NPR says ‘ew’

NPR proudly joins the vast majority of good decent centrist moderate sensible okay acceptable Americans in saying how horrible atheists are, especially the ones who don’t keep their atheism a tactful secret.

Last month, atheists marked Blasphemy Day at gatherings around the world, and celebrated the freedom to denigrate and insult religion.

No, that’s wrong, and tendentious. What atheists celebrated on Blasphemy Day was the freedom to say anything we like (barring incitement to murder and similar) including but by no means restricted to perceived denigration and insult. NPR was careful to trash ‘atheists’ in the opening sentence, so that nobody would be in any doubt even for a second that NPR is opposed to atheism.

They quote Stuart Jordan, a science adviser at the Center for Inquiry, tutting about the painting of Jesus doing his nails.

Jordan says the exhibit created a firestorm from offended believers, and he can understand why. But, he says, the controversy over this exhibit goes way beyond Blasphemy Day. It’s about the future of the atheist movement — and whether to adopt the “new atheist” approach — a more aggressive, often belittling posture toward religious believers.

Well, there you go, you see. We don’t think ‘aggressive’ is the right word (let alone ‘belittling’). We don’t think we are aggressive, we think we are no longer silent, which is a different thing. That’s the rock on which these two streams always separate – what is aggression and what is perfectly reasonable non-secrecy. It’s the same rock in Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, obviously. It was the same rock in the Civil Rights movement, and in feminism, and in gay rights. We don’t think we are obliged to be quiet, so we speak up, and the people who think we are obliged to be quiet then call us ‘aggressive’ for not being quiet. Then we get annoyed that mere speaking up is called ‘aggressive’ so we speak up all the more – so this kind of labeling backfires when it comes to silencing us but it works a treat when it comes to making everyone else think we are bad aggressive people. It’s a very loaded word, ‘aggressive’ – it’s one of those words it pays to be suspicious of, in case it’s being used in peculiar and dubious and even sinister ways.

The reporter got Paul Kurtz to make some unpleasant accusations about nameless ‘new atheists.’

Kurtz says he was ousted in a “palace coup” last year — and he worries the new atheists will set the movement back. “I consider them atheist fundamentalists,” he says. “They’re anti-religious, and they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately. Now, they’re very good atheists and very dedicated people who do not believe in God. But you have this aggressive and militant phase of atheism, and that does more damage than good.”

Who are? Who are all these ‘they’? Dawkins, Hitchens? That would be odd, since both have been affiliated with the Center for Inquiry and written columns for Free Inquiry for many years. Ron Lindsay, who replaced Kurtz as CEO of CfI and disagreed with him about Blasphemy Day? Possibly. Everyone else who’s ever been called a ‘new’ atheist? Possibly – but does Kurtz really know that all of those people are mean-spirited? No of course not – and he should have been more cautious than to let the pious NPR reporter bounce him into making such a claim. I’ve been called a new atheist, and Paul Kurtz didn’t act as if he considered me mean-spirited when I was at CfI in 2007. He told me how terrific he thought B&W was, too. He did talk about wanting atheism and humanism to be affirmative, but he didn’t talk about it as contrasted with any kind of fundamentalist or aggressive or mean-spirited atheism; not that I heard.

But things change, of course. That was then, this is now. The Great Sorting continues.

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