So, there’s a new accomodationist op-ed out there by Douglas Murray.
It looks like Keith Kloor supports what Murray has to say but in the process makes some unfortunate comments I’d like to address:
First of all, I find it offensive Kloor is portraying Myers as a respresentative of the New Atheists, or even worse, of freethinkers. Not for nothing the network where he blogs is usually named ThoughtFree Blogs and FreeThought Bullies.
I also happen to think, this was somehow cherry-picking. Jerry Coyne has a delightful takedown of Murray’s article, but instead, Kloor focused on Myers. I think this is relevant, because by the end of his blogpost, Kloor has an image in which an Atheist only reads Antitheists books, which happens to not be the case of Dr. Coyne.
So choosing Myers was a hasty generalization.
The GOP Analogy
You know what else I find offensive? The comparison between the Atheist/Skeptic movement with the Republican Party. Kloor goes on to say there’s some kind of litmus test for Atheists:
The same hardball tactics and ideological purity tests that have made the Republican party inhospitable for moderate conservatives are on display in the burgeoning atheist movement.
This is a really bad analogy. You can be a moderate conservative or a radical one, and there’s a continuum between the two. There’s no such thing within Atheism – you either have imaginary friends or you don’t. There’s no middle ground (and pleeeease, don’t tell me Agnostics are the middle grounded ones).
Accomodationists vs. Anti-theists
Look, this has always been a point that divides Atheists. Some think there’s something worthy to religion, some of us don’t. Each and every one of the irrational beliefs are harmful. So Kloor goes on to quote Adam Frank to say religion has provided meaningful moments and emotionally charged memories to people:
People in this vein seem intent on ignoring the long narrative of human spiritual endeavor. They often reduce it to histories of ignorance and intolerance. Believers in strident atheism convince themselves that it’s OK to ignore the scholarship on the long and ancient history of human spiritual endeavor.
(Do we need to clarify here that there’s no such thing as a ‘spirit’?)
Apples and oranges: sure, we should encourage the study of the impact of religions throughout History, and to what extent were people like Aquinas or Augustine of Hippo relevant to Philosophy; and the evolution of ideas, including religious ones, and how they helped shape societies.
Another thing is to accept theology as a valid source of knowledge. As Sam Harris puts it – “Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings”. And I think it’s intelectually dishonest to lump Theology with the role religion has had in humanity.
A scholarship on theology is like a scholarship on Quidditch. No, really. There’s actual, real, people who spend their saturday mornings playing Quidditch, and that’s fine. I’m sure that provides meaningful moments and emotionally charged memories, but that’s one thing and another quite different is to pretend to take seriously the claim that brooms fly.
Yes, it could be important to some people, but that doesn’t make it any more true. And I’m sorry, pretending it to be true, just so we can be called ‘freethinkers’ is plain wrong. You can say I’m close-minded, but until I get evidence that brooms fly, I won’t change my mind.
And I’d still think it’d be dangerous for people to actually believe brooms fly (no matter how emotionally attached they’re to that idea; the more, the worse, I guess).
Same goes for religion. Why would you burst the bubble of the flying-broom-believer but leave intact the religious’ one? I know why – religious privilege: giving special, favored treatment to religion over the next irrational belief.
Litmus Test & True Scotsman Fallacy
What’s with people and litmus tests within the Atheist community? This is how Kloor finishes his post:
Frank makes it clear he is not a believer. It is also clear that he doesn’t believe in ridiculing those who derive some kind of meaning from religion. That’s the sign of a real freethinker.
No. That’s the sign of an Accomodationist. Ridiculing those who derive some kind of meaning from the belief that brooms actually fly could help them get into their senses, and would alert third-parties of the dangers that particular irrational belief conveys. Labeling us for doing so as not-freethinkers is a true scotsman fallacy.