Is popular Atheism racist?
September 21, 2015 10:09 AM   Subscribe

In the wake of the national furor over the arrest of a high schooler over a digital clock, one prominent atheist ponders if this wasn't part of some elaborate plan this whole time.

Crooked Timber has since come out strongly against this view which brings forth an old question: is New Atheism just the old racism?

previously, on Metafilter: Is the "New Atheism" movement Islamophobic?

additional notes:

On Being A Feminist, A Trans/Queer-Rights Advocate And An Atheist/Skeptic At The Same Time, Or: How To Be Hated By All Your Friends & Allies
It’s sad that it seems we’re unable to be able to treat human rights, dignity and understanding as a universal value, and in most situations only seem to extend it conditionally, for those who share our immediate interests or some kind of easily identified commonality. A friend of mine once made the grim but terribly accurate observation (in the context of talking about trans women who dismiss the rights or genders of other trans women who are, say, non-op or lesbian) that people only tend to be exactly as tolerant as it takes to accept themselves, and maybe their immediate friends and family, but have a whole lot of trouble extending that principle beyond that circle, to people who they don’t understand, with whom they don’t share the same experiences or identities or priorities.
Richard Dawkins Fails Spectacularly on Feminism and Islam and its follow-up, Atheism's Next Frontier is Intersectionality
When I point out that Dawkins is white and male, it is not to say that being white or male is inherently bad. When I criticize his activist efforts as a white male, it is not to say that white men should not participate in activism supporting people who are not white or male. It is to say that, as he has not lived as a woman, a Muslim, or a person of color — designations held common amongst a large portion of the most severely impacted by this issue — it is particularly important for him to be self-critical when engaging his influence, to consider history and culture in his attempts.

There is a heightened level of responsibility for Dawkins. His high profile and large audience grant him a great deal of influence. Influence is power. It is the ability to inform, motivate, and shape the behaviors of others. And with such power comes responsibility, even in the context of character limits.
posted by runt (317 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wouldn't say "atheism" is racist.

I would say that Richard Dawkins is, however.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on September 21, 2015 [173 favorites]


The atheist/skeptical community is shockingly full of racism, sexism, and libertarianism. It is also full of white men, and particularly young white men.

These are not disconnected facts.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:15 AM on September 21, 2015 [161 favorites]


It was perfectly consistent, he opined, to have opposed the Vietnam War on anti-imperialist grounds and unapologetically supported the invasion of Iraq

Or possibly his arguments are shitty and he's just inconsistent. Repeatedly saying you're right doesn't make you right, even if you're talking about yourself.

The atheist/skeptical community is shockingly full of racism, sexism, and libertarianism. It is also full of white men, and particularly young white men.

These are not disconnected facts.


Well, as a mostly atheist white guy, correlation is not causation. At least I hope not.
posted by GuyZero at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


If popular atheism isn't racist, then it needs to find better high-profile examples of atheists when horrible shit goes down, because when Dawkins becomes a constant go-to, something is wrong.
posted by Kitteh at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2015 [45 favorites]


Evangelical zealots of any kind - sports fans, atheists, that guy at the party who won't shut up about the band he likes, religious people, whatever - all fall on a spectrum I find annoying at best and dangerous at worst.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


needs christwhatanasshole tag. Dawkins has gone off the deep end, here.
posted by entropone at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Someone who works for Dawkins needs to change his Twitter password and not tell him the new one.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:21 AM on September 21, 2015 [42 favorites]


I thank God (oh, the irony!) for PZ Myers, who is a public atheist with a platform without being a racist, sexist dickbag.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on September 21, 2015 [35 favorites]


Richard Dawkins being a racist old man is really making me reconsider whether there exists a supreme being
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Assholes going to asshole, in whatever way possible they can, to make the story involve them. Dawkins could have sat this one out but instead decided to inject his own asinine opinions into the event. Nitpicking this story to pieces was the only way he could find, because the kid didn't smelt his own metal for the solder or whatever fucking complaint Dawkins mustered. See also the Palins using this as a vehicle to attack Black Lives Matter and Obama.
posted by msbutah at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Evolutionary biologist Man with reading comprehension difficulties says boy’s arrest was wrong, but questions whether he really invented an alarm clock
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:24 AM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Besides Dawkins, who is a racist sexist douchecanoe, I think a lot of organized atheism skews towards the reddit demographic of younger disaffected white guys who are steeped in societal racism.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:24 AM on September 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


Dawkins has gone off the deep end, here.

"Has" kinda implies he wasn't already off the deep end, which, uh, let's just say there's as little evidence of that as there is of the many gods he decries.
posted by tocts at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


If popular atheism isn't racist, then it needs to find better high-profile examples of atheists when horrible shit goes down, because when Dawkins becomes a constant go-to, something is wrong.

Dawkins said an asshole thing online. He's not an elected leader, he's not the atheist pope, it's not like there's a convocation of non-believers who get together to nominate him to go on Twitter and TV to say asshole things. He's a dude who wrote a couple books. I'm an atheist, but I can't impeach Dawkins or prevent him from saying dumb shit.
posted by protocoach at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2015 [62 favorites]


Dawkins has fallen into a trap wherein just about anything he says on Twitter will be fervently supported by his New Atheism Army in a way that loudmouths of decades past could only wish. So he panders to them and they pander back and he has literally no reason not to say the most inflaming thing possible regarding just about any news even vaguely involving Islam because the people who give him money and (more importantly, IMO) attention love that shit.
posted by griphus at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


Watching the frothing public meltdown(s) of Richard Dawkins has given me more than a lifetime's worth of schadenfreude.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:26 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


If Dawkins really gets into Star Wars at some point, would Star Wars fandom then become racist?
posted by Naberius at 10:27 AM on September 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


When people do things objectively, with little emotion to broadcast, it will often appear to be against those who consider emotions to be necessary to being inclusive, tolerant, respectful, etc. What is probably more of a problem are those who only consider human rights to be emotional propositions, to be understood only through empathy, rather than objective or rational approaches to civilization.
posted by Brian B. at 10:27 AM on September 21, 2015


Hi, I would like to submit an official request to retitle my post "Is it time to disown racist grandpa yet" or, alternatively "who are all of these people elevating Richard Dawkins's voice and what can we do about it"

just kidding, a little bit
posted by runt at 10:27 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


If Dawkins really gets into Star Wars at some point, would Star Wars fandom then become racist?

I don't know how to test this but I want to more than anything else in the world.
posted by griphus at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


There could, however, be some "elaborate plan" where school employees, law enforcement, and elected officials in Irving conspired to set up Islamic students for humiliation.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, as a mostly atheist white guy, correlation is not causation. At least I hope not.

Correlation is strongly correlated with causation.
posted by mhoye at 10:29 AM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Melanie Mallon, one of the folks who blogs over at Skepchick, had a good post pointing out that the response of a lot of organized atheism ("we're going to pretend there's no race and then nobody will be racist!") is basically the same as "The Secret".

There's a lot of atheists out there who are anti-racist and anti-sexist, but the bloviating Dawkins-loving troupe are pretty damned loud.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:29 AM on September 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


Meanwhile, Maher's on the same trajectory if not worse...
posted by BungaDunga at 10:29 AM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Every group of humans who think that they have THE Right Answer to the big questions in life and that all others are wrong and misguided contains some good and moral and non-racist people, and some bigoted pigs. Atheism is no exception nor are any of the major religions. Atheists, especially of the vocal and proselytizing variety, can be just as smug and "holier than thou" as bible believing Christians or Fundamentalist Muslims. And they can be just as racist, and some prominent atheists are.

Non-belief in any deity, by itself, does not imply acceptance of other beliefs or values or attitudes. I know atheists who by the way they live their lives would be considered saints by many religions, and others who are as amoral as the most hypocritical religious proselytizer who is screwing around on the side.

There is a difference between just not believing in God or Gods as a personal conviction, and making a career of trying to convince others to share your conviction, else be judged as ignorant or deluded.
posted by mermayd at 10:29 AM on September 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


Betteridge's law is pretty clear. The fact that Dawkins is an asshole does not make everyone who shares any qualities with him an asshole, no matter how much people in general and Metafilter in particular love to convict by association.
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:30 AM on September 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


Someone who works for Dawkins needs to change his Twitter password and not tell him the new one.

I just recently found myself viewing some of the links now posted here via some bit of snark regarding Dawkins and Twitter.

Could the whole thing just be as simple as the long winded needing to steer clear of all media that angles toward the succinct?
posted by philip-random at 10:31 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's so strange. Basically he and Maher are saying the same shit that Sarah Palin has said.

Go figure.
posted by daq at 10:31 AM on September 21, 2015


If you could go back to 1976 and tell the chap who has just published The Selfish Gene that he'd be spending his time in the C21st arguing in public with someone who identifies themselves as "SpongyPissFlap" I wonder if he'd believe you.
posted by sobarel at 10:31 AM on September 21, 2015 [57 favorites]


"we're going to pretend there's no race and then nobody will be racist!"
posted by griphus at 10:32 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Saw this on mefi whenever the last Dawkins kerfuffle was, but it bears repeating; A Richard Dawkins tweet is a lot like an episode of Game of Thrones. There are 140 characters & something unimaginably awful happens.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:32 AM on September 21, 2015 [117 favorites]


If you're arguing on semantics you have a shitty argument.

Simple as that.
posted by Talez at 10:32 AM on September 21, 2015


[Added some blockquotes to post to make it clearer there's quotation going on there.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:33 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think religious leaders have better great track record on racism, to say the very least. Using that as a judgement criteria is kind of dumb. No, not kind of... just dumb. Self-proclaimed leaders generally aren't chosen.

If anything marks this as particular to popular atheism In this case, in a negative way, it is simply the urge to be iconoclastically right all the time in a way that satisfies the ego. This is primarily the basis for the vocal skeptical community as far as I can tell.
posted by smidgen at 10:34 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


When certain people talk it's okay to not listen.
posted by tommasz at 10:35 AM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


Could the whole thing just be as simple as the long winded needing to steer clear of all media that angles toward the succinct?

I think everyone should steer clear of Twitter, especially public personalities. At this point, it amazes me that people still haven't realized this. It's like athletes/celebrities/other millionaires driving drunk; how hard is it to wrap your mind around the idea that Twitter is a trainwreck waiting to happen, especially if you have even a modicum of fame?
posted by protocoach at 10:35 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, as a mostly atheist white guy, correlation is not causation. At least I hope not.

There's certainly a common strain. Libertarianism, at least in the US, is almost entirely white (94%), and overwhelmingly male and young (~60% on both counts), and the tech industries are similarly dominated. The fact that there is a whole lot of bigotry going on in these demographics is certainly connected in some ways.

Dawkins said an asshole thing online. He's not an elected leader, he's not the atheist pope, it's not like there's a convocation of non-believers who get together to nominate him to go on Twitter and TV to say asshole things. He's a dude who wrote a couple books. I'm an atheist, but I can't impeach Dawkins or prevent him from saying dumb shit.

The New Atheism movement has had a ton of these incidents of bigotry, most of which are coming to light because people are getting tired of it. Dawkins may be the highest-profile, but he's certainly not alone. Sam Harris and Bill Maher (who is essentially aligned with Dawkins and Sarah Palin on this issue) also come to mind, and there's been a number of incidents of sexism and/or harassment centered around atheist and skeptics' organizations and conferences. Every time it comes up, the hue and cry of "isolated incident!" is sounded, but there's definitely a pattern.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:36 AM on September 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


The leaders of the 'New Atheism' movement (Maher, Harris, Dawkins) are overtly and virulently racist. I think this is relevant for determining if popular atheism is racist or not.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:37 AM on September 21, 2015 [9 favorites]




Is popular Atheism racist? Yes.

Is popular Atheism particularly racist? No.
posted by MrJM at 10:37 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


how hard is it to wrap your mind around the idea that Twitter is a trainwreck waiting to happen, especially if you have even a modicum of fame?

But plenty of people use it to be delightful and not say hateful things! Cher's twitter, for example, is gold.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:38 AM on September 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's kind of bizarre to think now that Christopher Hitchens was the least insanely right wing of the neo-atheist movement...
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:39 AM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


I won't deny that racist white males amy be at the center of a certain online community of atheists but I wonder about what mechanism floats these right-wing ass-hats to the top of just about every topic up for discussion.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm sure Daniel Dennett is pretty happy that everyone has forgotten about him.
posted by sineater at 10:41 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Libertarianism, at least in the US, is almost entirely white (94%), and overwhelmingly male and young (~60% on both counts)...

I have a theory about this. Overwhelming young: people often grow the fuck up. Almost entirely white: 'everyone for themselves' works a whole lot better when you start off with a metric shitton of privilege.
posted by el io at 10:41 AM on September 21, 2015 [20 favorites]


But plenty of people use it to be delightful and not say hateful things! Cher's twitter, for example, is gold.

Oh my goodness, thank you for this.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:42 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really am enjoying watching the public's perception of Dawkins slide from "asshole" to "stupid asshole".
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I liked watching Dawkins debate Christians way back when. But the privilege/sexism/white myopia matrix he lives in is astonishing.

This is so sad and tiring. Between the blatant idiocy of Sam Harris and Dawkins I no longer use the term atheist to describe myself. Or skeptic. Both are now polarized, poisoned and useless terms
posted by asavage at 10:46 AM on September 21, 2015 [44 favorites]


Richard Dawkins has done some great research and written some great books on biology, none of which will be modified by his manifest assholery
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:47 AM on September 21, 2015


I think there's a whopping asston of self-perpetuating media bias at work here.

1. Cover non-vetted twitter messages as "news."
2. Claim those non-vetted twitter messages are representative a social movement.
3. Justify your coverage because, after all, it is a public statement by a public figure, because we just reported on it.

And that's something that's done across the spectrum of politics and religion. We're not that far removed from butt-fumble and celebrity tabloid pics here.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:47 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Daniel Dennett is interested in truth rather than winning a culture war.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:47 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a good job Newton never had twitter as all anyone would remember him for would be going on and on about alchemy in his dottage
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:47 AM on September 21, 2015 [23 favorites]


Oh, and also being persuasive rather than preaching to the converted.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:47 AM on September 21, 2015


Atheism can't be racist. Atheists on the other hand... just as much as any other people.
posted by Splunge at 10:48 AM on September 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


Dawkins reminds me of William Shockley - he did some brilliant stuff and then his mind melted and he became an idiot. There was a book written about this I think? I can't find it now. But basically most people who make a world-changing discovery struggle to create a second act and many end up taking up the mantle of crazy, terrible causes.
posted by GuyZero at 10:48 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is popular Atheism particularly racist? No.

