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← How to make atheism matter

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Jos Gibbons

How to make articles matter
If I were in charge of critiquing Jacques Berlinerblau – which I’m not, but then again who is? – I’d ask myself the following questions: Why does he pretend church/state separation dates to the mid 20th century rather than the late 18th? By what criteria did he decide for the rest of us that Hoffmann’s recent work was “important”? What makes him think big ideas, defined as those defended with scholarly rather than widely comprehensible arguments, get better success in the media? (Contrast the response to The God Delusion with what was then or is now known to the populace of Bertrand Russell.)
The real priority for articles about atheism concerns their political accuracy, their ability to describe policy agendas so as to represent the interests of the atheist constituency. The key question, then, is: What do atheists want? If what they want is to abolish religion – a new atheist theme with deep success in Europe and especially Scandinavia – then there is more political future than for an antireligious movement not genuinely present in any secularist efforts. The misrepresentation of theism will simply remain a movement of overheated malcontents lamenting their great factual misfortune.
My guess, however, is that the majority of American nonbelievers are most certainly bent on abolishing ideas that made Berlinerblau feel it necessary to point out they seek freedom from but not the abolition of religion. Their (legitimate) gripe is nonetheless with all forms of religion. If permitted to find their voice (despite being approached by many life–sucking journalists) I think they would express a desire for Berlinerblau’s nonsense to disappear.
Therein, I think, lies the future of Articles About Atheism and to this end leadership might consider the following:
Freedom of and freedom from religion are not mutually exclusive. A clever writing leadership would realise that this means atheist billboards can exist in symbiosis with their religious predecessors. The key word is freedom. People of one opinion, after all, want no more to have to tiptoe around “offending” those of another than vice versa.
Why must the admission price to authoring articles about atheism be total nonbelief in an accurate definition thereof? Can’t the writers, at the very least, understand the difference? Why can’t those who don’t fit either a valid or a journalistic definition of atheism be recognised as part of the problem that needs to be fought by those in the lamentably small tent? In short, freedom within ostensibly liberal nations should not require numbers. Journalists need ideas, accurate ideas. . .
Journalistic ideologues routinely assume that atheists are a less inclusive group than simply the nonbelievers to which “nones” refers and hence conclude that they represent much less than 15 percent of the American population. The mistake is not only baffling, especially for a cohort that is legally required to pretend it prizes itself on empirical precision, but disastrous to the strategic vision of articles about atheism. After all, how effective would the journalistic activism of Jacques Berlinerblau be if he started from the premise that there being 110 million American Jews was a good comparison to the views he disparages?
And while we are at it, why can’t journalists make common cause with the moderately deceptive? In its first decade of operations the characterisation of some atheism as “new” has virtually assured its factual irrelevance by acerbically shunning the very irreligious folks who are waging their own pitched battles alongside old arguments. Mild and moderate Dawkins has worked with moderates on many occasions.
Journalists, it bears noting, achieved many of their greatest intellectual embarrassments by entering into co–stupidity with theocrats on issues like abortion, gay marriage, religion in public schools, etc. In other words, authorship put aside integrity to achieve pragmatic sales goals.
In so doing, the Christian right successfully managed to curtail both freedom from criticism and freedom of criticism for countless media. The time has come for a strategic journalistic defense of both these virtues.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:34:18 UTC | #901426