkus was talking about his local community and that they're "really tired having to explain that while I don't think there is a god, contrary to the rumor, I don't beat up old ladies for cash or eat live kittens." Lexica seems to be saying that nobody in this thread has brought that up. Horkus is entitled to feel exhausted by being an atheist in a community where that's not accepted, and self-aware in noting it colors their responses to the articles here; it is also true that nobody in this thread has expressed any belief that atheists are per se immoral, unless I missed it. This would be a good moment for everyone to take a breath and de-escalate the angry personal engagement ... and also for everyone choose their own words carefully with the knowledge this topic can be a bit tricky.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:19 PM on October 18 [10 favorites]


I think everyone needs to remember that the OP is talking about a subculture, a minority of unbelievers. It's a cultural phenomenon, a tendency, an ideology within the non-ideology of atheism. The article is about all atheists as much as an article about American Dominionists is about all billions of Christians worldwide.

Most unbelievers in the developed world these days, I assume, are simply apatheist. Without strong connections or interest in cultural traditions rooted in the spiritual, they go along with the main current of our modern secular order that is shaped by science (or at least sciencey-shaped). They don't bother to weigh too heavily on matters of rationality vs. religion, science vs. supernatural, unless when politics comes up. Of course, this is also shaped by geography- the unbelievers I'm talking about are the urban or suburban educated living in societies like France, or Japan, or California, or New York. To them, being atheist is less of a lifestyle choice, than a default choice.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:34 PM on October 18 [8 favorites]


But going back to the original topic with this "New Atheist" thing, it's not like right-wing atheist jackholes are a new thing. We just used to call them Objectivists. I'm kind of surprised not to see it brought up here already.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 5:35 PM on October 18 [5 favorites]


You can absolutely be an atheist without being a dawkinist asshole. Most of us are. Likewise need to defend dawkinsist assholes just because you're an atheist.
posted by Artw at 5:39 PM on October 18 [4 favorites]


*thoughtful* I think there's a difference, though, between movement atheism, New Atheism and the progressive atheist community that never really went away--of which PZ Myers is at the forefront, but not the whole. The keyword you're looking for is "A+"--or at least, it was the last time I was paying attention. I have a lot of feelings about skepticism and atheism myself, but I've always had other concerns that I was more invested in--which doesn't mean that I haven't been glad to have people who are interested in genuinely having my back in my corner. (I'm still digging the Satanic Temple folks most of all, though.)

In general, my sense is that the FreeThoughtBlogs crowd seems pretty solid still, although that might in part be because one of their more recent recruits, Siggy from A Trivial Knot, has been an activist and good friend of mine for going on ten years now. I'm not plugged into movement atheism, but a few years ago I did participate in a virtual panel for FTBCon alongside a number of activists within my community who I'd known years and deeply respected--one of the better panels I've been on. It was well received within the FTB readership, although it was certainly trolled by New Atheist assholes outside that progressive corner. Glancing at that blog network and the people in it, I don't see anything particularly gross, and I see a lot of focus on making sure that voices of queer folks and people of color within atheism get heard.

So I guess I am deeply boggled by the idea that people who feel strongly about being atheists or skeptical are inherently assholes who are looking for a target to swing at, or that there's no such thing as a progressive-oriented online atheism movement. There certainly is. It's just not centering itself around the same people.
posted by sciatrix at 6:15 PM on October 18 [4 favorites]


This thread is about The New Atheists & instead people are talking about atheism which is fine but not the same thing at all
posted by beerperson at 6:29 PM on October 18 [6 favorites]


This thread is about The New Atheists & instead people are talking about atheism which is fine but not the same thing at all

Actually...
posted by No Robots at 6:42 PM on October 18 [4 favorites]


Goddammit.
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on October 18 [2 favorites]


This thread is about The New Atheists & instead people are talking about atheism which is fine but not the same thing at all

Not an argument.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:02 PM on October 18 [1 favorite]


"This thread is about The New Atheists & instead people are talking about atheism which is fine but not the same thing at all"

whats this i hear about nude atheism
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 PM on October 18 [1 favorite]


I have had the "if there's no god then what keeps people from raping each other" conversation as recently as last friday. Which would be chilling if it wasn't so fatuous. I'm sorry for dragging the thread sideways, I guess I'm just carrying that defensiveness around with me.