The real question is: Is popular Atheism particularly racist compared to similar groups made up of privileged young white men? Especially those that tend to demand an adherence to "unemotional" arguments supposedly based on logic and reason? Not being particularly racist in that context is a very low bar to meet.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:50 AM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


James Watson as well. So sad.
posted by Splunge at 10:50 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lamentably, the surest metric I have found for this is to just be a woman who tweets or posts anything about "uh, there is a serious racism/sexism problem within this community."

White Privileged Libertarian Atheism, indeed.
posted by Kitteh at 10:51 AM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


The Brain-eater is well known. Serge Lang dedicated most of the end of his life to proving that HIV didn't cause AIDS, and he was a pure mathematician. There are a hundred examples in every field of human endeavor.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:51 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


2. Claim those non-vetted twitter messages are representative a social movement.


These racist things are being said by the three biggest representatives of the social movement. That's probably the best way to identify a movement's racism aside from polling the members.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:52 AM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


Wouldn't only picking vetted messages be media bias?
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is popular Atheism racist?

I'd invoke Betteridge's law except I think that "popular Atheism" is a a conveniently vague construct pressed into service of framing the question the way it wants to be framed here.

I'd certainly say that Sam Harris is a massive hypocrite (for example, he somehow forgets all his objections to theocracy when it's Israel) and Bill Maher is an assclown who can afford to hire writers much smarter and funnier than he is and is at his best when he doesn't deviate from their script. But if you believe they define atheism it's because you have a problem with atheism so that's useful to you. As for Richard Dawkins, his main problem is that he's incredibly bad at judging when and how to say what he's thinking about and he really needs to not be his own front man, let alone the voice of anything else. He's apologized in the past for completely blowing it, and he probably shouldn't have weighed in on this, either.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:54 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know if this hypothesis holds water or not, but I've wondered if this is the case:

Non-theism has traditionally been looked down on by mainstream society for a long time. Who are the people who have the least to lose by publicly embracing such a status? White guys who've never had to examine their privilege in any other areas. It seems to be similar to what has gone on in the geek culture.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:55 AM on September 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


How do I divest myself from the "movement," though, since the only thing I have in common with these shitbirds is that we are atheists?

Every time Dawkins/Maher lets loose a screed I want to set my monitor on fire to sanitize it.
posted by lydhre at 10:56 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


These racist things are being said by the three biggest representatives of the social movement. That's probably the best way to identify a movement's racism aside from polling the members.

Does the Pope speak for all of Christianity?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:56 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


what does "non-vetted twitter message" even mean?
posted by nadawi at 10:57 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is so sad and tiring. Between the blatant idiocy of Sam Harris and Dawkins I no longer use the term atheist to describe myself. Or skeptic. Both are now polarized, poisoned and useless terms

I stopped calling myself an atheist awhile ago just because most people can't understand that it's not a group like religion is. No, "we" don't have a doctrine, that's the point.

I just say "I don't believe a god exists" or something similar. Make it about me, and my beliefs.
posted by mayonnaises at 10:57 AM on September 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


These racist things are being said by the three biggest representatives of the social movement. That's probably the best way to identify a movement's racism aside from polling the members.

Yes. The issue isn't so much 'old man says incredibly racist things on a regular basis' but 'old man, who is often quoted and admired by members of a movement, says incredibly racist things on a regular basis'

Dawkins says these things just about every time he can take advantage of some popular issue involving certain groups, and yet he is still invited to atheist events and cited without people noting that he is a racist of the first water.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:57 AM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


The Underpants Monster: "Does the Pope speak for all of Christianity?"
He speaks for one branch of Christianity. How many branches of atheism are there, exactly?

Basically, help me understand how we're not falling into an idiot hole labelled "NAE TROO SCOTSMAN" here.
posted by boo_radley at 10:58 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


is New Atheism just the old racism?

If the writer is being truly honest with the reader, the odious line of thought implicit behind this question is: Prominent atheist is atheist. Prominent atheist is racist. All atheists are represented by prominent atheist. Ergo, all atheists are racists.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:59 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


My friend Greta has been doing a series on her blog on Atheist Leaders who Aren't Dawkins or Harris. In case any of you wonders who they could possibly be, this is a good place to start.
posted by rtha at 10:59 AM on September 21, 2015 [34 favorites]


How often do people here need to actively Identify as an Atheist in the first place? What are the circumstances, outside of internet fights, where one does this?
posted by griphus at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Non-theism has traditionally been looked down on by mainstream society for a long time. Who are the people who have the least to lose by publicly embracing such a status? White guys who've never had to examine their privilege in any other areas.

Yep. Atheism was both possible and all the rage among the well-educated and connected about the time the U.S. was founded; the polite term was "Deist", but it's pretty clear that even that shallow profession of an unspecific, agnostic belief in a vague creator was a nod to convention. But woe betide you if you espoused the same beliefs when you didn't own property and hadn't gone to the right schools or come from the right family.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


But basically most people who make a world-changing discovery struggle to create a second act and many end up taking up the mantle of crazy, terrible causes.

Is this the ideological version of Engineer's Disease? "I was right in the past about this one thing when many people thought I was wrong! Therefore, I can never be wrong about anything again!!"
posted by emjaybee at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


Uh..there are a lot of "branches" of atheism just like there are a lot of theists of every stripe.
posted by smidgen at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll trot out my usual response to this, which is to bemoan that we live in a world where we lost Douglas Adams while he was young, and that he isn't the current British face of pop atheism instead of the Dawkinses, Hitchenses, and Ricky Gervaises.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


How often do people here need to actively Identify as an Atheist in the first place? What are the circumstances, outside of internet fights, where one does this?

When faced with the flip side: intolerant theists. As you can imagine, that happens quite a bit.
posted by smidgen at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


There's probably a meaningful distinction to be drawn between atheism, a set of beliefs about the existence of God, and The New Atheism, a semi-organized movement. I don't think you can generalize about people who don't believe in God. You might be able to generalize about people who read particular books and blogs and identify with particular thinkers.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


If the writer is being truly honest with the reader, the odious line of thought implicit behind this question is: Prominent atheist is atheist. Prominent atheist is racist. All atheists are represented by prominent atheist. Ergo, all atheists are racists.

Haha no.

The people who are the most pissed off at Dawkins right now are atheists who are trying to make atheism more inclusive. Dawkins and his ilk are making that much more difficult.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:03 AM on September 21, 2015 [33 favorites]


As you can imagine, that happens quite a bit.

So that's the thing, I think I live in circumstances pretty different to most atheist MeFites in that I really can't tell you the last time I've ever encountered someone socially who was really intent on knowing and/or changing my personal beliefs or lack thereof. Which is why I ask because again I think my situation seems quite different than most people's.
posted by griphus at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Recent Pew surveys on religion have started pointing that there are lot of people (22%) who are just "unaffiliated" with any religion. Not atheist and not even agnostic (both of which are only 7% of all surveyed). I wonder if this is partially influenced by New Atheists and incidents such as these.
posted by FJT at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


These racist things are being said by the three biggest representatives of the social movement. That's probably the best way to identify a movement's racism aside from polling the members.

Which begs a ton of questions as to why, how, and who decides they're the biggest. They're the biggest because The Guardian can routinely turn 140 characters into 500 sensationalist words and sell it across the wire. So this happens routinely.

They can't do that with other atheists who are more prolific but offer much less in the way of clickbait.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Err... sorry.. intolerant theists happen quite a bit like intolerant anybody... I'm not sure self proclamation happens as much, since most of us just want to get through the day.
posted by smidgen at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2015


When did Islam become a race? or is racism now just a catch-all for any sort of cultural phobia that can be easily identified with members who are non-white.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


If Dawkins really gets into Star Wars at some point, would Star Wars fandom then become racist?

First you'll have to convince me that Dawkins isn't really into Star Wars already.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clickbait media is pretty good at polling the public on what is the best clickbait. That's about it.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2015


I had a comment last year about Dawkins keeping me from even contemplating rejoining the skeptical movement. Every time he tweets, I really regret buying any of his books.

Dawkins is not the Pope of Atheism. (He is a Pope, but then again, so am I, so it doesn't count for much.) But his is more influential than I'd like. There are plenty of young, ignorant men/boys coming from a position of privilege who take in his opinions and at least partially incorporate them into their views. Given the wrong set of circumstances, I could see myself at least partially falling into that group as a high school student. He is toxic. And given the backlash effect, I'm unsure of how to go about undoing the damage he does.
posted by Hactar at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


First you'll have to convince me that Dawkins isn't really into Star Wars already.

excuse me but the so-called invisble and ill-defined "force" existing in any universe is an affront to logic and reason
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


that "popular Atheism" is a a conveniently vague construct

I mean, I'm thinking about Hitchens, Dawkins, Seth MacFarlane, Sam Harris, etc which doesn't seem vague to me at all?

I mean, maybe I should have been more specific and cited 'New Atheism' or how three of the four self-proclaimed 'Four Horsemen of the Nonapocalypse' remind me of Facebook convos I've had with super socially conservative types or that there's even a counter-movement within atheist communities called 'Atheism+' aimed directly at the sexist, racist, etc undertones of a lot of these conventions

but I figured that was 1) another post entirely and 2) pretty much already covered in the previously link in pretty great depth. I was assuming, in good faith, that people were reading all those and not hanging on to the title but I suppose, lesson learned, next time come up with a better title that people won't obsess over immediately
posted by runt at 11:09 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


My favorite part about Richard Dawkins's theory is this: lets say Ahmed knew that, because of who he is, if he brought that clock to school he'd be arrested. That's a horrible thing for a kid to learn! That's a racist as fuck condition.

Bringing the clock to school anyway is some Rosa Parks shit. It may count as a prank, but it's a glorious prank, one that catches shitty people doing something not just morally wrong but completely embarrassing.

What's what so baffling about the prank argument. Even if it was a prank, the school and police fucked up, and Ahmed fucking rules.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2015 [28 favorites]


I've ever encountered someone socially [...]

You'd be surprised (in the US, at least). Generally, it's because one doesn't talk about religion in mixed company -- but under the right circumstances either the knives or the cookies come out. :-)
posted by smidgen at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2015


Mr Dawkins, please, your books had a huge impact on my life, why can't you just shut up and let me have a good memory of you? =(
posted by yann at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


t Hitchens, Dawkins, Seth MacFarlane, Sam Harris, etc

OOoo you forgot Penn Gillette! :-) :-P These guys are in it for themselves, just like any fundamentalist preacher.
posted by smidgen at 11:12 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


When did Islam become a race?

Oh, I don't know. Probably about when The Crusades started.
posted by FJT at 11:12 AM on September 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


People who get heavily involved in the atheism movement tend to be those for whom this is their biggest problem.

I've been an atheist all my life. I have experienced discrimination as a result. I've been picked on and called names. There are a lot of things about organized religion that I have serious problems with, and others that are regular annoyances. And after we solve sexism and racism and income inequality and a few other social ills, I'll get right on that atheism thing.

The people who are devoting significant time and energy on the atheism movement tend to be those who haven't had a lot of experience with other flavors of discrimination. And those are disproportionately middle class and up straight, cis white men. Everyone else is busy.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2015 [68 favorites]


The argument that this is just manufactured clickbait by the lamestream media is total BS. At least two of the articles in the FPP are from an atheist perspective, and other prominent atheists and skeptics like PZ Myers and the Skepchick blog are just as gobsmacked as everyone else who isn't an Islamophobic asshole.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dawkins, from his first book, has always been a great example of someone who thinks he can come to decisive conclusions with a small number of facts and rigorously applied logic. ("The math doesn't lie! What you are saying is impossible!")

A lot of smart people - a lot of smart young white men? - are subject to this fallacy. Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're just jerks who can't admit when they're wrong.

Most of the times, they are jerks who are partly right and partly wrong, but completely unable to see the parts where they're wrong. That's Dawkins in a nutshell, I think.
posted by clawsoon at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Non-theism has traditionally been looked down on by mainstream society for a long time. Who are the people who have the least to lose by publicly embracing such a status? White guys who've never had to examine their privilege in any other areas. It seems to be similar to what has gone on in the geek culture.

There is also the aspect that, for the first time, they find themselves in a minority group. Somebody like Ahmed, a Muslim, is a member of the majority because he belongs to an organized religion, some members of which oppress atheists. It seems, at first blush, to be reasonable that atheists would identify him as somebody worthy of criticism. Yet they radically miscast their target and misjudge their own power outside of religion.
posted by Emma May Smith at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2015


Non-theism has traditionally been looked down on by mainstream society for a long time. Who are the people who have the least to lose by publicly embracing such a status? White guys who've never had to examine their privilege in any other areas. It seems to be similar to what has gone on in the geek culture.

I think that it's useful to distinguish between what we could call "pluralist atheism" and "montheist atheism". A pluralist atheist doesn't especially care whether or not other people practice a religion and probably doesn't think that insights gained from religious practice are useless/bad/tainted/etc. A pluralist atheist might have pretty strong opinions about creating a social contract that doesn't privilege any religion, but would tend toward outcomes-based/fairness thinking, rather than "the public sphere should be purged of religion because religion is bad and false".

A monotheist atheist actively wants other people to stop practicing religion - maybe they're a basically decent person who feels that religion is responsible in itself for much of human evil and therefore it should be stopped; maybe they're someone who really, really wants everyone to acknowledge that the monotheist atheist is right. A monotheist atheist believes that it is possible to get at a true/unbiased understanding of the universe, thinks that atheism-as-they-know-it is the closest approximation we have and really wants to propagate this view.

I think that organized atheism is basically, so to speak, monotheistic. I also think that the more privileged one is, the more one is likely to have been socialized against pluralistic/polyvocal understandings of the world and towards an understanding of the world as a place of dueling ideologies where one must triumph - partly because, of course, privileged people are able to enjoy this kind of triumph rather than suffer it, and partly because the more privileged you are, the less likely you are to simply be forced to accept a pluralist world because that's just how it is.

So elite white straight men are more likely to be monotheist atheists because they're more likely to have learned to see the world as a place with one ideology to rule them, and to enjoy that world because they're at the top.

