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sunbeamforjeebus's Avatar Comment 1 by sunbeamforjeebus

on first reading I'm not sure what point is actually being made here,I was suprised at Caspar's original comments especially as it is the so called stridency by Richard,Christopher,A.C.Grayling et al.,that has raised to profile of the arguement to it's present lofty heights.Long may their stridency continue, whether it bores anyone or not is hardly moot.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 14:26:44 UTC | #529887

rpitchfo's Avatar Comment 2 by rpitchfo

It does somewhat lose its way. The point was religion has enough apologists without humanist's and atheists jumping on the bandwagon.

It then turned into an explanation on internet groupthink. Does anyone actually take the belief that atheists are strident because of someones comments on YouTube?

The article was pitched at the wrong audience. No one who could benefit from the article will ever read it.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 14:36:52 UTC | #529893

AsylumWarden's Avatar Comment 3 by AsylumWarden

Considering the years upon years in which religious zealots, fanatics and fundamentalists have spent on crusades, executions, purgings, cleansings, outright murdering, bombings etc, a little bit of shouting is comparatively (insert expletive of choice)-all by comparison!

For all our fellow atheists out there complaining about new atheists being shrill, strident etc (and, as Dawkins himself put it very well in the God Delusion, it is no more shrill or strident than political debates, restaurant reviews etc), remember, once upon a time we could have been burnt alive for even hinting we held such beliefs. Now that our gags have been removed, after years and years of religious folk yelling their beliefs into our ears since birth, is it really such a surprise there are those of us yelling back?

I believe a great (religious) scientist put it best: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 14:37:14 UTC | #529894

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 4 by Rob Schneider

This is brilliant, and crystal clear. Perhaps "sunbeam" hasn't been following the John Shook fiasco? The Chris Mooney dustup? The "Phil Plait "Don't be A Dick" kerfuffle.

If I might summarize the cases made by ATHEISTS (aka, people ostensibly on our side), the "New Atheists" are

"boring and arrogant" -- Caspar Melville
"ignorant know-nothings" -- John Shook
"Not helping the cause of atheists!!" -- Chris Mooney
"dicks" -- Phil Plait.

Somehow or another, I think these critics of the successful (aka "strident") atheist writers are seeking a way of attaining their own publicity, and doing so to the detriment of "the cause." tm.

Very, VERY good piece, Ophelia!

[edit]formatting

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 14:53:18 UTC | #529899

Elisabeth Cornwell's Avatar Comment 5 by Elisabeth Cornwell

Brilliant!!

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 15:29:21 UTC | #529905

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

This piece is unanswerable. I invite any one of the critics of the New Atheists to even try to prove me wrong on that. (Frankly I don't care whether or not they are atheists.) By "prove", I mean actually do an analysis of the words of mainstream New Atheist thinkers' words which shows them in a bad light. No out of context quotations to pretend Sam Harris wants us to kill people for their beliefs or advocates torture, no more pretending one sentence describing the Old Testament God is representative of a book more than 400 pages long, no more ignoring how much we are allowed to do in way of being critical of anything (besides religion). In other words, an analysis similar in rigour to the "Undeserved Respect" section of The God Delusion, only with the opposite conclusions. But it will never happen. Ever.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 15:51:42 UTC | #529913

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert

It is good to see that Caspar "Milquetoast" Melville was honourable enough to allow us uber atheists to answer back, although far too belatedly, since the kerfuffle has died down due to boredom and the next big thing. Apologies seem to be coming from the quislings but it is their reputation that is damaged not ours.

