A name change?

Mooney doesn’t like being called an accommodationist. (Not unlike the way we don’t like being called “the New Atheist noise machine” or “the New Atheist comment machine,” perhaps.) He suggests different words.

I also am tired of the label “accommodationist.” It seems to imply that there is something weak about my view, as if I’m all ready to just cave to some common enemy. On the contrary, I think that I’m being tolerant and pragmatic.

Tolerant of what? Not of overt (explicit, non-apologetic, argumentative, reasoned) atheism, certainly. Tolerant of one side of a dispute that he himself has done a lot to create, so “tolerant” doesn’t really fit. (That’s not a very damning point, in my book – I think the merit of tolerance depends on the merit of what is being tolerated, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a virtue. The self-flattery is a little damning, but only a little.)

And pragmatic about what? That’s the real question. It’s not at all clear what is unpragmatic about explicit atheism. The fact that it annoys people like Mooney? But that’s because Mooney is weirdly phobic about explicit atheism, and it’s not really pragmatic to try to shape one’s thinking to allow for other people’s phobias.

Mooney’s usual way of putting the matter is that explicit atheism is “divisive” and we have to unite in order to tackle important problems. But that’s not adequate, because many things are divisive, and we can’t simply rule them all out in order to unite in tackling important problems. Mooney needs a lot more than that, and he’s never supplied it. So he can’t expect people to call him a pragmatist instead of an accommodationist when we don’t think he’s being particularly pragmatic in campaigning against explicit atheists.

It’s also question-begging. One of the disagreements is about whether there really are compelling pragmatic reasons to 1) hide one’s own atheism and 2) silence atheists in general. If you call yourself a pragmatist on this issue you’re pretending that issue has been decided, in your favor.

53 Responses to “A name change?”