That’s Not What He Said
Theists have a nasty tendency to tell whoppers about atheists. There’s the standing canard that atheists are necessarily immoral; and then there’s the great sea of misquotation, misrecollection, misrepresentation. Theists make a lot of these little careless errors. Like one in this review of Dennett’s new book. (It’s actually a rather interesting and witty review, so the careless error stands out.)
One savors the irony that these lines come from the same man who insisted in an op-ed article for the New York Times two years ago that society should start calling atheists “the Brights” because they’re so much smarter than theists. Right.
The hell he did. Not even close. I was sure of that even without reading it, but I made sure, and he didn’t. Look for yourself. The closest he comes, and it’s pretty damn distant, is ‘Don’t confuse the noun with the adjective: “I’m a bright” is not a boast but a proud avowal of an inquisitive world view.’ That’s actually a disavowal of ‘they’re so much smarter than theists’, so not close at all.
Mind you, I hate the ‘brights’ thing, I think it was a terrible idea, partly precisely because it was obvious that the disavowal would never work. You might as well call yourself a ‘smart’ and then try to claim that it means fashionable, or a ‘wise’ and then try to claim that it means a potato chip. Jeremy wrote a very good article on the subject in 2003, which I’ve just read again, and he makes the same point (minus the slapstick). But all the same, that doesn’t make it okay for hostile witnesses to say that Dennett ‘insisted’ that society should start calling atheists “the Brights” because they’re so much smarter than theists, when Dennett in fact said the opposite.
Theists have a nasty tendency to fight dirty. They ought not to do that. If they have a good case, they should make it.