The evidence is not absent

 Josh Rosenau says my post on how gnu atheism can Help is an exercise in sugary saccharine vigorous self-back-patting, and also lacking in evidence. It’s nice of him to Reach Out, but his reading is rather sloppy.

If she’d said that these effects might well follow, I’d have no real argument. They might (and also might not, I don’t know). The initial claim that gnus have already rendered religion “not altogether intellectually respectable” strikes me as the weak point in this argument, though.

Yes but the claim is not mine. I didn’t claim that. My claim overall is pretty much that “these effects might well follow.” I didn’t say that gnus have already rendered religion “not altogether intellectually respectable”; I said

One thing gnu atheism is doing is relentlessly pointing out that religious belief is not altogether intellectually respectable. That means that religion no longer offers such a desirable kind of identity. It means the identity aspect is more mixed.

That’s a pretty hedged, undogmatic claim. It’s undeniable, surely, that gnu atheism is relentlessly pointing out that religious belief is not altogether intellectually respectable – that is precisely why we get shouted at, isn’t it? That’s why we are gnu? That’s why we are Not Helping? It’s debatable that that means that religion no longer offers such a desirable kind of identity, to be sure, but we have heard and read plenty of people saying exactly that, and lots of others implicitly acting on that conclusion. Why else is Karl Giberson so exercised about Jerry Coyne? And saying the identity aspect is more mixed – well is that a very dramatic claim either? I don’t think so. That, again, is what gets people pissed off, surely. We keep pointing out that religion isn’t %100 wonderful and Helpful and desirable.

Absent some sort of evidence that religion is less intellectually respectable now than it was 10 years ago, this first step in Ophelia’s logical chain fails, and the conclusions go with it.

The backlash is the evidence. The flood of books and articles and blog posts and Facebook updates and tweets all yelling with rage at the very idea that belief in God is fatuous. That’s the evidence. I didn’t say the effect was universal, and of course I don’t think it is. But it certainly exists.

Jerry Coyne also responds to Josh.

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