Also, in the wake of the thread about the professor and the Deaf student, I started to wonder about whether atheism-as-an-identity is as much of a thing for many non-Christian-origin social groups. I mean, I know practicing Jews who are either atheists or who say that the existence of god doesn't matter to their Judaism; I assume that Buddhism stands in a very different relationship to the whole "god or no god?" business. So I was starting to wonder if it's primarily for people from Christian backgrounds where formally declaring that there is no god and you are cut off from religion is a major intellectual thing, whereas maybe for other social groupings it just doesn't have the same meaning/resonance? If you're super duper into Being An Athiest, are you basically postulating a world of only Christians and Athiests?

I'd say I'm a pluralist atheist, and don't like to associate with the people who make a big song and dance about their atheism

posted by Frowner at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2015 [52 favorites]


So that's the thing, I think I live in circumstances pretty different to most atheist MeFites in that I really can't tell you the last time I've ever encountered someone socially who was really intent on knowing and/or changing my personal beliefs or lack thereof. Which is why I ask because again I think my situation seems quite different than most people's.

It can happen A LOT in very religious areas, especially not densely populated ones. What type of Christian you are and which church you go to are pretty significant identifiers, especially when there's a family tie to a church. I've often had complete strangers ask me where I go to church, my high school graduation guidance sheets included a space for the name of the leader of my 'faith family' (avoids saying pastor) so they can communicate with students pastors. One of my co-workers is very concerned with my soul and openly tries to get me to go to his church.

I don't identify as atheist any more in part because of assholes like Dawkins, but I very much understand the need to have an understandable word to identify themselves to people for whom church and religion is a major part of their identities.
posted by neonrev at 11:15 AM on September 21, 2015


It might be helpful to remember that the label "New Atheist" was not a self-appellation. It was created as a blunt weapon to beat up on people who are not religious believers and who (in the view of some believers) don't have the decency to keep quiet about their lack of belief.
posted by Flexagon at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think I live in circumstances pretty different to most atheist MeFites in that I really can't tell you the last time I've ever encountered someone socially who was really intent on knowing and/or changing my personal beliefs or lack thereof.

I've spent most of my life living deep in the American Bible Belt and I can't remember the last time I had much more than the most superficial discussion of my spiritual/metaphysical beliefs with anyone. Largely, of course, that's because I don't travel in the kinds of circles where that's of much interest to anyone. But it might come as a surprise to some that those circles even exist in the American south.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't only picking vetted messages be media bias?

As opposed to creating clickbait from 140 characters pulled out of context from an already weak context?

The big question I have here is why are Dawkins's comments remotely relevant? He's not proximal to the situation, as was the mayor and principal. We're not interested in his opinion as part of his run for public office (to my knowledge). He's not in a position to extend an invitation to Ahmed Mohamed. I'm not certain he's as relevant as Bristol Palin's stupidity on this issue.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think everyone should steer clear of Twitter, especially public personalities. At this point, it amazes me that people still haven't realized this.

Are you saying it's a honeypot?
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


OOoo you forgot Penn Gillette!

I did that on purpose but since you have reminded me of him again I will need to once again sanitize my mindscape of the grossest beard in the world with great amounts of alcohol
posted by runt at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


The argument that this is just manufactured clickbait by the lamestream media is total BS.

Of course it is, it's a fucking twitter message. The fact that everyone else lost their marbles and thinks that twitter messages are critically important discourse that must be addressed rather than trivialities doesn't change the fact that it's a triviality.

Meanwhile, there are about a dozen more prolific atheists who never get the same level of exaggerated exposure as atheists because it's a lot harder to make clickbait out of a Coates article than a twitter post.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's the Artvoice post which seems to have sparked off this whole kerfluffle. Nothing to do with atheism until Dawkins embraced it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Frowner, I hadn't heard that about atheist categorization: I like it. I simply say now that I'm a critical thinker. I'm going to add now the I'm a pluralistic atheist.
posted by asavage at 11:20 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dawkins is a moron, gods don't exist, and I don't even own a television.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:21 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've always used "humanist".
posted by smidgen at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Couple comments removed, let's skip both hashing out of counterfactuals of the "yeah but what if that kid DID do x" stuff and the Islamic-barbarism-by-analogy thing.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2015


Frowner, I hadn't heard that about atheist categorization: I like it. I simply say now that I'm a critical thinker. I'm going to add now the I'm a pluralistic atheist.

Thanks! Warning: I just made it up. I'm sure it's not a new thought, but it was new to me.

(I was thinking about a friend who is super-duper hardcore hippy pagan and has been since the seventies, and about how I have a sort of "well, we all put different frames on the world and perceive different stuff as a result" feeling about it.)
posted by Frowner at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2015


I know this is from an aside, but this is something that I see often and wish people would not assume aobut: I assume that Buddhism stands in a very different relationship to the whole "god or no god?" business. Many of the branches of Buddhism have gods/demons/heavens/hells/hungry ghosts, etc. The gods are not like the gods you would think of- they can still make mistakes, they die and are reincarnated, etc. It is actually more difficult for them to achieve Nirvana/become a Buddha than it is for a human. But they do exist.

Sorry, back to the regular conversation.

What ever happened to Humanism as a variety of Atheism? I really liked that one.
posted by Hactar at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every time he tweets, I really regret buying any of his books.

If he ever comes near me and he's signing books, I'm so taking the ones I own and asking them to be dedicated to "Dear Muslima".

I mean, it's the only way I would be able to enjoy them these days.
posted by sukeban at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


clickbait isn't the reason dawkins is elevated as a voice for atheism. people might want to disavow him when he puts his foot in his mouth again and again and again - but he's greatly supported by huge swaths of atheists - by being paid to speak at conferences, by people paying $250-500 on vip book tour tickets. there's page after page which serve as introductions to atheism that quote him extensively. the fact that he's a bigoted ass doesn't seem to actually much matter to his fan base, a fan base that put him and themselves forward as the face of atheism. as a dawkins hating atheist i hate that's the way it is, but it is the way it is.

and if you think his gross islamophobia only comes out in twitter messages you haven't been paying attention.
posted by nadawi at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Also, I have met and spoken to Dawkins more than once, had dinner at a table next to his, tried for days to hire him for a speaking gig, and worked with a guy who's worked in the same general atheist realm for decades and who knows him very well.

Everyone I worked with thinks he's an asshole, and it's not that he's an old man, it's just that he's an asshole. He was an asshole racist from the get go, it's just more noticeable these days. He was saying the same sort of shit in the 90's, it was just more common back then.
posted by neonrev at 11:26 AM on September 21, 2015 [20 favorites]


Always a good time to revisit Jay Smooth's "How to tell someone they sound racist."
posted by GameDesignerBen at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2015


It seems to me that atheists who aligned themselves with the movement maybe missed the boat in terms of what was wrong with organized religion in the first place.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


As an aside Ben Carson the other day said that the president should be sworn in "on stack of bibles". Because of course the bible is a magic artifact and more of them is more magic.

I don't bring this up entirely gratuitously but to mention that John Quincy Adams was in fact sworn in on a law book, and the constitution specifically forbids a religious test for holding office. Atheism (or at worst a functionally atheistic politeness called Deism) was quite ordinary among the privileged and the intelligentsia -- who alone could get away with it -- 200 or so years ago.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've given honest thought to trying to start a grass roots "New New Atheism" movement to divorce Atheism from the racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and general smug hatred of people with religious belief. The one thing that's stopped me, aside from the sheer amount of work, is that I know the current crop of New Atheists would make my life a living hell.

When the public image of atheism is a bunch of scruffy white douchebags in bad hats, you have a problem.
posted by SansPoint at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm an atheist, but I can't impeach Dawkins or prevent him from saying dumb shit.

Well, yeah, but I can feel profoundly disappointed that he uses his position as Most Prominent Atheist to propagate his dumb-shit opinions. And that he's loudly setting a position that to be atheist requires not just rejecting theism, but rejecting tolerance and compassion. Not my atheism, asshole.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've given honest thought to trying to start a grass roots "New New Atheism" movement

If you want an organization, maybe look into the humanists.. I have no idea if their organization is better WRT to this stuff (I'm not into groups), but their philosophy seems... more complete.
posted by smidgen at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2015


> The one thing that's stopped me, aside from the sheer amount of work, is that I know the current crop of New Atheists would make my life a living hell.

Eventually the New New Atheists would splinter, necessitating the foundation of the New New New Atheists. And so on and so forth.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:32 AM on September 21, 2015


How is it it that Mike Huckabee and many millions like him -- more prominent, self-described Christian spokesmen than not, really -- have not managed to give Christianity a bad name? If three or so self-promoting Atheists make Atheism racist, how many racist Christians does it take to make Christianity racist?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:32 AM on September 21, 2015 [28 favorites]


Fun Founding Fathers Fact!

Ben Franklin wrote his own Bible verses and had them bound into his personal copy of the Bible so he could quote himself to others.

Why this remains out of practice in the Print-on-Demand era, I cannot begin to guess!
posted by GameDesignerBen at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


"It's the other Christians, the ones over there. We're cool."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2015


A New Atheism schism would shake the very foundation of irony itself.
posted by griphus at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


protocoach I'm an atheist, but I can't impeach Dawkins or prevent him from saying dumb shit.

True, but if enough atheists don't call his, and other obnoxious public atheists, bigoted asses to the carpet, they'll keep making the rest of us look bad.

The Card Cheat: "SPLITTER!"
posted by SansPoint at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


scruffy white douchebags in bad hats

The atheists are catching up with the Catholics!
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


How is it it that Mike Huckabee and many millions like him -- more prominent, self-described Christian spokesmen than not, really -- have not managed to give Christianity a bad name? If three or so self-promoting Atheists make Atheism racist, how many racist Christians does it take to make Christianity racist?

Wait, where have you been? Yes, they have, and it's mostly fundamentalists that can't seem to grasp that, much like how atheists can't grasp the same about Dawkins.
posted by Kitteh at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


smidgen: "Uh..there are a lot of "branches" of atheism just like there are a lot of theists of every stripe."

Written fry aside, think about why you had to put branches in quotation marks there.
posted by boo_radley at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2015


Just as many terrorists as it takes to make all muslims terrorists.
posted by smidgen at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2015


How is it it that Mike Huckabee and many millions like him -- more prominent, self-described Christian spokesmen than not, really -- have not managed to give Christianity a bad name?

You don't think Huckabee et al have given Christianity a bad name?
posted by Greg Nog at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why this remains out of practice in the Print-on-Demand era, I cannot begin to guess!

Eugene Mirman has an entire bit about this.
posted by griphus at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2015


"I have had with my friend Wes Jackson a number of useful conversations about the necessity of getting out of movements – even movements that have seemed necessary and dear to us – when they have lapsed into self-righteousness and self-betrayal, as movements seem almost invariably to do. People in movements too readily learn to deny to others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves. They too easily become unable to mean their own language, as when a “peace movement” becomes violent. They often become too specialized, as if finally they cannot help taking refuge in the pinhole vision of the institutional intellectuals. They almost always fail to be radical enough, dealing finally in effects rather than causes. Or they deal with single issues or single solutions, as if to assure themselves that they will not be radical enough." - Wendell Berry, "In Distrust Of Movements"
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


clickbait isn't the reason dawkins is elevated as a voice for atheism. people might want to disavow him when he puts his foot in his mouth again and again and again - but he's greatly supported by huge swaths of atheists - by being paid to speak at conferences, by people paying $250-500 on vip book tour tickets. there's page after page which serve as introductions to atheism that quote him extensively. the fact that he's a bigoted ass doesn't seem to actually much matter to his fan base, a fan base that put him and themselves forward as the face of atheism. as a dawkins hating atheist i hate that's the way it is, but it is the way it is.

Sure, and Pat Robertson is a celebrity Christian. That doesn't mean that everything said by Pat Robertson is inherently newsworthy, or that there is absolutely no bias involved when the news media leads with "Pat Robertson said something stupid."

The news media has an inherent conflict bias, and we really need to question why twitter messages from Dawkins habitually get more media coverage than serious work by atheists.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:37 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm willing to bet that many atheists, high-profile or otherwise, said some very reasoned, logical, and unoffensive things in the wake of this news story. None of them were reported, re-tweeted, or otherwise propagated by any media because only controversy sells.
Even on MetaFilter, sadly.
posted by rocket88 at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


When was the media supposed to stop paying attention to Dawkins, though? He wrote some legit books, right?
posted by mmmbacon at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2015


he's greatly supported by huge swaths of atheists

We should paint Christianity in the same light — except we don't do that here — in that singular, high-profile, everyday representatives of Christianity cause a hell of a lot more violence and social havoc than any one out-of-touch Oxford professor ever could. I mean, you get assholes like Rick Warren who support Prop 8 taking away rights from gay people, who support Uganda giving gay people the death penalty, etc. and then try to whitewash their history, but you can't call out all Christians as homophobes without getting an earful. It's not fair to Christianity to label all Christians as homophobes, despite huge swaths of Christians following assholes like Rick Warren and causing all manner of real suffering. So it goes.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:39 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Atheism doesn't imply participating in any movement. I'm an atheist and I'm only participating in one movement right now, and I won't tell you what it is except that it would involve telling you which room I am posting this from.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:39 AM on September 21, 2015 [20 favorites]


Written fry aside, think about why you had to put branches in quotation marks there.

Uh.. because it's hard to pin down the lineage because atheism tends not to be organized? Please don't try to start a fight about how Dawkins stands for everyone who doesn't believe in god(s), you will lose.
posted by smidgen at 11:39 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think many Christians worry about calling themselves such just because of Huckabee and the crazy crowd.

For the same reason, I call myself an atheist despite Dawkins and so on. I have no affiliation with them, we happen to share a general belief but that doesn't make me responsible (any more than when right wingers call on all Muslims to denounce terrorism, or when New Atheists bring up something like the Catholic child abuse problem to tar all Christians).
posted by thefoxgod at 11:40 AM on September 21, 2015


It's not fair to Christianity to label all Christians as homophobes

No, but that's because tons of prominent Christians have vocally supported LGBT rights

It's maybe fairer to characterize, for example, Republicans as being homophobic because re: media coverage last five years
posted by runt at 11:43 AM on September 21, 2015


smidgen: "Please don't try to start a fight about how Dawkins stands for everyone who doesn't believe in god(s), you will lose."

That's not even close to what I was saying. What are you reading and what are you actually responding to? Because it's certainly not what I was writing.
posted by boo_radley at 11:43 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hemant "The Friendly Atheist" Mehta seems to have a reasonable summary of Dawkins's Twitter ineptitude here.
posted by Flexagon at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, then clarify, because all I got was a passive aggressive "you might want to think about that".
posted by smidgen at 11:46 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since you asked: the point was nobody can "lead" atheism because it's not organized (unlike most religions).

