When in doubt, issue a press release

This guy is worse than I thought – this ‘humanist chaplain’ guy. I thought he’d just been talking to a reporter about ‘atheist fundamentalists’ – but no. He (and perhaps other people tangled up in the ‘Harvard chaplaincy,’ whatever that means) put out a press release on March 6 that started right out with that stupid inaccurate (indeed oxymoronic) phrase, along with the fact that the humanists were having a conference for the very purpose of ‘taking on’ these here ‘atheist “fundamentalists.”‘ This wasn’t some chat with a journalist at Starbuck’s, this was the subject of a conference. These humanists are so distraught about the ‘militancy’ and ‘fundamentalism’ of Dawkins and Harris that they’re holding an entire conference to ‘take them on’ – and they issue a press release whose first sentence features that tendentious and inaccurate phrase – albeit, notice, with ‘fundamentalist’ in scare quotes, so that everyone would know they didn’t mean it. Well if they didn’t mean it, why hold a conference to take it on?

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A group of renowned Humanists, atheists and agnostics will gather at Harvard in April, to take on an unlikely opponent: atheist “fundamentalists.”

This stalwart fella Brian Flemming called them on it.

[C]ertain humanists have a very weird strategy for bringing us all together. One prominent humanist apparently believes that the way to achieve this unity is to hurl brainless epithets at his allies.

Just so. Then Flemming nails Epstein’s refusal to apologize, not to mention his use of an epithet that he himself doesn’t consider accurate –

Of course, Epstein doesn’t actually believe that Harris and Dawkins deserve the appellation he used (“I absolutely do not think Dawkins, Harris, etc. are actual fundamentalists”). Which, to put it simply, makes his claim that they are “fundamentalists” an intentional false accusation. I think it’s safe to call using an intentional false accusation in the first sentence of a press release a really stupid thing to do. Especially to people you claim to want as allies. Especially if it’s obvious that you did it to frame the argument in a way that favors you (My Reason vs. Their Dogma: discuss).

Stupid, and also morally dubious. Or contemptible, to put it a little more harshly.

Then Flemming got a very informative email from frequent B&W contributor Joe Hoffmann. It’s an amusing read (and posted with permission).

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