The part that is relevant to the OP is that these guys seem to be fucking EVERYwhere. I was turned off the online atheist movement since they defended Michael Shermer's con behavior, but I didn't realize they'd gone all gamergater since. I haven't stopped being an atheist, or liking games for that matter, but I won't touch either of those online communities with a ten foot pole, they're all part of the same troll/douchebro/Russian bot sphere. Those of them who are not sincere malefactors or book writing parasites are dumbass kids who will signal boost anyone who tells them a good story about themselves.

I have a true story I should write up someday about a gamergater I knew, a young black 4channer full of Stormfront talking points. The TL;DR of it is that he thinks that nothing he does on the internet could possibly effect the "real" world, he could never have that kind of power, it's all performative "for the lulz" and that SJWs are also performing, not in service of any legitimate social justice, but just so that they can scold you like every authority figure he ever met in the real world. (He had kind of a rough life.) He is exactly like these people, with the same weird my-dictionary-was-written-by-L.-Ron-Hubbard vibe. Y'know that guy in that Charlottesville video who took off his shirt and said "just kidding" when he was about to get his ass beat? Yeah, like that.

I used to think he was a disenfranchised kid who could do with some real SJ on his side. I guess now I think basically the same thing but also that he is a Russian dupe.

clew: Thank you for sharing that link, it was a little ray of hope.
posted by Horkus at 10:59 PM on October 18 [5 favorites]


Horkus,

I don't think you're dragging the thread sideways. I made this post and your comments were exactly the sort of conversation I was hoping to spark. I think your perspective shows how important the Skeptic/Humanist movement can be in the right context. At the same time you also recognize that elements of it have been hijacked. (Perhaps it's more correct to say that some people who are attracted to this way of thinking are more susceptible to certain arguments/appeals.)

I think it's probably like with most groups; there are always going to be abusive jerks who try to establish power within a community. Once somebody starts getting attention/social standing for pushing the envelope; it's unlikely that they'll reign themselves in. I think it's really up to people within the group to reign in the extreme wings or douchey elements of our own in groups. I'm not talking about publicly calling people out; just taking people aside and telling them to cut out the weird shit. Groups radicalize because nobody is willing to call the bullshit until its too late.

As above posters have mentioned, there are some very good, moderate people who still self identify as active members of the atheist movement. I feel like Thomas Smith of Serious Inquiries Only would be at home in a lot of MetaFilter conversations. For example, his most recent podcast is about how emotion is critical for reasoning. He often criticizes Sam Harris' more tone deaf statements as well.

Maybe we're just going to continue to splinter into smaller and small subsets of the Judean Peoples' Front. The internet seems to be better at magnifying differences rather than finding common ground.
posted by Telf at 12:42 AM on October 19


A few people have commented on the evangelism of some atheists, and how this detracts from the atheist movement as a whole. There are definitely some people for whom "SCIENCE!" is a replacement for belief, and they can be insufferable and abusive in defending their world views. The implied correct way to be is to live and let live; don't tell other people what to believe.

The problem is that organised religion is responsible for so many grotesque abuses and backwards tenets* that it seems like we should be actively trying to dismantle the patriarchal infrastructure of Big Religion... and can we do that if we are simultaneously telling people that it's OK, keep on believing?

There are millions of good, wise, caring people practising religion around the world, but unless we can dissociate individual believers from the organised mafia of religious orthodoxy then the good people will always be overwhelmed by those in power who want to maintain their stale male status quo.

And idiots like those described in the OP have to keep fucking it up for the rest of us, and make it harder for us to keep chipping away at the frankly medieval monoliths of faith.


