Those god-damn atheists are at the door again, with their pamphlets
About this meta-discussion. H E Baber sees things differently.
But then there’s the meta-disussion–when self-appointed referees (particularly when they’re also players) complain that all that bashing is too, too nasty or that this rough play is hurtful to “despised minorities.” Of course I think it’s perfectly ok for atheists to proselytize, irritating as it is, just as I think it’s perfectly ok for Mormans to come knocking on my door, which I find equally irritating.
I don’t normally say things like “all that bashing is too, too nasty” or “this rough play is hurtful to ‘despised minorities’.” I didn’t say it this time, either. I said something a little different. I agreed with Russell Blackford that Dennett and Dawkins “have been demonised with some success” and added that “the myth-perpetuating and demonization are if anything getting louder and more pervasive.” I then named a whole slew of names by way of example. I then said there was a good deal of the witch hunt about this, because of the exaggeration and the scapegoating.
Now – notice that Baber says she thinks it’s perfectly ok for atheists to proselytize, and also that their doing so is just as irritating as Mormons’ knocking on her door. But of course atheists don’t knock on people’s door – and we don’t do what is normally considered proselytizing, either. So already we’re in double standard country – already we’re being told we’re allowed to do what we’re doing, but it’s just as irritating as knocking on people’s doors in order to tell them what to believe.
Well this is exactly the hyperbole I was talking about – it’s also exactly the charge that Chris Mooney and the other Atheist-haters like to fling around: that we want to pry into what people believe, we want to force people to think correctly. This is the double standard. We do much less in the way of intrusion and attempted forcing and proselytizing than throngs and hordes of theists do – yet we get told we are equally irritating.
The rest of the comment is equally careful and well-informed.
As far as accuracy goes, it’s at best an exaggeration to suggest that people who criticize the New Atheists and their followers hold that religion deserves some special respect–I don’t think it does–or that religious claims shouldn’t be criticized in public or that atheists should be deferential or remain closeted.
But Chris Mooney has been saying all of that for weeks, on his blog, in Newsweek, in other news outlets, in the wake of having said it in his book. Many other people say it too – I listed several in my post. How does Baber know it’s an exaggeration to say that they say that? Beats me! Frankly, I think she just made it up. It apparently doesn’t sound plausible to her, so she just announces it isn’t true. Well – that’s not good enough.
It’s also inaccurate to suggest that the New Atheists’ critics want to impose a double standard s.t. religious folk are allowed to trumpet their views publicly and evangelize but atheists aren’t. Some I suppose would hold that both atheists and religious people should be more polite and should avoid proselytizing and inflammatory rhetoric.
But again – it’s not a matter of supposing – it’s a matter of the public record. The “New Atheists'” critics shout the place down about the irritating noisiness of the “New Atheists” while not saying a word about thousands of years of noisiness from Old Theists. That is a double standard. It’s not that they spell it out, obviously, but then double standards never are – that’s why they’re called that! The word indicates an unacknowledged inequality. That’s the point.
I wouldn’t say all this – but there is a rude dismissiveness in the Comment is Free piece, in the comments here, and in ‘The New Atheists’ at The Enlightenment Project that, frankly, I have had enough of. I think H E is dead wrong on a whole bunch of facts, and that she’s either unaware of or ignoring a whole bunch of realities; given that, I think she should be less quick to scold other people.
Here’s one such blind spot:
I suppose I can understand some of the hostility to religion. There are still a few people around who were raised as fundamentalists and got beat up by it or who live in backwaters where conservative evangelical Christianity is the religion du jour, religious participation is de facto mandatory and non-participants get flak.
A few people who live in backwaters where conservative evangelical Christianity is the religion du jour etcetera. Er – no. It’s more than a few.
Have a pleasant evening.