Ophelia, in her crystal clear article--without a shred of shrillness--names names, and we won't be forgetting them any time soon, even if the flames seem to have died down.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 15:59:38 UTC | #529919

Bala's Avatar Comment 8 by Bala

Once again people forget to put things in context. An all caps rant on a blog Vs the very concept of hellfire. Apathy towards religion is no longer the status quo. Ophelia nails it in the last paragraph.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 16:07:53 UTC | #529923

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 9 by mirandaceleste

Fantastic article, Ophelia. And the end is very touching.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 16:29:55 UTC | #529930

Ophelia Benson's Avatar Comment 10 by Ophelia Benson

It was indeed very honourable of Caspar to invite me to reply, and I wouldn't call it "belatedly" - the piece is for the magazine (the New Humanist) but Caspar decided to post it online to speed things up.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 16:34:05 UTC | #529931

Obi wan kolobi's Avatar Comment 11 by Obi wan kolobi

I really like the perspective at the end for the lonely atheist teenager. People expressing themselves as openly atheist and not having to mince words about it is very liberating for those of us who wondered if we were the only ones out there who found absurdity in the regularly held beliefs of those around us.

Thanks for your thoughtful article.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 16:50:28 UTC | #529935

frax71's Avatar Comment 12 by frax71

Can someone please tell me what a "New Atheist" is I have seen various attempts but none of them are particularly compelling. I grew up in a secular environment, neither of my parents or my siblings were ever believers and I have never believed. I am now well into middle age and don't feel very "New" atall

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 16:54:41 UTC | #529936

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 13 by Stevehill

Perfectly put. I took the trouble to "Like" the Facebook Group we discussed the other day about Secular Pakistan, and posted a supportive comment. One of those guys contacted me personally, and we're becoming friends: he feels, hopefully, a bit less alone.

And the stakes are a bit higher for these guys than they are for teenagers in N Dakota.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 16:57:29 UTC | #529937

SourTomatoSand's Avatar Comment 14 by SourTomatoSand

Comment 12 by frax71 :

It seems we are considered New Atheists if we have ever read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, or Daniel Dennett. Occasionally, Victor Stenger is included in that as well.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:02:08 UTC | #529938

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 15 by Marcus Small

It all sort of reminds of these words...

And we love to wear a badge, a uniform And we love to fly a flag But I won't...let others live in hell As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves Too set in out ways to try to rearrange Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:09:10 UTC | #529939

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 16 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 12 by frax71 :

Can someone please tell me what a "New Atheist" is I have seen various attempts but none of them are particularly compelling. I grew up in a secular environment, neither of my parents or my siblings were ever believers and I have never believed. I am now well into middle age and don't feel very "New" atall

New atheism: I am an atheist.

Old atheism: I am an atheist but...

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:20:50 UTC | #529942

SourTomatoSand's Avatar Comment 17 by SourTomatoSand

Comment 16 by AtheistEgbert :

I like your definition better than mine. Being a New Atheist means never apologizing for that which you do not believe.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:27:24 UTC | #529945

tomt's Avatar Comment 18 by tomt

What a wonderful example of doublethink- dissension is good, except when it harms the movement:

"in general it’s a good thing to be sceptical of one’s own commitments as well as other people’s. But when an army of opponents are doing the job for you, and often going well beyond scepticism into vituperation and hyperbole and outright misrepresentation, then more of the same kind of thing from people who are otherwise allies tends to exasperate."

I hadn't previously come across any of the critics cited in the article (although I will be reading more of them), however many of the criticisms they raise appear valid to me, though not so much of Dawkins / Hitchens, rather of self described 'New Atheists' - a problem Ophelia acknowledges.

Perhaps rather than simply fracture, misrepresent and insult one another. Those Atheists eager on seeing societal change take place should be comfortable to voice but also address these issues-a lot of people have told me that concerns I have are 'strawmen' not a lot have explained why, and if we are incapable of convincing one another we don't stand much chance of convincing the outside world.