*female genital mutilation, child sex abuse, the refusal of birth control, the exclusion and debasement of minorities and women, the hoarding of wealth, the occasional and historical support for holy war, to think of a few
posted by trif at 3:12 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


In the case of Christianity, it's interesting that the religion owed a lot of its success in the Roman world to women. So, it's not patriarchal? That would be the genetic fallacy (that the origins of a thing constitute its essence, I mean). After a few hundred years, they firmly excluded women from power in the Church.
posted by thelonius at 3:31 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


The problem is that organised religion is responsible for so many grotesque abuses and backwards tenets

Organized religion or humanity? Just because the former existed and was the claimed support for those acts doesn't mean it wasn't the latter that was the real underlying cause of them. It isn't as if one can easily support the idea that men absent religion would have been princes of cordiality, religion is just one excuse for cruelty, there are many others used as often.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:06 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


This is true, but organisations that reinforce male hegemony seem to be more susceptible to this than the general population, perhaps? Like the Church? and Hollywood? Should we ignore the utter corruption in these groups because there is a lower level of corruption in society as a whole?

We seem to give religion a pass on regressive policies because people elevate the right to freedom of religion above the rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of race or gender or sexuality, etc.
posted by trif at 4:50 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


It's not religion, it's men. That's one of the underlying points of the articles and discussion. The new atheists treatr women like shit even thought they claim some great freedom from supernatural belief. They rely on bad science and ego, just like so many others have before.

The important part about organized religion isn't the religion side, but the organized bit. If it isn't religion than it's pseudo-science, cults of personality, desire for power, or simple hatred of others that will do the trick. Christianity, like other major religions, is incoherent. Its followers latch on to the bits they like and ignore the bits they don't, leaving it a vessel empty of defining values, but filled with personal beliefs.

As an atheist one big advantage a person has is in the knowledge that inhumanity doesn't come from the desires of a higher power, but from actions of men alone. They may be deluded, gullible, or craven liars, but the religion doesn't cause that, it merely gives their particular flavor a capitalized name. We can see the same effects everywhere, regardless if there is a religion's name behind it or not. This should be more obvious to atheists than anyone.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:01 AM on October 19 [12 favorites]


Just remembered listening to Dawkins being interviewed on the radio not to long back re his biog and thinking it had been ages since I'd last heard from him in the UK MSM... I wonder if he'd been quickly dropped from the invite list after being more obviously mad on the internet (honey, dogs, children's fairy stories are evil or something and should all buy my terrible sounding 'rational' kids' book). Then again Hitchins has been dead a while now so the 'Brights' presence as dimmed overall.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:54 AM on October 19


IIRC it was the "child abuse is not that harmful" thing that really put the MSM off, feafulsymmetry.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:31 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


IIRC it was the "child abuse is not that harmful" thing that really put the MSM off, feafulsymmetry.

I'd forgotten about that. Googling tells me it really became prominent in 2013 but Dawkins had mentioned it back in 2006 but possibly not that many noticed at first.

He falls into a classic New Atheist / right wing / lack of empathy delusion saying that he didn't suffer much so that anybody who says they did is lying/exaggerating. Also his combining it with his idea that teaching religion to kids is abuse and worse than 'mild' physical abuse is obscene (I do remember the bit about religion but forgot he linked it with pedo stuff).
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:48 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]


The problem is that organised religion is responsible for so many grotesque abuses and backwards tenets

Going after folks generally good ideals no matter how "wrong" is not the right approach to fighting abuses.
posted by sammyo at 7:53 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


What I remember from The God Delusion, which I'd read before I realized just how awful Dawkins was, is that Dawkins's argument that religion was worse than child sexual abuse is basically: "Oh, I got sexually abused as a child, but I got over it. Therefore every child will get over it, so it's not as bad as religion because... reasons."

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to why Dawkins's reasoning is fucked.
posted by SansPoint at 8:08 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


Jesus.
posted by Artw at 8:15 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Going after folks generally good ideals no matter how "wrong" is not the right approach to fighting abuses.

I think that's where we may misunderstand each other. I've not really had much to say about the ideals of the individual religious adherent. I even said there were many millions of good, wise and caring individuals.

The concerns I have are with religions as a whole and their doctrines that are, at best, counter productive to vast swathes of the people they apparently guide, or are just downright abusive.

I do not believe that the upper hierarchy of the Catholic Church, as an example among many, has the interests or well being of the common Catholic in mind. The Pope seems nice enough individually, but he is only one individual. Repeat for every organised religion.