If you have to pre-empt people's responses with "don't start fights because you'll lose" maybe you should chill out a little bit. Nobody's asking you to die on Atheist Hill, including me.
posted by boo_radley at 11:49 AM on September 21, 2015


Ok, we are in agreement... sigh...you're right, I should chill out. :-)
posted by smidgen at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2015


and I mean that in the friendliest way possible, man :)
posted by boo_radley at 11:52 AM on September 21, 2015


As far as I'm concerned the leader of New Atheism is still Baron d'Holbach and fuck those four modern guys and the horses they rode in on.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2015


I only hope there are a bunch of racists somewhere worrying that Richard Hawkins will make people think that all racists are atheists.
posted by layceepee at 11:56 AM on September 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


i go after dawkins and his followers because i am an atheist and i wish those who promoted atheism publicly were less shit people. i hope that compassionate christians go after huckabee and rick warren for similar reasons.
posted by nadawi at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

People with extreme beliefs require extreme scorn.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2015


Yeah, I'm done with this guy. Anyone want to buy a signed copy of The God Delusion?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2015


nadawi:
"i go after dawkins and his followers because i am an atheist and i wish those who promoted atheism publicly were less shit people. i hope that compassionate christians go after huckabee and rick warren for similar reasons."
Oh, we do. And we're just about as successful.
posted by charred husk at 11:59 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Of course he doesn't think Ahmed built it. This is guy who wrote The Blind Watchmaker.
posted by iamck at 12:04 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your favorite god sucks.
posted by telstar at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Honestly the best thing to do with that book would be to ritually burn it in honor of some random god
posted by poffin boffin at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm an atheist trying to follow along here... So am I personally responsible for stopping atheists I've never met from saying racist shit to avoid being racist by association or do I have to believe in God now to show I am not also racist? Please advise.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:15 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for you, but I personally am trying to be more concerned about racism than whether or not people think I'm racist.
posted by ODiV at 12:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


@ohenrypacey Islam is not a race, but when people like Dawkins (and Bill Maher and lots of people on the internet) are saying that it's perfectly fine and actually prudent to profile Muslims, regardless of age, class, dress, politics, how much they're blended in with their community (if Anerican/European) what brand of Islam they follow, and to what extent they're even religious, to the point where it was a good idea to terrify and humiliate this American high school freshman in a NASA shirt, they're sending a message that not only is every Moslem suspect, but everyone who "looks Muslim" is suspect as well.

It would be weird for Dawkins to comment on it (and less weird for Maher), but when the Sikh gentleman got profiled, ambushed and beaten horribly in Illinois a couple weeks ago, it's not like he said "Religion is dumb and vigilante violence is never the answer, and remenber ... be suspicious of Muslims, there us no reason to ever profile a Sikh."
posted by elr at 12:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


As a progressive person of faith with a ton of atheist friends, it's been interesting seeing their reaction to Dawkins' repeated public forays into racism and sexism. My friends are increasingly frustrated that Dawkins is the "go-to" public face and perceived spokesperson for atheists, when "there are so many of us who are perfectly lovely and reasonable people!"

Again, as a progressive person of faith... welcome to our world.
posted by duffell at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


I don't think the media should stop paying attention to Dawkins. I think the media should stop exercising a double standard where his twitter messages about things where he's completely uninvolved get more attention as representative of atheists than the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates for example. I'll admit a bias in that I think Coates is likely to be more influential in the long game.

Or at least admit that hate-following celebrities on twitter and facebook for weekly outrage is substantially lower than the baby-bump photographers, who actually need to put on shoes to get their story.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:23 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I were a person who wanted to view the world as it is, with as little bias and baggage as possible, atheism would conceptually have quite a bit to offer.

If I were a hate-filled douchebag looking for a place where I could call everyone else on earth a stupid, ignorant sucker to the applause of other douchebags, atheism would also have quite a bit to offer.
posted by pjaust at 12:25 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


i go after dawkins and his followers because i am an atheist and i wish those who promoted atheism publicly were less shit people. i hope that compassionate christians go after huckabee and rick warren for similar reasons.

Oh, we do. And we're just about as successful.


Blame The Media. And not just the Right Wing Media who are happy to quote Dawkins & Co. on the "Islamic Problem" in a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" basis, but also the Clickbait Media who need Big Names in every category to put in their headlines (and have ever since they were just selling Dead Tree Media) and who share with Dawkins and Huckabee the same God They Serve, the Almighty Dollar. Every concept and every movement needs a Leader, and being an asshole just makes it easier for the "Journalists" to promote certain Leaders, because it allows them to say "we're less assholish than that so WE must be good people". Which is how the 'anti-secrecy' movement got stuck with Julian Assange (and how Ed Snowden is kinda disappointing to them) and how Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin became the standards for "women in politics"... It's why Bernie Sanders remains under-reported today... not nearly enough asshole (they thought they got a hook when Black Lives Matter engaged with him, but he's smoothed things over enough to return to "not very newsworthy and NOT a Leader" status), and they're holding out for the UK's Corbyn to become a better (i.e. more of an asshole) Leader of 21st Century Socialism.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:28 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Honestly the best thing to do with that book would be to ritually burn it in honor of some random god

Baal has fallen into hard times and could probably use some love
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


So am I personally responsible for stopping atheists I've never met from saying racist shit to avoid being racist by association or do I have to believe in God now to show I am not also racist?

It might be nice if you said something when somebody says something racist, regardless.

Anyway, I think there is something to this, speaking as an atheist. I see a lot of accidental antisemitism and Islamophobia show up in the atheist community, and I don't know if they are more antisemitic or Islamophobic than anyone else, but there is definitely a unique atheist stripe to this. And it's this: Religion is just mind-destroying, life-ruining bullshit anyway, and so why should I have any respect for people who promote religion?"

And under this larger banner, all sorts of intolerance blooms. I see European atheists pick up the cry of "Muslims cannot integrate into European society," because they believe that Muslims believe pernicious nonsense that enlightened Europeans shouldn't be subjected to. American atheists shrug it off when people band together to keep a mosque from being built, because who cares if somebody builds a nonsense factory that spreads bullshit? Atheists can be especially insensitive to the places where ignorance bleeds into intolerance, because they do not feel any need to educate themselves about religions, and so wind up parroting misinformation, which they assume to be true, because if a religion promotes garbage like God, why wouldn't it also promote garbage like that the Talmud says Jews can kill non-Jews.

I'm pretty sure that most atheists are not more intolerant than anyone else. But their intolerance comes from a special place, a place that refuses to extend sympathy or understanding to people who are religious, which sometimes tips over into active animosity, and I think we atheists should be aware of this particular shade of intolerance that we sometimes take as our own. We should be aware of it so we don't make the world worse by dismissing the real needs of people who we would disregard because we do not share their faith, and we should speak out, because we are the ones with the language to address it when it shows up, because hopefully we are among the tolerant, and don't want people to suffer because there are those who share our atheism but not our tolerance.
posted by maxsparber at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2015 [45 favorites]


flexagon, the problem with Hemat's defense of Dawkins is that it ignores the part where Dawkins approvingly linked to a Beritbart page accusing Ahmed of building the clock for nefarious psy op purposes to help pave the way to an Islamic conquest of America.

Dawkins is an embarrassment to atheism, he moved from being a legitimate writer and provocative thinker into being atheism's Pat Robertson equivalent. If he'd just STFU I think we'd all be better off. Which is a shame because he really did write some good stuff.

I'll also join rtha in pleading with the media to stop going to the same old white racist atheists and try some of the non asshole atheists. Or at least less asshole atheists, since everyone is an asshole to some extent.

As for racism, sexism, and Islamophobia in atheism, I'd agree that it is regrettably common. The atheism+ and humanism movements are an attempt to build an atheism that doesn't center around assholes, though some of us remain unrepentant anti-theists, which is generally the preferred term to monotheistic atheism and I think the term Frowned was looking for.
posted by sotonohito at 12:38 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


None of them were reported, re-tweeted, or otherwise propagated by any media because only controversy sells.
Even on MetaFilter, sadly.


wait did I forget to include like multiple links to prominent atheist blogs talking about intersectionality and how problematic Dawkins is

no, no I did not. you almost had me there. good joke, dude.
posted by runt at 12:41 PM on September 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'll also add that over at Freethoughtblogs.com, PZ posted an excellent anti-hero or anti-leader article a few weeks ago. No more heroes.
posted by sotonohito at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


It might be nice if you said something when somebody says something racist, regardless.

Let's not assume I don't. Let's read the links runt posted and notice there are a shit ton of atheists for whom racism will not be tolerated.

If there was anything I was trying to say in my clumsy bit above it's that people assuming they know stuff about what I do believe from what I don't believe is frustrating. Others have said it better than I have, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:44 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]



The Underpants Monster: "Does the Pope speak for all of Christianity?"
He speaks for one branch of Christianity. How many branches of atheism are there, exactly?

Basically, help me understand how we're not falling into an idiot hole labelled "NAE TROO SCOTSMAN" here.


Well, there are NO branches of atheism, if you want to get down to it. All atheism is, is the lack of a belief in deities. That is literally the one and only thing that unites atheists in their atheism.

I bring up religious leaders because so many religious people are very quick to point out that their leaders don't speak for them and shouldn't be assumed to, while not according the same courtesy to the irreligious.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Let's not assume I don't.

Apologies for misstating. I didn't mean you specifically, and should have phrased that better.
posted by maxsparber at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


One useful task that Dawkins does perform is applying honest questioning to Islam. The mainstream media is often willing to provide a smokescreen to questionable Islamic groups such as CAIR, so it's good to have some people who are willing to ask the tough questions. In this case, though, it's hard for him to get away without looking like a 'big meanie' who's being nasty to a high school freshman.
posted by theorique at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you mean beg. Beg the tough questions.
posted by griphus at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think I live in circumstances pretty different to most atheist MeFites in that I really can't tell you the last time I've ever encountered someone socially who was really intent on knowing and/or changing my personal beliefs or lack thereof.

Heck, I live in a librul elite Northeastern college town, and I've had both my boss and my psychiatrist try to convert me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:48 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


One useful task that Dawkins does perform is applying honest questioning to Islam.

I suppose if you consider "when did you stop beating your wife" to be a form of "honest questioning"....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


One useful task that Dawkins does perform is applying honest questioning to Islam. The mainstream media is often willing to provide a smokescreen to questionable Islamic groups such as CAIR, so it's good to have some people who are willing to ask the tough questions. In this case, though, it's hard for him to get away without looking like a 'big meanie' who's being nasty to a high school freshman.

I don't know if this is an example of applying an honest question. I agree with hijabi princess, who instead described it as "patronizing white savior paternalist Islamophobia."

I mean, maybe Islam does need a feminist revolution. I don't know. I spent the morning reporting tweets attacking Anita Sarkeesian, so I'm not sure the West is really in any position to j'accuse anyone else. I especially am not sure Dawkins is in the position to be asking these hard questions of anybody other than a mirror.
posted by maxsparber at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


In this case, though, it's hard for him to get away without looking like a 'big meanie' who's being nasty to a high school freshman.

What is with the hedging language and fake-quotes? Dawkins was a straight-up jackass about an African-American Muslim kid.

I also have serious objections to characterizing what Dawkins is doing here, and elsewhere, with respect to Muslims and Islam as honest questioning.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:53 PM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I am regularly encouraged by PZ Meyers and his posse at Freethought Blogs for proving the existence of 'more than a few' voices for decency in the "Atheist" category (and they are as likely to give attention to the Bad Acting of Bad Atheists as Bad Theists... my only frustration is with how OFTEN they need to do that). Still, if you haven't seen the previous recommendations here of PZ and Co. (of which there have been many, but maybe NOT ALL CAPS EMPHATIC), please note mine. One of Freethought's other bloggers, Greta Christina is doing a dedicated series on "Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Dawkins or Harris".

And CAIR is slightly less questionable than the Dawkins Foundation.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I see a lot of accidental antisemitism and Islamophobia show up in the atheist community

That may well be true, but surely the "athiest community" is like a tiny, tiny fraction of atheists? I mean, almost by definition there is no organization or affiliation for simply not believing in a god or gods.

So only those with particularly "evangelical" tastes would belong to an organization or "community" of atheists, as far as I can tell (and based on the few I know who do that). Those people are probably way more likely to be intolerant (as most evangelical/"lets convert people" types are in lots of religions).

But for the average atheist, there is no reason to belong to a group or community of any kind, IMO. So almost any group will be unrepresentative of the whole (whereas you could make a stronger argument for the Catholic church leadership representing Catholics, as they are choosing to affiliate themselves with an organized group).

The specific New Atheist movement seems full of assholes however, but other than providing fuel for outrage I don't think they're very important.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Atheists can be especially insensitive to the places where ignorance bleeds into intolerance, because they do not feel any need to educate themselves about religions.

I enjoyed and agree with much of your comment, but this is a common misunderstanding as "Atheists, Agnostics Know More about Religion than Religious"
posted by Xavier Xavier at 1:02 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Stuff like this freaks me the fuck out. I just went back and looked at the previous thread, which I thankfully missed on the first go-around and yikes! at the some of the most heavily favorited comments.

I was raised in a reasonably strict Muslim household here in the US along with my 2 sisters and despite some of my parents more conservative ideas, they never stood in the way of us getting a good education or experiencing life. My parents are still devout and practice their beliefs every single day. They know others in their community who do the same. All of them are decent, law-abiding, tax-paying people. All of them get hassled, at the store, while driving, generally just by existing. Some of them have been interviewed by the FBI (because, of course, there is an FBI informant in their community).

When I see comments like the ones above by despicable bigots like Maher and especially Dawkins and then I read feedback where people are trying to make excuses for them, I get sick. Maybe I'm more sensitized to it since I am part of this group but I don't have any of the obvious identifying markers. I would call myself a secular Muslim who doesn't dress modestly and who is brown but not dark. I don't have an Arabic name, so people who don't know my background feel comfortable saying things they would never say if they knew. And it doesn't stop the profiling at the airport/customs once security gets a gander at my passport.

I've noticed an escalation in this rhetoric in the last few years and every time, there are people who justify it. It's getting uglier and more virulent and I start seeing people calling for internment camps and deportation and I don't see enough public opposition to it, and then I start worrying about my elderly Muslim parents and I don't even know. I've been in this country for over 40 years (since I was toddler) and have never felt so unwelcome and othered.