In addition I think that the New Atheist movement needs to be clearer on what its goals actually are. By being specific and realistic the movement stands a much better chance of a) achieving unity b) achieving real results

For example: - Campaign to ensure that evolution is taught rationally to all school children - Campaign to end religious segregation in education in the U.K - Ensure that there is a clear separation of church and state in so-called secular societies etc etc

At the moment New Atheism is rather nebulous and undirected providing little grounds for a consensus to form around.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:43:52 UTC | #529953

frax71's Avatar Comment 19 by frax71

SourTomatoSand , AtheistEgbert, thanks I needed that. I remain, however, somewhat mystified by the recent critiques from within the atheist orbit, they appear (with minor wariations ) to argue that atheists should adopt a more conciliatory approach in our criticism of religion, why ?. I see no reason to do so, as the religious treat virtually everything we say with unmitigated contempt anyway

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:50:38 UTC | #529956

cheesedoff17's Avatar Comment 20 by cheesedoff17

@frax71

New Atheists are militants. They are no longer prepared to be tolerant of the religious beliefs of the people they have always politely listened to in the past.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 17:51:40 UTC | #529957

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 21 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 18 by tomt :

In addition I think that the New Atheist movement needs to be clearer on what its goals actually are.

To get rid of religion.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 18:02:10 UTC | #529959

ecoplunge's Avatar Comment 22 by ecoplunge

@tomt

I'm not sure this article is really doublethink. To help understand I think it's useful to abandon the premise that dissension is always good. Often it is but sometimes not. If you and a friend found yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire, it would be counterproductive for the two of you to debate whether the tire iron in your hands was the best tool for the job. Could it be made better? Is the fitment of an acceptable tolerance? Should it be made of a lighter but stronger material? These are great questions to ask but the timing would be inappropriate. The goal is to get it done not to do it with perfection. So too, is the goal of moving away from theism. Internal debate is good. Dissension is good. But if the goal is to open the minds of those who currently believe in god to an alternate idea it's highly counterproductive. So I take this article as an important point that the timing of these discussion matters as much as or more than the content. After all there is something real and concrete that atheists are fighting for here.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 18:26:32 UTC | #529966

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Great article, Ophelia.

Maybe she pushes back a little too hard now and then, but she is feeling liberated and no longer isolated, and that’s a good thing.

Wonderfully put. It is indeed a good thing.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 18:49:41 UTC | #529974

Roger J. Stanyard's Avatar Comment 24 by Roger J. Stanyard

cheesedoff17 says "New Atheists are militants. They are no longer prepared to be tolerant of the religious beliefs of the people they have always politely listened to in the past."

Some, perhaps but generally I doubt it.

The problem that the religious are objecting to is very much self-inflicated.

The first decade of the 21st century saw just how nasty the Abrahamic religions were becoming - the mass murders had started. 9/11, 7/7 and so on.

We saw the fundamentalists bragging in the USA as to how they had put GW Bush in power and how much influence they had in politics. If you get politicised like that your garanteed to make numerous enemies. That's the very nature of politics.

That was followed by the demonisation campaign from the religious right and their friends. The stuff coming out of Fox News sounds like something Dr Goebells dreamed up.

Then there was the attack on education by idiotic creationists which advertised the religious to be ignorant and bigoted (not to say staggering arrogant). It didn't help that they systematically lied.

And then there were the incredible number of reports on horrific child abuse by the RCC.

The religious have done immense damage to religion over the last decade or so.

The New Atheist movement is one of the consequences.

The New Atheists are not going to go away either. As belief in, or acceptance of, religion continues to decline, religion is increasingly falling into the hands of evangelical fundamentalists. I for one see religion as increasingly the preserve of the ignorant and uneducated. Atheism is becoming the view of the clever and able, those with responsibility, power and influence. The middle classes, in other words.

Within the UK, for the last 350 years or so, the Church of England has had the unwritten constitutional obligation to keep a lid on religious extremism. That's coming to an end - probably within 20 years or so.

