Remember the nerds of South Dakota

Since I wrote a tut-tutting post about Caspar Melville’s tut-tutting post about gnu atheism last week, in fairness I should add that he promptly asked me to write a piece responding to his for the New Humanist, which I have now done; it will be in the next issue. That’s a generous way with critics, do admit.

The truth is, I really don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being bored by gnu atheism. I’m very easily bored myself; I find a great many things irritating; I can certainly understand being fed up with something even if I agree with it. What makes a difference is the context. The context right now is an endless flood of commentary about how boring/irritating/wrong/evil gnu atheism is, coupled with the fact that atheists are perhaps the last minority (apart from criminals and such) that it is just fine to despise. Atheists are perhaps the last minority that it is fine to despise for no really justifiable reason.

I see a lot of bloggy woofing about gnu atheists “whining” about being “victims.” Aw diddums, is the implication. But that’s not it. I’m not “whining” about this because it makes me cry. I’m way too nerdy for that; I don’t care what the great majority thinks; I’d much rather put up fresh curtains in my bunker than try to join The Mainstream. But not everyone is like me. I’m just barely reflective enough to grasp that.

Not everyone is like me, and then, I’m not sure even I would be like me if my circumstances were totally different. It’s easy for me to be like me, in a big cosmopolitan coastal port city with a university and a huge population of nerds. It’s not so easy for people in (say) small towns in the Midwest with no visible nerds as far as the eye can see. I think the backlash against atheism matters for a lot of people, not just (if at all) for me. I’m not whining, I’m not playing martyr, I’m not demanding sympathy, I’m just straighforwardly saying that there is a huge amount of unreasonable and often downright vicious animosity toward atheism and atheists in the US and even in other more secular places, and that that animosity is a form of bigotry rather than a mere disagreement about truth claims, and thus it needs to be pointed out and disputed.

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