Maybe other users can brush off the comments of Dawkins, et al. but he is in perfect company with non-atheists like the current GOP field and moronic racists like Michelle Malkin and Pamela Gellar. They are all saying the same things to disparate followers and they are coming out on the same side with the same conclusion; it has only amplified. It's just gotten angrier and more open. And I am angry and fearful for my family and friends.
posted by nikitabot at 1:09 PM on September 21, 2015 [60 favorites]


It's up to Islamic women whether they want a feminist revolution within Islam.
posted by Miko at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


By which I'm trying to say that whatever gender stuff goes on in the many different societies where Islam is the majority religion, that stuff has to be sorted out by the people in those societies. Getting the imperialist paws of the West off other places would probably be a good start for those of us in the West, and we could also look back at how Western colonialism actually created quite a lot of the misogyny that replaced local and/or indigenous social and spiritual traditions.
posted by Frowner at 1:13 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


[A few comments removed, a side argument about how western feminists just care about rudeness is not gonna improve this thread.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:15 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


smidgen: "t Hitchens, Dawkins, Seth MacFarlane, Sam Harris, etc

OOoo you forgot Penn Gillette! :-) :-P These guys are in it for themselves, just like any fundamentalist preacher.
"

But I actually like Gillette...

Amusingly enough, as I believe in one's faith being intensely private, I have been addressed as an atheist before.
posted by Samizdata at 1:35 PM on September 21, 2015


Honestly the best thing to do with that book would be to ritually burn it in honor of some random god

I didn't find anything objectionable in the book itself. It's just Dawkins' sexist and xenophobic behavior that I've observed on Twitter, etc. that makes me want to disown the guy.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2015


It's up to Islamic women whether they want a feminist revolution within Islam.

The ones who have a voice and the liberty to express it, and the exposure to and understanding of the existence of feminism and its meaning, unfiltered by the biases of their often incredibly restricted social environment, sure. But worldwide, what percentage is that? And shouldn't we take into account the whole getting-shot-in-the-face-for-saying-so aspect of it?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Atheists can be especially insensitive to the places where ignorance bleeds into intolerance, because they do not feel any need to educate themselves about religions.

Every atheist I know personally, and most of the ones I've met online, were raised in some kind of religious tradition. I'll use the USA as an example because that's where I live: Only a small percentage of Americans identify as atheist or agnostic. Doesn't it make sense that since the vast majority of Americans are religious, some of them are the families of the few atheists and agnostics?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2015


Jumping way back in the thread: "How often do people here need to actively Identify as an Atheist in the first place? What are the circumstances, outside of internet fights, where one does this?"

A good friend of mine is a committed atheist and spent the last ten years of her life working on developing materials relating to teaching ethics to children, especially as a parent, without referring to God. There's a real dearth there and she was determined to help fill it. Now that her own kids are older, she went back to school and just finished a degree in end-of-life counseling so she can provide non-theist care and support to the dying and their families who want a "chaplain" to help them navigate the rituals of death but aren't religious.

She's largely dropped out of national atheist organizations, though, because she got tired of being creeped on and tired of being told her work was "stupid" because it was about children, care giving, and helping other atheists rather than bickering with Christians. Now she mostly goes to religious hospital chaplaincy conventions and everyone's like, "An atheist Chaplin! That is so great! Can I get your card for when we have a patient who needs support but isn't religious? Oh, man, do you have printed materials? Can you email me so I can have then on hand? Oh, this is great, you are really filling a need, thank you!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2015 [83 favorites]


For those who are interested in organized atheism without the frothing Internet Atheist / GamerGate / Redditor fedora vibe, there's Sunday Assembly, an international movement of local communities who get together on Sunday to not believe in God together. I haven't made it to a meetup yet, but it seems to be comparable to the Unitarians, except more fun and with even less religion. As far as I can tell, it hasn't (yet) been co-opted by misogynist and xenophobic douchecanoes.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:58 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's up to Islamic women whether they want a feminist revolution within Islam.

Islamic men also seem to take a strong interest in this question. In Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, among many men, the answer seems to be a resounding 'no'.

Maybe this isn't any of Dawkins's business. But he isn't completely off the reservation for suggesting it, either, given the status of women in many Muslim nations and regions.
posted by theorique at 2:03 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Comment removed; there's a whole gigantic thread discussing the original Ahmed situation in detail, and this thread doesn't need a hot take on what actually happened and so on to start relitigating it from scratch.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:13 PM on September 21, 2015


entropone: needs christwhatanasshole tag.

Wouldn't that be "thereisnochristwhatanasshole?"
posted by tzikeh at 2:13 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's up to Islamic women whether they want a feminist revolution within Islam.

The ones who have a voice and the liberty to express it, and the exposure to and understanding of the existence of feminism and its meaning, unfiltered by the biases of their often incredibly restricted social environment, sure. But worldwide, what percentage is that? And shouldn't we take into account the whole getting-shot-in-the-face-for-saying-so aspect of it?


All I know is that I'm uncomfortable with a bunch of Islamophobic white men in North America and England having the biggest platform to speak out about this. There are plenty of Muslim women in the world who don't live under oppressive regimes who talk about these issues, and even some who do where it's very dangerous for them to do so. Richard Dawkins has not demonstrated that he is a good-faith critic of Islamic institutions, and attempts at feminism by people who have appointed themselves colonial guardians of misguided POC do not have a good history.
posted by thetortoise at 2:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [30 favorites]


I'm an atheist and I think Dawkins and his ilk are shitbags. Atheist representation in the media, both old-school and social, just sucks. Imagine if the only Christians who got any air time or became popular on the 'net were hateful troglodytes, spewing their prejudices and small-mindedness everywhere....

Wait...
posted by tzikeh at 2:24 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


it seems to be comparable to the Unitarians, except more fun and with even less religion.

As a Unitarian, I feel that your ranking of Sunday Gatherings Which May Or May Not Be Religious is a little bit problematic, given its hierarchical structure; I would like to petition the gathered assembly to instead henceforth refer to this as "differently fun".

Also, gentle reminder that the committee for raising awareness of polyamorous dogs is extending their no-bake bake-sale hours, so please feel free to assist after coffee hour today.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:25 PM on September 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


In terms of "popular atheism", I haven't read any Dawkins - that seems more like "enthusiast atheism" to me.

I've read Sagan and watched both his version and Neil deGrasse Tyson's version of Cosmos though. That seems more like "popular atheism" to me.

It doesn't strike me as racist - Cosmos devoted significant time to explaining and praising the contribution to civilization and enlightenment of various arab cultures, regions, and times (as well as European, American, Russian, etc). Similarly, where pivotal discoveries, knowledge, or people had been attacked by religious organisations, it criticized religious persecution regardless of which religion was doing the persecuting.
posted by anonymisc at 2:25 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's up to Islamic women whether they want a feminist revolution within Islam.

The ones who have a voice and the liberty to express it, and the exposure to and understanding of the existence of feminism and its meaning, unfiltered by the biases of their often incredibly restricted social environment, sure. But worldwide, what percentage is that? And shouldn't we take into account the whole getting-shot-in-the-face-for-saying-so aspect of it?


I know women in Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan (some of them my relatives, even!) who are feminists and activists working in intimidating circumstances, who have been bravely fighting and advocating for rights for decades. They are not living in some Burqa bubble and have access to some of the same information we do. In fact, the first time I read the The Feminine Mystique, was in my grandmother's house 25 years ago in what is now an area affected by the Taliban. Feminists have existed and will continue to exist in these countries for a long time.
posted by nikitabot at 2:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


Islamic men also seem to take a strong interest in this question. In Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, among many men, the answer seems to be a resounding 'no'.

We are currently in the middle of the largest refugee crisis in the last 70 years. Mostly Arab refugees, but also Afghani and Eritrean and similar, united in fleeing repressive and unsettled Islamic states. Interviews with the refugees indicate that while they are often trying to get to better economic conditions, what drove them out of their home countries was the repressive politics and religious control of society.

So people, women, and also men, are choosing, voting with their feet.
posted by bonehead at 2:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think the thing that confuses me about this whole "I am going to spend a lot of breath on what women Muslims should do about feminism" thing is this:

It's not something that non-Muslims at their keyboards in the West can do much about. We just can't. We can make things worse for Muslims by supporting various imperial adventures and talking a lot of Islamophobia, but there just isn't much positive we can do, other than provide support as requested to those Muslim women/women's rights activists/etc who request it.

What makes things worse in Afghanistan, the crumbling ruin of Iraq, etc, is demonstrably ham-fisted and self-serving Western imperialism. Women in the Middle East today would be infinitely better off if we could, for instance, reset the clock to just post-WWII and then not overthrow the Mosadeggh government. We could reset the clock and then not fight a proxy war in Afghanistan. We could reset the clock and not shatter a functional albeit unappealing regime in Iraq. Those are all things that would have benefited Muslim women in the Middle East enormously, and they have nothing to do with hectoring those women about headscarves and Sharia law.

Remember those photos of 1960s Afghanistan? It was anti-communist imperialism that smashed progressive modernization in the Middle East.

It always looks, to us as so-rational observers, like if we could just do the one thing (overthrow Saddam Hussein, persuade women not to wear the veil, etc) then everything would be hunky-dory. But we do that one thing and actually it doesn't work very well and/or makes things worse, and then unaccountably even those poor oppressed women don't want us sticking our paws in.

It's savior-ism, ironically enough for atheists. We can save the oppressed women of Islam by our own hands, regardless of what they want or the complexity of their situations!
posted by Frowner at 2:33 PM on September 21, 2015 [30 favorites]


It doesn't strike me as racist

Seth MacFarlane, writer, voice actor, general brains behind Family Guy (which is arguably fairly racist and sexist) was also the executive producer of Cosmos. he's also fairly outspoken about his atheism in the same way that Ricky Gervais in that they are both huge egotists and use it to signify to others that they are vastly more intelligent than the billions of other people on the planet
posted by runt at 2:38 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


wait did I forget to include like multiple links to prominent atheist blogs talking about intersectionality and how problematic Dawkins is

no, no I did not. you almost had me there. good joke, dude.


My "only controversy sells" comment was not so much about your FPP, which was really good, but about the ensuing discussion. Nobody has been talking about your other links, just the controversial one.
posted by rocket88 at 2:39 PM on September 21, 2015


It's not something that non-Muslims at their keyboards in the West can do much about.

We just can't.


Vote for politicians who don't promote fear of strangers and immigrants. Speak up against those who characterize the current 16 or 20 million refugees as terrorists or "migrants".

Donate to or help refugee resettlement in the region.

Sponsor a family in need, through a church or community group.
posted by bonehead at 2:39 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd agree with bonehead, and go further. One thing we very much can do is urge our politicians to improve America's actions WRT the refugee crisis.

The current proposal of taking 10,000 refugees is insulting. Especially when it can be argued that a large portion of the current crisis is the direct outcome of Bush Jr's adventurism in the Middle East. America has, I'd argue, a moral obligation to take in millions of the refugees. It could be argued that the US has a moral obligation to take in 100% of the refugees.

As it is, even proposing that the US take in 10,000 refugees is causing Republicans to, yet again, throw a temper tantrum about Obama.
posted by sotonohito at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Vote for politicians who don't promote fear of strangers and immigrants. Speak up against those who characterize the current 16 or 20 million refugees as terrorists or "migrants".

Yes, but all of those things are about fighting Islamophobia, supporting immigrants, supporting people here, supporting people as people. Whether they have any knock-on effect on feminism in the Middle East, who knows? There are lots of things people can do to push back on imperialism and Islamophobia, but this fantasy that a lot of people cherish about doing [THING] to transform women in the Middle East into [something unclear but 'liberated'] - that's what never has anything but bad consequences.
posted by Frowner at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Most of Dawkin's comments are about criticising the work of others in this mess, not working toward (humanist) solutions.

That says all you need to know about the man, really.
posted by bonehead at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Obviously, actual Muslim women should decide what they want to do about gender stuff, anyway. It just seems especially silly and wind-baggy to waste a lot of breath on the issue.)
posted by Frowner at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2015


All I know is that a woman is a lot free-er to make her own choices as a settled immigrant in, say, Michigan, than in a refugee camp in eastern Turkey.
posted by bonehead at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


What an asshole. "Hmm. Today, I think I'll log into Twitter and take shots at Muslims, just because." Does he have nothing else to do? And then, on top of it all, he pulls the "yeah but it's just facts though guys!" which makes me think he is a troll.

Anyways

Reading this thread, I am so glad that no one ever brings up religion around me. Never comes up. I go through life practically never having to hear anyone telling me about their stupid beliefs and in turn I don't share my stupid beliefs with them. It's a great way to go through life and I wish Dawkins would give it a try.
posted by Hoopo at 2:55 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


"I don't give two hoots if the boy is Muslim or Druid, brown or skybluepink."

Ah, the old invocation of strangely colored people.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


[Once again: if what you're writing is a bullet-pointed "here's what actually happened" summary of the recent events talked about in the existing thread about Ahmed's shitty treatment, go read that thread first and then if you've got something to add on the subject add it there. This thread is nominally about Dawkins and more broadly New Atheism, and has several interesting links in it about those and intersectionality and so on; it's not literally just "let's argue about Ahmed's clock from scratch again" so please don't.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


i highly recommend historian (and former nun) Karen Armstrong's book on the Crusades-era origins of Western ant-Islamic bigotry (and similarly, Western anti-semitism and some forms of homophobia). This stuff has some old, old roots, especially for the British:

Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World:

http://www.amazon.com/Holy-War-Crusades-Impact-Todays/dp/0385721404
posted by girl Mark at 3:02 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hey, as far as I know, it was my grandfather's favourite imaginary colour.
posted by skybluepink at 3:07 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seth MacFarlane, writer, voice actor, general brains behind Family Guy (which is arguably fairly racist and sexist) was also the executive producer of Cosmos.

I don't get this - is the point that MacFarlane's egotism doesn't prevent him having involvement with remakes of good work, or is it that things he gets involved in should be assumed to be defacto racist because of his proximity? Something else?

(I don't really subscribe to authorial intent, so the extent that someone's involvement affects whether the work stands on it's own isn't relevant to me, but I recognize not everyone feels that way)
posted by anonymisc at 3:09 PM on September 21, 2015


One useful task that Dawkins does perform is applying honest questioning to Islam. The mainstream media is often willing to provide a smokescreen to questionable Islamic groups such as CAIR, so it's good to have some people who are willing to ask the tough questions. In this case, though, it's hard for him to get away without looking like a 'big meanie' who's being nasty to a high school freshman.

