The Parochialist Noise Machine

How nice – Matthew Nisbet has trotted out the old ‘atheists should be quiet’ number again, and nearly all the comments point out how absurd that is, and why. Good.

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, echoes the very same warnings about the Dawkins-Hitchens PR campaign emphasized here at Framing Science…He argues against the irrational exuberance of the New Atheist Noise Machine…

No he doesn’t, because he doesn’t call it ‘the New Atheist Noise Machine’ – that bit of creepy snide namecalling is Nisbet’s contribution. It pisses me off, that kind of thing, because apart from anything else, what about the Theist Noise Machine? Eh? Why do Nisbet and Greg Epstein and the rest of the atheist-‘bashing’ hacks make such a (noisy?) fuss about atheism when the Theist Noise Machine has been deafening all of us for years?

Most importantly we alienate many moderately religious Americans who otherwise agree with us on most social and scientific topics.

There it is again – that horrible blinkered parochial miniaturized view of the world which sees everything as a matter of US electoral politics. What does he mean ‘most importantly’? Is he so provincial and so one-eyed that he fails to realize that some people are interested in things other than US politics? Can he fail to realize that some people find US politics itself so provincial and narrow and childishly personal as well as greasily pragmatic that they turn away from it in revulsion?

Well, yes, apparently. He replies to a series of unconvinced comments with an even more parochial bit of wisdom:

The New Atheist Noise machine risks alienating the swing voters, moderately religious Americans who otherwise agree with atheists on most issues.

Risks alienating the swing voters – there speaks the voice of truly infatuated narrowness of mind. What is he even talking about? Are ‘the new Atheists’ running for office? Are they working for Obama or Edwards? Are they even thinking about ‘the swing voters’? Of course they’re not, and why should they be? What do ‘the swing voters’ have to do with anything? And what is the logic of this way of thinking? That no idea should be discussed or advocated in a book if there is a chance that it might ‘alienate the swing voters’? (Alienate them from whom, anyway? What are they going to do, blame the Democratic Party for the books by four atheists? Why would they do that?) That all ideas and all books should be anodyne and empty because otherwise the ‘swing voters’ might be alienated? But if that’s the idea – then why bother? Why are we supposed to care who ‘wins’ if the price of ‘winning’ is that nobody ever expresses an idea that the swing voter might not like? What are we aiming for here, a thought-world that’s safe for Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

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