I can't see religion cleaning up its act.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 18:57:03 UTC | #529977

Alan Canon's Avatar Comment 25 by Alan Canon

What a well-reasoned article. For my own part, I find the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens to be so calmly well-spoken under most circumstances that, when they do get a little exercised (and let's face it, Richard's speech at Whitehall was more than a little!) I just want to laugh (along with their humour, "Python-esque" as Dawkins has said), cheer and pump my hands in the air on their behalf. Let's have MORE so-called stridency, please. The times demand it.

The evils perpetuated this very day in the name of religion are so egregious that it's almost impossible for me to imagine any speech opposed to it as "strident." Honor killings, the repression of women, bad policy on condom use, etc.: what else could make stridency more apropos?

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:06:18 UTC | #529980

tomt's Avatar Comment 26 by tomt

@frax71

they appear (with minor wariations ) to argue that atheists should adopt a more conciliatory approach in our criticism of religion, why ?. I see no reason to do so, as the religious treat virtually everything we say with unmitigated contempt anyway

As I've said before, I think it is a matter of respect, it is easy to cheer on Hitchens or Dawkins when they are going after some well known charlatan or attacking those seeking to impose their faith on others. However it is quite another thing to apply those same tactics, to take that same tone when talking to or about the general population of religious individuals. We may disagree with them but they deserve our respect, our goal should be to persuade not to browbeat them into agreement. As long as an individual respects our right to freedom of speech and freedom of thought, we ought to respect their same right. The problem comes when individuals theist or atheist seek to trample on those rights. Hitchens for one is perfectly clear that it would be ridiculous to seek to stop people if they wanted practicing religion in their private life, the key is to stop that practice spilling in to the public sphere whether through legislation or education - such interference in the public sphere is irrational and a breach of all our rights:

Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could.

This is taken from the final paragraph of the introduction to 'God is Not Great'. Hitchens' finishes this book with a call for a New Enlightenment - working to bring this about, celebrating scientific knowledge, encouraging free enquiry, thought and expression are positive goals we could actually work towards.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:09:00 UTC | #529982

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 27 by Stonyground

Presumably Thomas Paine, Robert G. Ingersoll, Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant were what we now describe as 'new atheists' in their day. A very large part of their strategy for reducing the influence of religion in their time, was to draw attention to the absurdities contained in the Bible. In those days most people really believed that the Bible was the word of God, and as such, could not be questioned. By a combination of reasoned argument and ridicule, the authority of the Bible was systematically eroded until now hardly anyone takes it seriously and those clerics who deliver mini-sermons on the radio are reduced to lying about it.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:19:07 UTC | #529985

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 28 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 26 by tomt :

However it is quite another thing to apply those same tactics, to take that same tone when talking to or about the general population of religious individuals. We may disagree with them but they deserve our respect

Nope.

our goal should be to persuade not to browbeat them into agreement.

Strawman.

As long as an individual respects our right to freedom of speech and freedom of thought, we ought to respect their same right.

Nope.

The problem comes when individuals theist or atheist seek to trample on those rights.

Strawman.

such interference in the public sphere is irrational and a breach of all our rights:

Strawman.

This is taken from the final paragraph of the introduction to 'God is Not Great'. Hitchens' finishes this book with a call for a New Enlightenment - working to bring this about, celebrating scientific knowledge, encouraging free enquiry, thought and expression are positive goals we could actually work towards.

Then please do so and stop concern trolling.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:50:53 UTC | #529996

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 29 by DamnDirtyApe

Here's how I see it.

Every time they call us 'strident' or 'militaristic' or whatever... Its a little like when that Scientology handler was calling John Sweeney a 'Bigot'.

And after a while...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxqR5NPhtLI

There's another phrase which I think is perfect to describe an atheist:

Only human.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:51:56 UTC | #529997

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 30 by Marcus Small

Comment 27 by Stonyground Presumably Thomas Paine, Robert G. Ingersoll, Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant were what we now describe as 'new atheists'

I wouldn't call Annie Besant any kind of atheist. More of a restless soul that passed through atheism on the way to something else.

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:52:04 UTC | #529998