Really? Is that useful? Is the western world enamored with Islam and uncritical of it? Are Brits and Americans in the thralls of CAIR?

OR

Is Dawkins attacking a small religious minority that's already hated in the US and the UK? Is Dawkins attempting to attack the feminist stance of Islamic leaders and then ignoring the existing problems with Christianity's attempt to control women's bodyies/sexuality (and their succesful attempts to influence ostensible western secular government policies in a myriad of ways).

No, in the UK and the US (and the 'west') Dawkins is punching down, not up. If he were taking a brave stance, he'd ignore the minority religions and attack the awful practices of the dominant religion in his region.

His attacks on Islam are pointless and cowardly.
posted by el io at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't really subscribe to authorial intent

awesome, me neither?

I mean, Seth MacFarlane basically acts like a dummy's guide to being an atheist in 21st century USA. his story says: 'look, smart people are ethnocentric dbags.' that's a larger discourse that's problematic. same with Dawkins (see above) and Hitchens (who once said that he was sad not more people died in the Battle of Fallujah) and Sam Harris (who believes atheists and whites have higher IQs and religious people are just dumber overall especially if they're non-white). all three of these people are/were super duper popular with the atheist community, were frequent keynote speakers on the convention circuits, and generally are seen as the godfathers of so-called 'New Atheism' which is often criticized for being misogynistic and overtly racist

Cosmos, on the other hand, is great. unfortunately, by association with MacFarlane, I often see it used as a kind of rhetorical bludgeon against theists, particularly when and in reference to Islam, often by people who don't understand its authorial intent. if I were to leverage a criticism at it, it would be its role in the larger discourse whereby the scientific method is treated as some kind of uniquely Western thing (which it's not) and Cosmos, an American product produced and revived by a prominent celebrity atheist, becomes weaponized. of course my experiences of this have mostly been in online communities like /r/atheism so ymmv. which, to be clear, doesn't mean that Cosmos shouldn't exist, just that the way its used in discourse is problematic and I think that's largely the fault of celebrity atheists
posted by runt at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The world needs more shrugs.

Dawkins knows as much about this specific case as any layman so why not ignore him?

What's the story? Guy who knows a lot about one thing (evolutionary biology) talks out his ass on unrelated topic and makes an idiot of himself?

Welcome to the club of 7 billion other people on the planet.

Racism is wrong in and of itself and needs to be fought on its own terms. Nailing Dawkins on it as Joe Atheist spokesman is media sport but the damage is done by diffusing the seriousness of racism.

Its the whole point of the Godwin thing - you sneezed near the salad bar, you're like Hitler!

Anybody can be a racist no matter what other ethos they may or may not adhere to. That's why its insidious.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since Dawkins isn't even here to defend himself, maybe it would be informative if opinions about him were consistently supported with evidence, meaning, actual quotations. When people can't read what he actually said, it's hard to ascertain the truth of various assertions about his overall behavior. In a setting where we can re-read things he actually said, we can decide for ourselves whether he has been using racist rhetoric or not.
posted by polymodus at 4:11 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


It might be helpful to remember that the label "New Atheist" was not a self-appellation.

Yes, Dawkins wanted 'bright', didn't he? After that stunt, calling them New Athiests is pretty damn charitable, instead of say, the guys whose self appellation implies that everybody else is dim.
posted by wotsac at 4:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I go through life practically never having to hear anyone telling me about their stupid beliefs and in turn I don't share my stupid beliefs with them. It's a great way to go through life and I wish Dawkins would give it a try.

This is kind of a privilege you enjoy that many kids growing up in religious countries (like the USA) do not have. I'm pretty sure that many outspoken atheists do what they do precisely because they think that foregoing your advice today will help extend your desirable situation to more people tomorrow.
Staying silent while your society teaches its young to believe in demons would not really be being a force for good on that front. (Being an asshole presumably isn't either, but my point is that silence isn't noble if the status quo is considered to be harming people)
posted by anonymisc at 4:34 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think everyone should steer clear of Twitter, especially public personalities. At this point, it amazes me that people still haven't realized this. It's like athletes/celebrities/other millionaires driving drunk; how hard is it to wrap your mind around the idea that Twitter is a trainwreck waiting to happen, especially if you have even a modicum of fame?
posted by Sebmojo at 4:51 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This breakdown of what Dawkins actually said is pretty handy when discussing what Dawkins said.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:58 PM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Sorry, opening the question "is Jewishness a race" is going to really take us down a road that we don't need to go down here, maybe better to make the same point without introducing that sidetrack.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:01 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


It appears that evangelical Christians and Republicans tend to rank Muslims the least (as low as, or higher, than they rank atheists), according to a recent Pew Research survey.
posted by Brian B. at 5:18 PM on September 21, 2015


Dawkins and his ilk speak for a remarkably high percentage of Atheists by dint of making the identification so toxic that people who assert that no god exists but don't identify with his evangelical Atheism are left to find other names for what they assert.

For that matter, I found it a pressing matter to distance myself from my Evangelical Christian upbringing exactly because of the corresponding asshats in that movement. So...
posted by wotsac at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2015


I mean, I guess we could make up a new word but there isn't a good alternative for "atheist" as it stands now. Other than replacing it with a definition (which is unwieldy). I'm certainly sticking with it, this is an issue where I'm willing to let people be wrong if they want to try and think all atheists are like Dawkins (I mean, obviously other than here, but commenting on MeFi is different than making a Serious Effort to fix people who are Wrong on the Internet).
posted by thefoxgod at 5:42 PM on September 21, 2015


My partner usually says something like "I'm an atheist, but not a New Atheist like Dawkins and Hitchens." Seems to work for her.
posted by thetortoise at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2015


I guess I feel like most people are not actually aware of the whole New Atheist thing, but I suppose that depends on where you live and who you know.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:52 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always knew those atheists were nothing but trouble.
posted by dashDashDot at 5:55 PM on September 21, 2015


And in the local news in "Atheist-Friendly" Central Coastal California: "'Atheists United' Highway Cleanup Sign Near Atascadero Vandalized" (at least the mark was an "X" and not a "+")
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:57 PM on September 21, 2015


Hang on a minute....If I don't believe in God, do I have to join the Atheists' Club?

Also, I have a few fairly strong objections to certain tendencies that seem to be common to most religions. Is it okay to be some sort of antitheist? I believe in the Cosmic Muffin, so is it okay for me to say that Christians, Jews, and Muslims are, theologically speaking, full of shit?

There is no bright line for me to see. Examples of gross racism easily generate agreement among the thoughtful, but I arrange my interior furniture according to my own moods, and I'm not always a good housekeeper. Can I be just a little racist? or do I have to worry about having the label pinned on me if I utter some phrase that can be graphed out too close to the line?

Unlike Dawkins, I'm striving to be less of an asshole as I get older. I believe I'm making progress, but this thread is causing me to have more than the usual doubt.
posted by mule98J at 6:02 PM on September 21, 2015


I'm tremendously encouraged by many of the comments above, and particularly appreciate those from Frowner, who expresses most of what I think and feel about this better than I could.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's super neat that you can live in that world mule but your tiny little racism is me hearing the same questions pointing out that I look different for the course of my life

so like preferably, if I were, say, a Muslim black kid growing up in assbackwards Texas, that racist old white dude doubling back on assuming bad faith as a default just because I'm not a white atheist (or Christian or whatever) isn't just that one time for me. and Ahmed has been pretty vocal about the fact that this is something the kids at his school bully him over all the time

it maybe behooves us to expect better of our spokespeople especially those that have been called out on this behavior for years (I found prominent atheist blog posts about Dawkins's sexism and racism dating back to at least 2008) to maybe not normalize the same racist gut reaction that this kid deals with every day, esp if that person is seen as some sort of beacon of rational thought
posted by runt at 6:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess we atheists can feel like we've arrived to some degree now that many people are treating us as a homgenous group in the same way they treat religious people. yay?
posted by sineater at 6:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


it maybe behooves us to expect better of our spokespeople ... (emphasis added)

It maybe behooves us to not promote divisive and controversial celebrities to the status of spokescritter, especially since, as you note, the person has been divisive and controversial since at least 2008.

Which of course, would require that the journalists in question do their job, put on some shoes and underwear, and solicit a few more sources than last week's newspaper and Dawkins's own twitter messages. The Guardian claims they sparked a "furor" and "controversy" with whom? Who disagreed? What did they say? Are they willing to go on record with a comment? Is Dawkins willing to comment?

If it's a story that needs to be covered, then it needs to be covered well. If that opinion is shared, then the people who share it need to be quoted. If that opinion is controversial, then the people who disagree need to be quoted. If it's a pattern that goes back to 9/11 then it's a pattern that needs to be documented and quoted. (It's actually a surprise to me that the Huffpo link is actually better.)

To be clear, I'm not disagreeing that Dawkins is a racist. But half-assing the story to quote Dawkins but none of the people who disagree with him creates the illusion that Dawkins is the only atheist that matters.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:04 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd rather Frowner speak for my atheism than Dawkins.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:08 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Dawkins is not a spokesperson for me or most of the atheists I know. He has his small little following but I suspect its a small percentage of atheists, not nearly enough for him to be an actual spokesperson. The lack of organization however means that his small group might be the largest single group, since most of us don't form groups --- so there's no spokespeople for the sort of average atheist.

The media makes him out to be one, but they do that to radicals of all religions as opposed to what average people think or believe, so I don't think it's something one can really fight.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:35 PM on September 21, 2015


I feel you on your need for top notch journalism CB but racism and sexism within active atheist communities (the ones that hold conventions and talks and such and often engage with each other about the ethics of atheism and etc) isn't something new. any cursory search of either the freethought or Patheos blog networks will net you more than a few vocal words against him and his popular ilk

I mean, I would love if the least offensive popular atheist wasn't Alain de Botton with his bombastic whole-lotta-nothingness but unfortunately there's no other public figure. now maybe part of that is mainstream media's fault but they're not the ones booking huge speaking engagements with Dawkins in 2015 either
posted by runt at 7:38 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dawkins doesn't just attack religion (primarily Islam); he has a pattern of uncritically repeating allegations, phrased in the form of a question:
Assembling clock from bought components is fine. Taking clock out of its case to make it look as if he built it is not fine. Which is true?

— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 20, 2015
The allegations aren't arguments against religion or in favour of atheism; they're not even necessarily directed against religious people, per se; they're more "people marked by religion are bad". That is, nobody cares (and I don't know) how devout Ahmed is: he's identifiably Muslim, in the way that some random Christian kid isn't necessarily identifiably Christian.

So it's not just a lazy way of deniably smearing people; it's actually xenophobic. And it's not just Muslims; he recently did the same for Jews. The original of this Tweet has gone down the memory hole, but it was a re-Tweet of some notoriously-fake "quotations" from Jewish texts. When he was called on it he responded
@brianoflondon I only asked "What is this?" You have now told me your answer. Others have told me differently, so I'm still curious.
4:57 PM - 10 Sep 2015
HES JUST ASKING QUESTIONS. WHY YOU MAD BRO?

I think it's necessary to call this behavior out because it, and the "I'm just saying" technique, are ways of reinforcing racist and discriminatory narratives without taking responsibility. Dawkins shouldn't be allowed to hide behind rhetorical tricks. He needs to own his position, and held to account.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:56 PM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. CBrachyrhynchos and runt, please leave it there.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:12 PM on September 21, 2015


First of all, I want to second the shout-out to Sunday Assembly. The Atlanta group is a good group. It's new, but I like what they're doing.

And I have also been involved for more than 10 years with the UU church here in the north Atlanta suburbs. I got involved in the UU church in order to have a church home for my child. (My joke is that my wife and I wanted to vaccinate my child, i.e., give her a mild form of the religious virus to prevent her from getting the real thing.) It's turned out to be fabulous community, where theists, non & other coexist beautifully. I run a mindfulness meditation group for the secular group, and also meditate with the theists. They call it centering prayer, but really it's just sitting. I also teach Sunday Scool, which I find profoundly amusing.

The Assembly is overtly secular, and I identify as a Secular Humanist. Really, I'm a weak atheist, but at the UU church, at least my congregation, we can discuss metaphysical matters in a respectful manner, and I've learned a lot. After my angry atheist phase from when I dropped Christanity (Catholicism), I've learned a lot of respect for the religious who are not hateful, dogmatic, and literalist. But mostly we have the community, and the support for a spiritual practice without the dogma.
posted by JKevinKing at 8:17 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Jacobin link is particularly good. Thanks for the selection, runt. And I'm very happy to see the Ethical Society of St. Louis covered in the excellent list rtha posted above. (I'm not even an atheist and I'm a big fan of their work.)
posted by thetortoise at 8:23 PM on September 21, 2015


For the record, I'm not an atheist but I am a UU.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:28 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having given that context, I'd like to defend Sam Harris from some of the comments and links given here. Dawkins' statements seem rather indefensible based on what I've seen, especially since I'm rather unfamiliar with the entire body of his work and opinions.

With respect to Harris, however, I am quite familiar with his writings and talks, and I feel like a lot of the criticism against him is based on quotes and statements unfairly taken out of context and in bad faith. I don't always agree with him and will admit that he can be a bit tone deaf at times, but I feel like he makes a good faith effort to consider difficult issues in a thoughtful manner. From what I understand of Harris' opinions, he is rightfully criticizing certain flavors of the ideas of the Islamic religion, which flavors are undeniably quite prevalent, rather than engaging in bigotry against a group of people, per se. Harris is attacking what he calls political Islam, and it deserves to be attacked.

And I do think that the Islamic world, and also the Christian world, has a problem with the fundamentalist versions of their religions. They are indeed incompatible with modernity. However, of course any religion can of course take a higher form. I know a few Muslims, and greatly respect Islam, and how seriously most Muslims take the practice of their religion. And I think Sam Harris would agree with this. Just my two cents.
posted by JKevinKing at 8:36 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


the "I'm just saying" technique
Welcome to the Church of the Sea Lion.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:15 PM on September 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


Welcome to the Church of the Sea Lion.

Where JAQing off isn't just allowed, it's encouraged!
posted by zombieflanders at 3:28 AM on September 22, 2015


I don't always agree with him and will admit that he can be a bit tone deaf at times, but I feel like he makes a good faith effort to consider difficult issues in a thoughtful manner. From what I understand of Harris' opinions, he is rightfully criticizing certain flavors of the ideas of the Islamic religion, which flavors are undeniably quite prevalent, rather than engaging in bigotry against a group of people, per se. Harris is attacking what he calls political Islam, and it deserves to be attacked.

re: "tone deaf" - Harris raised eyebrows for his gedankenexperiment about a first-strike nuclear attack on an Islamic nation or entity, but this kind of thing tends to be par for the course in philosophy classes and internet forums on philosophy and ethics (lesswrong, etc). He's not saying "this is a good thing" or "we should do this", but more "under what circumstances could such an extreme action be justified".

