“Are you so sure that you are one who is allowed to escape his yoke? There are many who threw away their last worth, when they threw away their capacity to obey. ” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (my translation)
“Well, there are some encouraging signs of polarization” – Israel Shahak
I have only used a fraction of the material available on Myers and Watson. I have only mentioned other fools like Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson or Greta Christina in passing, or not at all. Were I to reproduce the full chronicle here, I need a life as pointless as they; these people are simply the pathologies of Watson & Myers in an even more tedious form.
The question must be faced: why bother with any of this? The A+ ranks lack the energy or principle to achieve anything serious, and as some of my commenters have pointed out, they are already going cannibal on each other.
Why should another collection of loudmouths on the web bother me? Why do I not simply roll my eyes at these oily ticks, and remark “Back when I was at school, we used to line up four or five of their sort, make ’em bend over and use them as a toast rack.”? There are two reasons, one of principle and one of practicality.
The principle is Zu Jedem das Seine, to cite Old Fritz. Justice is not something to be esteemed lightly. When I read the treatment dealt to Miss Smith or my colleague or Ed Rybicki, when I read the smearing of Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Richard Dawkins by people who contribute nothing, I feel my muscles lock, my teeth grind, and bile scorch the back of my throat. In other words, I get angry, very angry indeed.
I am also sickened. My revolt against Christianity was in no small part because I disliked the idea that simply attending prayer twice a day, or once a week, was a substitute for actual achievement. Somehow the A+ crowd have reached a lower level: they prefer intentions to actual achievement. Take a look at their statement of purpose. They are pro-women’s rights. So they help organize funds for the local battered women’s shelter? Help support RAWA? No, instead they… well, you know this.
Mencken once remarked that the Southern baptist was a degraded phenomenon, but how much worse would he be if he lost his faith? I think we may now know.
The practical side is that, though I doubt the A+ ranks largely are capable of much, there is one thing that they could do: they could succeed in poisoning the case for atheism. In the same way as the modern feminists are poisoning the struggle for women’s rights at the time we need it most, and the identity politics racketeers are poisoning the anti-racist struggle, the A+ may make atheism effectively “unmarketable”.
This involves a visit to a place the A+ers may have heard of, known as “the Real World”. In that distant realm, religious fanaticism has returned in a terrifying form. All across Europe we’re seeing the rehabilitation of the sort of parties we thought we got rid of at Nuremberg. Further east, the Russian Orthodox Church is the clerical arm of the Putin autocracy (and there is a significant amount of the opposition to Putin that thinks him just too liberal and bleeding heart), and in India we’ve seen Hindu fascism that may yet give us a nuclear war. Overshadowing all of these is the terrible menace of jihad, tens of millions strong, a movement that has notched up three genocides in my lifetime alone, which may soon have nuclear weapons. In this background, advocates of Reason will have a stiff fight to have any voice whatsoever.
Yet the Myers tendency is determined to make this impossible. Put yourself in the shoes of a student who listens to Myers rousing call for solidarity, and in consequence decides to stand up to Islamic intimidation. And when she is arrested, accused of racism, and threatened with expulsion by her University, she looks to him for solidarity and finds him not merely failing to provide it, but actively piling on – what view will she likely have of organised atheism?
I’ve read several complaints that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is willing to make common cause with liberal Christians who actually stand up to Islam over atheists who only say they will. Better get used to it, because that is the best case scenario. There are many, from our standpoint, highly conservative Christians who recognise the hand they have been dealt. Discussing the Pope’s Regensburg address (english translation here), Lee Harris argued that it was misunderstood (including by the Hitch). What the Pope is asking is, in a world that is in point of fact largely run by religion, is it Christianity or Islam that makes room for reason? And shouldn’t you be willing to defend the more rational one, even if you are not a believer in it?
There are many who will take such an offer, especially when alternative they are presented with is an atheist movement at once pompous and cowardly. Worse still, it will be the best who are lost to that offer, those for whom the defence of reason is a matter of life and death, rather than an excuse to have a superior sneer at the lower orders. They’ll be right to do so; if we leave, say, the defence of women’s rights up to this lot, then I can offer you a sneak preview of the “skepchicks” convention, circa 2030:
It may get worse still. I often thought on Sam Harris’s concern, that in the absence of a fierce secular voice that stands agains the jihad, people will turn to darker ones. A theoretical worry you might say. It has already happened. I am thinking of Peder Jensen, better known under the pseudonym Fjordman, Breivik’s philosophical mentor. Jensen began his life as a vague, center leftist. Seeing the menace of the Islamic far right, and finding no voices willing to stand up to it in his political circle, he turned first to blood and soil conservatism, and then to outright neo-fascism for an answer. And here we are.
If any atheist movement is to survive and change, in reality, the minds of many, it has to demonstrate that it is in fact willing to take on the worst menaces. I’m sorry to remind people, but we stand outnumbered a thousand to one. The only thing we have going for us is the ability to appeal to human reason and cause people to change their minds. They will not do so if they see atheists as nothing more than a crowd of spoiled, self-pitying, self-important deadheads.
The one good thing to emerge out of this whole fiasco is captured in the remark of Israel Shahak with which I began this essay. This tendency or syndrome has been around a long time. Now its hosts have done us all a favour and self identified and split off, isolating and eradicating its toxicity. This is why I am very glad to write for Skeptic Ink. It may be a small start, but it allows us to show that there is an alternative available to pointlessness of the FtB crowd. I hope that this will be the last thing I have to write on the subject; there are subjects of far greater interest to tackle, but it was necessary to make this breach clear and unambiguous.