A lot of this is not always malicious behaviour, but often that old men think they know better what's best for someone of a completely different financial, social, and familial standing who lives in a different country halfway around the globe.
posted by trif at 8:30 AM on October 19


Yes trif, and while I totally agree with you in general the biggest obfuscation of this entire discussion involves not separating out the elements. There are very bad and good people in religions.

Are there deep structural social psychological elements of certain organizations or beliefs that are "the cause"? Wow that's not a trivial question. Certainly not resolved at the level of the laws of chemistry.
posted by sammyo at 8:47 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]


trif: I think one can, and should, make a distinction between belief in a god, and following an organized religion. You can have a belief in a god without a religion, and a religion without a god—though the venn diagram of belief in god and claim to a religion does have a large overlap. There also are many people who believe in a god, but don't follow the specific tenets of the organized religion they're pledged to, or at least don't follow them fully. (I mean, I come from a family of half- to eighth-assed Catholics, so it's something I'm very familiar with. I'm just the only out -and-out atheist, as far as I'm aware.)

A religion is, ultimately, a structure and political system, and it's possible for the people within it to change it. It's slow, and annoying, and will involve backtracking and re-fighting the same fight over and over, but any system can be changed as long as people who seek change use the lever of power they have access to. This is why I think it's okay to challenge and criticize religions—provided you're not doing it in a way that demeans an adherent's faith and affiliation. Basically, do the research, which is something I don't think a lot of New Atheist types do.

As atheists, we don't have the ability use the levers of power within a religion to enact change, but we can at least provide information to those who do.

And, of course, as atheists, we do have the ability to use the levers of power within organized, public atheism, to change that for the better, too.
posted by SansPoint at 8:49 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


You're right SansPoint. I think the trouble I have is just how slow and annoying it is to enact that change. Institutional inertia is so very difficult to address.

As you say, we should focus on what we can do. We need to hold our public representatives to a higher standard
posted by trif at 8:58 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Again deeply agreeing with the caveat that slow can be better. Fast social change (revolutions, wars, mass migrations) has issues.
posted by sammyo at 9:06 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


They are in no way our public representatives.
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on October 19


Artw: They are, alas, the public face of atheism.
posted by SansPoint at 9:20 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


Atheism shouldn't have a public face. That's like head anarchist or something. What they are is ridiculous pumped up frauds surrounded by shitty little cults and they can quite frankly go fuck themselves.
posted by Artw at 9:33 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


Artw: I'm with you, but the situation is what the situation is.
posted by SansPoint at 9:35 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]


Back when I still did that sort of thing, I remember arguing on a creationist forum and they kept trying to make me defend Dawkins and some guy named Thunderfoot that I had never heard of. For an interesting parallel, their forum would censor the name Kent Hovind because they were tired of people bringing him up.

The next time I heard of Thunderfoot he was making videos about Anita Sarkeesian.
posted by RobotHero at 11:12 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


According to Wikipedia, Richard Dawkins has a daughter. You don't get to say "child abuse? Whoop tee doo!" when you have an actual child. That makes you a garbage person.

There are definitely religious fundie types who think the same thing (like the Duggars, poor poor Josh was "tempted" into molesting his sisters. Bleah) - I don't think this attitude is about belief per se so much as an ideology of men as innately lustful, violent, and unable to control themselves, and women and children as inferior beings who have to put up with it. Because They Asked For It.

Just getting rid of religion doesn't mean getting rid of unexamined garbage beliefs. It's not surprising that a movement comprised primarily of well-off, white men, oozes racism and sexism. (Not talking about Joe and Jane Average Atheist, but Dawkins, Harris, Shermer, and other leaders of New Atheist thought.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:02 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


I think the trouble is a lot of "unexamined garbage beliefs" are rarely presented to you in a handy form "here is why you should believe garbage" which you can then debunk. Religions will usually have readily available apologia, so in that sense being rational about religion is easy mode.
posted by RobotHero at 1:28 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


So it turns out that two of the Nazis arrested for shooting at protestors at the Richard Spencer shit show in Florida were friends with a "Skeptic."

Also, Richard Spencer, to the surprise of absolutely nobody paying attention, does not believe in a God or Gods.

(I'm an atheist, but anyone who can't draw the throughline from Skeptic to Nazi just isn't paying attention)
posted by Yowser at 11:41 PM on October 21 [3 favorites]


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