Agree that Harris's writing isn't bigoted - he's criticizing an implementation of a religious ideology ("political Islam") rather than the ethnicity of those who attempt to do the implementation. I hope that a person can criticize the tactics of ISIS (beheadings, full Shari'a law, etc) without being accused of racism.
posted by theorique at 3:30 AM on September 22, 2015


Glenn Greenwald did an excellent job two years back of dispelling the "oh, Harris really just means [insert deflection towards subgroup here]" and "it's taken out of context!" arguments, while also addressing the racism v. Islamophobia angle (and argues that people like Harris are engaging in both). There's multiple incidences where Harris clearly attacks Islam as a faith, and then uses the go-to flimsy excuse of intellectual cowardice, "political correctness," to dismiss the character of critics while dodging the substance of their criticism.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:30 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Basically, help me understand how we're not falling into an idiot hole labelled "NAE TROO SCOTSMAN" here.

Nobody is saying Dawkins isn’t a true atheist. He is a bonafide atheist. The difference is that a religion is not simply saying “god exists, and you can make up your own mind about everything else.” Organized religions come with a set of values and rules, to the point where by knowing someone is an active participant in a particular church, you can more less estimate where they stand in subjects like abortion, LGBT rights, women's rights, etc.. You cannot do the same thing in atheism. Dawkins isn’t a leader. He is a prominent atheist. Extrapolating the values of atheists from him is like me trying to infer your political views from people who dislike the same bands you do. Not believing in god says nothing about the things we do believe in.

Honestly the best thing to do with that book would be to ritually burn it in honor of some random god

I learnt a lot from Dawkins re: evolution and the general fallacies of religion, because those are his specialty subjects. Getting reliable information on social justice or feminism from him would be as smart as asking Fred Phelps to explain climate change to me.

You don't think Huckabee et al have given Christianity a bad name?

No. In my neck of the woods saying you are Christian gets you automatic respect and inclusion. I have to actively hide the fact that I am an atheist because I have been discriminated against in the past when people found out.

When Carson, Huckabee, and other prominent the conservative Christians say insane racist shit, nobody writes an article wondering whether Christianity is racist. When Dawkins speaks for his own hateful self, people automatically assume he represents a group of people whose main characteristic is that they do not belong to an organized religion and so do not endorse anyone speaking for them.

We are atheists. The only thing we have in common with each other is that we do not believe in god. We have different opinions about politics, feminism, social issues and food. Many of us renounced religion because we reject being told what to think or how to feel about things.

The generalizations about how atheists are white libertarian men come, shockingly, from non-atheists, and I find them offensive. I am not white. I am a woman. I am also liberal and I am very much involved in the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the US. I know a ton of atheists, a small portion of my acquaintances are young white men who happen to be feminist and non-racist.

I just find it sad that the whole idea here is to denounce a person who is lumping all Muslims together and making bigoted assumptions, and the reaction is to do the exact same thing with atheists.
posted by Tarumba at 6:19 AM on September 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


The generalizations about how atheists are white libertarian men

It's not exactly a generalization that atheists are white (82%), libertarian (50%+), and male (64%).

come, shockingly, from non-atheists

And you know that how, exactly?

I just find it sad that the whole idea here is to denounce a person who is lumping all Muslims together and making bigoted assumptions, and the reaction is to do the exact same thing with atheists.

No one here has said that. This is clearly aimed at the (for lack of a better term) evangelical atheists with bigoted views and their at times self-described movement leaders. Many of the comments here are from atheists who are sick and tired of these racist, misogynist dinosaurs who use rational thought and logic as crutches having an outsized influence.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


How many branches of atheism are there, exactly?

Are you referring to formal organizational structures? If so, I don't think Dawkins is the head of any, not even his own foundation. Organizations that exist independently of Dawkins include.

"Religious" aligned organizations:

The Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association
Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations
Sunday Assembly
Association for Secular Buddhism
Humanist "Chaplaincies" such as the one at Harvard
Ethical Culture

Politically active groups:

American Atheists
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Humanist groups:

The American Humanist Association
The International Humanist and Ethical Union
Foundation Beyond Belief

If you're really asking about informal groups, there is the Coleman-Silver typology (which found that antitheists like Dawkins were a minority in the United States), and the Stanford Encyclopedia topic on this issue. And of course, you could read about the history of New Atheism as a relatively new reactionary movement within atheism which has received a lot of criticism from atheists.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:59 AM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


They tend to be from atheists extremely wary of big A Atheism in my experience, often ones excluded from it, and in general it's a characterization that applies very well to big A Atheism.

Just plain old being an atheist without being a prick about it is for anyone though.
posted by Artw at 7:00 AM on September 22, 2015


It's not exactly a generalization that atheists are white (82%), libertarian (50%+), and male (64%).

That link does not even include the word "libertarian," and does not support any of those claims.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:00 AM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's certainly no lack of absolutely awful libertarian evangelical Christians these days, so it may be that libertarianism is just an awfulness that crosses all (lack of)faiths.
posted by Artw at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Organized religions come with a set of values and rules, to the point where by knowing someone is an active participant in a particular church, you can more less estimate where they stand in subjects like abortion, LGBT rights, women's rights, etc..
I have really not found this to be true, for what it's worth. I think the latest polling shows that a majority of Catholics support marriage equality, for instance, and that's definitely my experience among my friends and acquaintances. I feel like non-pluralistic atheists assume a lot more consensus among religious believers than in fact exists when you actually talk to people about their views.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:05 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


That link does not even include the word "libertarian," and does not support any of those claims.

FTFA:
But the portion of the unaffiliated who say they would prefer a smaller government providing fewer services to a larger government providing more services is similar to the share of the general public who take the same view (50% and 52%, respectively).
posted by zombieflanders at 7:10 AM on September 22, 2015


That just says that atheists are (slightly) *less* libertarian than the general public though? In any case using a definition of "libertarian" that covers half the population is ludicrously broad.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


zombieflanders: But the portion of the unaffiliated who say they would prefer a smaller government providing fewer services to a larger government providing more services is similar to the share of the general public who take the same view (50% and 52%, respectively).

It's one heck of a dishonest interpretation to jump from "would prefer a smaller governement" to "libertarian." (Smaller government is a campaign plank across the multiple political parties, including some Democrats.) To say those numbers are more than 50% when the article explicitly says 50%, and "similar to the share of the general public," is also dishonest.

So do you actually have a source that specifically describes libertarian party membership or identification?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


That just says that atheists are (slightly) *less* libertarian than the general public though? In any case using a definition of "libertarian" that covers half the population is ludicrously broad.

In fact, the source says that unafillated are one of the largest demographics who identify themselves as Democrats.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:29 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


To clarify, one of the largest demographics among people who identify as Democrats.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:36 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


In fact, it was rather trivial to find pew research on the smaller government question broken down by political typology.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:54 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's easier for people to think of this as like gaming/gamergate than an attack on atheism per se. We know that not all gamers are vile trolls online. We know most people game who don't fit the rubric of the typical gamergate profile. And yet, when problematic people are invited to gaming conferences and included in conversations, we talk about issues with 'gaming' and are wary of those who go to these events and don't see a problem with it because this person doesn't speak for them. Ditto for similar issues in certain academic disciplines. In those situations we sincerely hope that the group (however ill-defined) will stop giving these people platforms, promoting their other work as unproblematic, and so forth. If no one went to hear Dawkins talk at atheist events or boycotted events or projects he was part of, then maybe the criticism wouldn't be so sharp.

I am surprised that no one thinks none of his scholarship is at all affected or shaped by his racism, though. That would make him a remarkably compartmentalised individual.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:02 AM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh Christ, don't tell Dawkins about Ganergate.
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on September 22, 2015 [7 favorites]




Maybe it's easier for people to think of this as like gaming/gamergate than an attack on atheism per se.

Ok, imagine a media environment where Wu, Sarkeesian, and Quin are never mentioned or referred to only obliquely as "controversy." Imagine that they're rarely quoted, their appearances rarely noted, and their projects rarely recognized. Then you'll have the typical news media response to Dawkins.

If no one went to hear Dawkins talk at atheist events or boycotted events or projects he was part of, then maybe the criticism wouldn't be so sharp.

More atheists are in the pews on Sunday than support New Atheism, including events and projects.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:32 AM on September 22, 2015


It's enough to make one wish for the years before 9/11 when atheists were routinely accused of being the equivalent of social-justice warriors: marxists, feminists, anti-racists, war objectors, and radical environmentalists.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:21 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is kind of a privilege you enjoy that many kids growing up in religious countries (like the USA) do not have.

Not sure what you heard but Canada is still a fairly religious country. Especially among the older generations. The province I grew up in has Catholic Schools that get Provincial public funding (no other religions do AFAIK) and don't have to follow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on some things--they can legally discriminate in employment based on religion and values. As an example my stepbrother's girlfriend teaches in one and got pregnant out of wedlock and had to lie to the school about when it happened in order to keep her job. That's fucked up. Dawkins on the other hand lives in England. He is in a country where less than half of the population considers religion an important part of their lives. You want to throw "privilege" around here, Dawkins is a much better target.

Anyways, point is it's pretty easy to avoid the topic or end an awkward conversation/interaction with a religious or atheist zealot in a respectful manner. "Believing in demons" or whatever doesn't strike me as particularly harmful. Dawkins' antagonistic tweets are just bullshit New Atheist back-slaps and he has about as much relevance to my own atheism as Terry Jones does to the Christians I've known.
posted by Hoopo at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2015


You want to throw "privilege" around here, Dawkins is a much better target.

No, he isn't. He at least tries to use that privilege (freedom from religious persecution) to try to extend the privilege to those who lack it. Disagree with him or no, that's a stronger claim to noble action than is elevating the maintenance of polite silence as being more important than kids getting indoctrinated.

"Believing in demons" or whatever doesn't strike me as particularly harmful.

Disagree. Both in people's lives and effects on wider society. Hell, look at the transformation of the Republican Party in the USA. A reason that atheism groups tend to devolve into religion-hate instead is that they tend to also function as victim support groups for people who learning as adults that they don't know what is reality and what is indoctrination and they are in the process to trying to unlearn everything and sort it all out simply to be able to function and prosper in the wider world.
But... not your problem...
posted by anonymisc at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2015


"Maybe it's easier for people to think of this as like gaming/gamergate than an attack on atheism per se."

It's very much like it. As a gamer and an atheist myself, the more angrily defensive a gamer or an atheist gets about being generalized, just like how men get angrily defensive about being generalized, the more I think they are clueless at best and willfully blind to their privilege at worst and acting as part of the problem because they think that their hurt and defensiveness is the most important thing we could be talking about.

Being an atheist in the US has an extraordinarily high correlation to being privileged on numerous axes. Movement atheism expresses and defends that privilege, just as the organized expression of gamer social identity does and organized expression of male social identity does. I'm a man, a gamer, and an atheist, but I don't feel the need to be defensive when people generalize about these groups even though those generalizations don't apply to me because I have a fucking sense of proportion about what's actually important.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:44 PM on September 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Being an atheist in the US has an extraordinarily high correlation to being privileged on numerous axes..

I guess I'll sort of somewhat agree with you... I mean, I'm a white man in north America; whole ton of privilege there... But my Atheism certainly is not part of my privilege. Growing up, my religious viewpoints exposed me to violence, condemnation from both peers and authority figures (including the police), and pretty much were the opposite of privilege. In some ways my religious viewpoints seemed like a larger barrier to me than the poverty I experienced growing up.

As far as getting upset at being generalized, I think that's a thing everyone has in common.*

*see what I did there?
posted by el io at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2015


So I'm not an atheist. I'm just a person applying the golden rule to people who happen to be my co-congregants.

First of all, etic knowledge claims, aka "generalizations" involving are inherently problematic. We've known this in social science research for decades. Sweeping claims without the participation, consent, and full awareness of the individuals and people involved frequently obscure critical details of lived experience, and provide us with overly simplistic theory. If you want to understand my religious organization, you need to sit your ass down in the pews and participate. If you want to understand my religion, you need an invitation to participate.

And if you put in those hours, you would have the privilege of making petite and emic knowledge claims. The alternative, in my experience, is interfaith conversation driven by people shouting truthy lies at each other, and I've seen that in just about every metafilter post on religion. I'm quite comfortable in suggesting that generalizations are a moral peril in these discussions. That we're shouting about atheism this week and not my religion doesn't strike me as sufficient grounds to ignore that principle.

Second, I can't begin to fucking address what's fucking important without the work, knowledge, and lived contributions of blessed atheists. Atheist voices in Marxism, feminism, queer theory, deep ecology, and pragmatism are essential both in my politics and my religion. I'm not willing to let the prophetic voices of atheists on the left be erased just so you can clutch your pearls in Dawkins's direction this week.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:49 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, he isn't. He at least tries to use that privilege (freedom from religious persecution) to try to extend the privilege to those who lack it.

Who?
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


[One comment deleted. CBrachyrhynchos, you're kind of dominating the thread at this point, maybe take a step back for a while?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:18 PM on September 22, 2015


I wonder, in a way, if it is a sign of the growing acceptability of atheism that there is now an obnoxious Cranky Old White Guy contingent? Christianity has to be big, huge, and well accepted, to support having people like Pat Robertson around trying to drag it into oblivion, and despite Dawkins atheism continues to grow in the West.

And I do think the games/gamergate analogy is a good one. Dawkins, Hitchens, etc are atheism's equivalent of 8chan or /r/kotakuinaction: the most obnoxious, trying actively to drive non-assholes away, expression of the jerk side of the group.

Artw: I think anonymisc is saying that Dawkins is using his privilege to help non-privileged atheists in areas where atheism is directly oppressed and where being an atheist is hazardous to your health (such as Bangladesh, where many atheist bloggers have been murdered and the police are actively encouraging the murderers to continue).

If your implication is that Dawkins is not helping his fellow atheists much, I'd agree. I might even be inclined to agree that he's hindering things a bit by his assaults on Islam qua Islam rather than Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism, though I suspect few people outside the West are really familiar enough with him to have any impact either way.

