This is not a job for bomb makers

Another thought about “Why Do We Need New Atheists?” (subtle way of announcing a desire to get rid of us, that title). The post is actually a pretty rich study in scapegoating and other forms of disguised hostility, so despite its nastiness and wrongness, it repays a close look.

(The disguised part really interests me. I’ve said before, probably more than once, that one thing I really dislike is hostility or rivalry that tries to dress itself up as its own opposite. I really hate it when people are obviously brawling or competing but pretend that they’re just joking or “teasing” or being absent-minded. I especially hate it when women do that, because it fits a stereotype about us.

This may be one reason Gnus get so much stick. We mostly don’t do that “oh I’m just a sweet little thing” routine – so we leave people plenty of room to pretend shock-horror at our failure to dissemble.)

There is a fear among New Atheists that moderating and dissenting voices are trying to erase the polemic as an avenue of approach. But that’s a polemical overreaction. No one is suggesting that we burn New Atheist books or silence their authors. Those bells have been rung. We can’t un-ring them, nor should we. The Four Horsemen of New Atheism did their work well, but they cannot help us clean up the battlefields they created. That’s not their job. The clean-up, the strategizing, the community rebuilding, the future imagining, and the alliance-making — this is not a job for bomb makers.

On the one hand, no one is suggesting that we silence gnu atheist authors (and where would you get the authority to do that if you were suggesting that?), but on the other hand, this is not a job for bomb makers. In other words, actually yes, we do want you to be silent now, because it’s time to “clean up the battlefields” you created.

Only we didn’t create any battlefields. McLaren loves her some metaphors, and she lets them run away with her. We didn’t create any god damn battlefields, and there is nothing to clean up. What is she talking about? “The clean-up, the strategizing, the community rebuilding, the future imagining, and the alliance-making” – oh that – she’s talking about The Great Return to Conformity. She’s talking about resuming the status quo. She’s talking about restoring The Group to its former hegemony by rebuilding community and making alliances.

We know she’s doing that, because she’s saying we can’t do it. Thus we know she’s not talking about just ordinary life, because how could she possibly say we can’t help with that or that it’s not our job? She couldn’t – so she’s talking about a kind of community and alliance that of its nature excludes us. She’s doing her best, in an opaque way, to tell us we are too weird and extreme and abnormal to be part of the Community.

It’s sinister stuff, frankly. I don’t think she intended it to be, but I do think she has a sad lack of awareness about the resonances of her own rhetoric.

That’s my thought.

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