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Posted by on Sep 2, 2012 in Atheism, Nonsense, Religion, Science, Skepticism | 12 comments

Confrontationism v. Accommodationism, Revisited.

In atheist circles, accommodationism is the position that some sort of “common ground” can be found between believers in magical and supernatural things, and between atheists and those who hold that the scientific method and naturalism are the best tools to describe the universe.

Confrontationism is the position that science is incompatible with magical and religious beliefs, and that atheists need to be vocal about this fact and “fight” irrationality wherever they see it. Note, as originally framed, the idea of confrontationism does not involve name-calling, libel, and some of the other, more unsavory tactics we’re seeing today.

As far as I can tell, in atheism, the fight over accommodationism and confrontationism was the major rift before the present divide over feminism, and slightly after the war over libertarianism. But I’m not entirely sure about the timeline, since these disputes are still alive today. As should be amply clear by now, atheists really know how to get along.

Personally, I think the split between accommodationists and confrontationists is a false dichotomy. We need to accommodate the beliefs of others when we’re working with them toward common goals and when we’re interacting with them in everyday life. Vitriol is inappropriate just because someone doesn’t understand science quite as well as you might, or because someone cannot emotionally accept that scientific laws and theories are all there is to the universe, especially when many mysteries still remain.

On the other hand, separation of church and state must be fought for and enforced with every effort imaginable, by both atheists and the religious. After all, the freedom to believe also includes the freedom to disbelieve. Science education should not me muddled with creationism, intelligent design, or other supernatural concepts. It should not be diluted by fantasies and magic. And finally, evolution must be taught not as theory, but as fact. The science classroom is the wrong place for accommodationism, largely because accommodationist principles have nothing to do with the subject being taught.

But in every day life, we’re better off getting along with the people around us, by setting and example of tolerance, and showing that morality is possible without god. Calling the people who disagree with us idiots (and worse) is not a good way to start that process.