Mostly Dawkins seems focused on the English speaking West and appears only to notice the rest of the world in passing, and without much awareness or thought. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that as long as he stays quiet about the wider world, it does cause him to have problems when dealing with non-Westerners in a way that isn't tone deaf at absolutely best and Orientalist obnoxious or colonialist obnoxious at worst.

el io: Yeah, but Ivan never said atheism was privileged position, but rather that it correlated strongly with privileged positions. This is not only observationally true, atheism is less frequent in people of color and women, but makes sense. Those who are privileged on other axes are more able to cast aside religious inclusion and take up a religious position that is disadvantageous.

My partner is black, female, and atheist. That last excludes her from a great many of the social support groups that exist for black people and women. Abandoning that support structure is going to make being atheist more difficult for some people.

Especially since embracing other non-traditional religious beliefs often entails gaining a support structure. Join a non-traditional religion and you are quickly part of a frequently tight knit community. Become atheist and you give up some of your existing support structures and gain, well mostly a few people on the net who agree with you. That's a trade that white, male, and other privileged people can make more easily.
posted by sotonohito at 2:38 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


No, but that's because tons of prominent Christians have vocally supported LGBT rights

We have the rights we have because we fought for them, not because of the noblesse oblige of the "good kind" of religious people, who to this day are, on the whole, still fighting against our legal right to be treated equally under the law, under the false pretext that they are the ones who are victims, and who are by all appearances still getting enough political and popular support to remain in the public eye.

Basically, if all atheists are automatically supporters of everything Dawkins says and does, then the other side is in cahoots with the Huckabees and Kim Davises and even worse scum of the world, who actively cause a great deal more suffering. I can pretty easily write off Dawkins' words as coming from a stereotypical old man with racist tendencies, who no one in any culturally or politically significant numbers listens to or agrees with, and who does very little long-term damage to anyone or anything but his own reputation and book sales. I don't think religionists or their apologists can shrug off their representatives as easily, so don't wave your brush around unless you're ready to get paint on yourself.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:46 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


At least from my point of view atheist humanists are much more common and active irl than reddit atheists, which is why I feel like the media and generally people who aren't atheists tend to focus much more on the loud, idiotic people, rather than the way more numerous people who live their lives ethically without god.

Honestly most of you know atheists, have you ever met one who said they liked Dawkins and felt represented by them?

I might be biased, but to me the whole "horrible atheist" trope is similar (if lesser in degree) to the feminazi idea. I have yet to meet a racist, sexist, or even libertarian atheist in real life. If I have, they hid it well.
posted by Tarumba at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, but that's because tons of prominent Christians have vocally supported LGBT rights

We have the rights we have because we fought for them, not because of the noblesse oblige of the "good kind" of religious people, who to this day are, on the whole, still fighting against our legal right to be treated equally under the law, under the false pretext that they are the ones who are victims, and who are by all appearances still getting enough political and popular support to remain in the public eye.


I can only figure I'm misreading something here, because that sounds ridiculous. Religious people who support LGBT rights are the same people who work against atheists' rights and call themselves victims? Since when?
posted by thetortoise at 2:55 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not exactly a generalization that atheists are white (82%), libertarian (50%+), and male (64%).

Um, that data is for the US. There are many parts of the world besides the US.
(Lots of atheists in Asia, for example)
posted by thefoxgod at 3:01 PM on September 22, 2015


I just think it's weird to talk about religious people and LGBT people as if they're two separate groups with no overlap. I sometimes feel like the militant atheist crowd lives in some parallel universe to mine, which I guess may sort of be true.

I am an atheist, for what it's worth, although it's not a big part of my identity.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:02 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The one thing I don't like about the gamergate analogy, and possibly the reason why I am hurt by this thread is that

gamers aren't being killed for being gamers in Bangladesh
It's not illegal to be a gamer in the middle east
You don't have to fret for years to come out as a gamer to friends and family
There aren't debates about whether you can hold public office as a gamer
People in the US didn't chose gamers as the worst person their child could marry in a national poll
People don't literally think you are a satanist if you tell them you are a gamer

I could go on, but even though Islamophobia is a real thing, discrimination towards atheists is also real. That privileged people choose to go down that path makes them less privileged. Non privileged lose even more in proportion to what they had. We are not like gamers,or the MRAs, or whatever.
posted by Tarumba at 3:04 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Being an atheist in the US has an extraordinarily high correlation to being privileged on numerous axes

Dawkins is not American, and atheists exist all over the world. What is true for US atheists is only somewhat relevant to this conversation. Dawkins represents the tiniest sliver of the atheists in the world, his views are meaningless when talking about atheists as a "group".
posted by thefoxgod at 3:09 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least from my point of view atheist humanists are much more common and active irl than reddit atheists, which is why I feel like the media and generally people who aren't atheists tend to focus much more on the loud, idiotic people, rather than the way more numerous people who live their lives ethically without god.

Honestly most of you know atheists, have you ever met one who said they liked Dawkins and felt represented by them?


I don't think my anecdotes add much to the conversation, but for what it's worth, I have four good friends (none related) who are like this. All have Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens on their bookshelves. As a progressive religious person, I limit my time around them even though I like them otherwise because I get sick of "magical man in the sky" quips and conversations about how they're smarter than everyone else.

I am aware that they do not represent other atheists, and that people who consider these authors to be leaders are a small proportion of atheists. But, yeah, there are people out there buying Dawkins' books, and I wish the media would not run to him when they want to talk about atheism.
posted by thetortoise at 3:13 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I might be biased, but to me the whole "horrible atheist" trope is similar (if lesser in degree) to the feminazi idea. I have yet to meet a racist, sexist, or even libertarian atheist in real life. If I have, they hid it well.

This is incredibly dismissive of the concerns from atheists from previous FPPs, this post, and those that have participated in those conversations. Those same atheists have provided plentiful examples of bigotry and intolerance at both individual and organizational levels. Comparing actual, worrying trends as related by those who are a part of the culture to mythical constructs like "feminazis" just because you've never met them is meaningless.

We have the rights we have because we fought for them, not because of the noblesse oblige of the "good kind" of religious people

Where did anyone say that? That comment said nothing about religious people taking credit for winning LGBT rights.

Basically, if all atheists are automatically supporters of everything Dawkins says and does

No one said this, either.

I don't think religionists or their apologists can shrug off their representatives as easily

Calling other atheists and those concerned about bigotry in certain sectors of atheism "religionists or their apologists" while being exceptionally hand-wavey towards anything that doesn't agree that Dawkins is merely a symptom and not a disease is pretty hypocritical.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:24 PM on September 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


In my observation, atheism gets you looked down upon (or worse) if your social circles are the disadvantaged, and likewise religion can get you looked down upon if you are among the elite. The "opiate of the masses" thing isn't all that far from the mark. Surgeons and academics and so on don't wear their atheism on their sleeves (partly because atheism isn't a group identity the way religion is), and many are not, but it's always seemed like the default at that level. Eg. I would be surprised if say, Elon Musk turned out to be religious and observant.

Atheism is correlated to both privilege and to oppression. Which end of that stick you get depends largely on how many of the people with power over your life are theists. (And whether your atheism is visible to them)
posted by anonymisc at 3:32 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


hose same atheists have provided plentiful examples of bigotry and intolerance at both individual and organizational levels. Comparing actual, worrying trends as related by those who are a part of the culture to mythical constructs like "feminazis" just because you've never met them is meaningless.

Its easy to find anecdotes about racist atheists, like Dawkins. I'll agree with that. And there are a few tiny orgs by people like him that probably share those beliefs.

But a _trend_? The level of evidence provided so far is similar to one of those stupid NYT Trend pieces. I don't buy that there is some broad trend among the world's atheists towards racism, at least above and beyond the default human level of racism (which is to say, obviously there are tons of racists in basically every religion, lack of religion, country, ethnicity, etc).
posted by thefoxgod at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not among atheism in general, although several instances have occurred at general-interest orgs and conferences, but certainly in the larger shoutier groups.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:56 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which was, after all, the thrust of the FPP before it got derailed.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:58 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Friends of mine who are active in the atheist movement(s) in the US get plenty of pushback when they want to talk about ways in which atheist organizations can and should be more welcoming to women and people of color, and concerns that are specific to women and people of color. They get rape threats and so on. Is it more than exists in non-atheist organizations? I have no idea. It's certainly too much, especially coming from people who pride themselves on their rationality and logic.
posted by rtha at 3:59 PM on September 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


Which was, after all, the thrust of the FPP before it got derailed.

I guess, although the articles use the terms a little loosely.
But the first couple comments all derailed it into a general discussion of atheism, so its pretty clearly there now.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:04 PM on September 22, 2015


/wonders about the crossover between "oh, atheist community/New Atheism/popular atheism, you must mean ALL ATHEISTS" and people who actually are really into Dawkins, suspects the crossover might be rather large.
posted by Artw at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Perhaps some of these people could be surveyed: Atheists of Silicon Valley (bonus ironic throwback page)
posted by telstar at 1:15 AM on September 23, 2015


Anonymisc wrote: [Dawkins] at least tries to use that privilege (freedom from religious persecution) to try to extend the privilege to those who lack it.

The vast, vast majority of people subject to religious persecution are in fact religious themselves. Has Dawkins any record of defending those people? Up above I linked to his repost of an anti-Semitic attack on Jews, and this FPP is about him joining in on a racist attack on a fourteen-year-old kid, whose persecution is very arguably linked to his color and religion.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:31 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


No, he isn't. He at least tries to use that privilege (freedom from religious persecution) to try to extend the privilege to those who lack it. Disagree with him or no, that's a stronger claim to noble action than is elevating the maintenance of polite silence as being more important than kids getting indoctrinated.

Dawkins' snarky tweets constitute a fight against religious persecution? Did r/atheism image macros do this too?

But... not your problem...

Not even sure what you're talking about. You are aware Canada has been governed for the last 10 years by the party supported by the Christian Right? That our Prime Minister is an evangelical? They don't get that support for nothing.
posted by Hoopo at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


If one does not consider race or religion to be important to a better world, then this would likely be seen by some as ignoring racial and religious sensitivity. This is more noticeable in least formal encounters with no power structure to consider, where a normal jerk is likely a jerk to everyone. Yet this may cause some to label an otherwise modern viewpoint as racist or bigoted. Bottom line is that when someone disavows the angry white male god, and advocates it for the whole world to consider, then the implication that he is being a typical white male jerk is only expressing a racial outlook and not a progressive one.
posted by Brian B. at 4:22 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


In a better world an emeritus fellow at Oxford probably wouldn't engage in a 140-char flame war about some 14-year-old kid's school project.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:27 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Better world or not, there may be many school projects each year that warrant the firm opinions of an Oxford emeritus, but I agree that this was not one of them.
posted by Brian B. at 5:44 PM on September 23, 2015




fearfulsymmetry But what if I don't believe in heaven?
posted by SansPoint at 2:00 PM on September 24, 2015


SansPoint: "But what if I don't believe in heaven?"

Then aren't you in for a pleasant surprise!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:36 PM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven

Sounds more like a shot across the bow of evangelicals for whom submission to Jesus is rule #1 and actually acting morally is rule #24.
posted by GuyZero at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pope Francis assures the nervous friends and relatives of atheists.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:46 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I care for the consequences of Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.

I would rather people pay attention to another Christian reformer: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:07 PM on September 24, 2015


in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

Yeah I think I should have made that left turn at Albequerque
posted by Hoopo at 3:41 PM on September 24, 2015


when someone disavows the angry white male god

Maybe this is trying to make some bigger point but actually a lot of people who believe in god don't believe in "angry white male god" - that's a straw man.
posted by Miko at 9:35 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


actually a lot of people who believe in god don't believe in "angry white male god"

Then they can one day hope to overcome the god in their own image, or making, if they expect people to care what they believe. (I note, however, that I was previously explicit in someone disavowing a god, not believing in one). Your comment uncovers a huge subject related to racism, but the way, not something that dodges it.
posted by Brian B. at 11:15 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then they can one day hope to overcome the god in their own image, or making, if they expect people to care what they believe

A lot of people don't give a crap whether others care about what they believe, so they don't need to worry about whether some bystander thinks they need to "overcome" it.

Also, not all divine entities are images.

Your comment uncovers a huge subject related to racism, but the way, not something that dodges it.

Well, that doesn't make any sense by itself, so feel free to say more if it's meaningful to you.
posted by Miko at 10:50 AM on September 25, 2015


"needs christwhatanasshole tag. Dawkins has gone off the deep end, here."

*cough* darwinwhatanasshole *cough*
posted by mecran01 at 10:55 AM on September 25, 2015


A lot of people don't give a crap whether others care about what they believe, so they don't need to worry about whether some bystander thinks they need to "overcome" it.

I hope Dawkins sees this, whoever he is.

Also, not all divine entities are images.

Image is too big of a word to exclude for hard-to-define entities, as conceived or made up by humans at least.

Well, that doesn't make any sense by itself, so feel free to say more if it's meaningful to you.

You're right, I was too late in fixing the wording. But I'll withdraw it and go with a more blatant approach, usually avoided in polite company, which is that the more religious one claims to be, the more racist one tends to be, in studies at least. Belief is never limited to mental states, but is cultural too, and righteousness is a self-image weighed or judged by one's group. In this vein some people wonder about American liberals. Personally, I'm not surprised. I understand that if religious liberals get disturbed at what they see in the news, like two leading US presidential candidates posturing against Muslim Americans, and others pandering to Christians, then they can instead ask each other, the very same week no less, if atheists are racist because of an atheist author's racist "attack" on a Muslim student's motives (which is debatable in terms of race, and in terms of the wrong done). It was another case of projection.
posted by Brian B. at 9:55 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


what?
posted by Greg Nog at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe this is trying to make some bigger point but actually a lot of people who believe in god don't believe in "angry white male god" - that's a straw man.

It's also a straw man to argue that all atheists ("popular Atheism" or whatever other odious euphemism is used as a placeholder) share the same social attitudes of one Oxford professor who gets a lot of media attention — and yet here we are!
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:59 PM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dawkins: loudmouth or dangerous cult leader? The world may never know.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, okay. Terrible people are terrible. Well, that's settled!
posted by Miko at 2:37 PM on September 26, 2015


Also, Brian B., you might try experimenting with a different communication style, because I find you really hard to follow, and I don't think I'm alone.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:45 PM on September 26, 2015


I'm not sure his response can be to the point, if he hasn't actually heard of the FPP's subject ("Dawkins ... whoever he is.")
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The wheel was spinning, the axe was dull...
posted by Miko at 9:28 PM on September 26, 2015


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