Joined: Jan. 2006
|Quote (George @ Nov. 25 2011,11:27)|
|I absolutely take your point on a plurality of tactics being a generally good and useful thing. I think every movement needs a lunatic fringe to grab attention and drive their own middle ground forward. However, when the lunatic fringe is or appear to be no longer the fringe, but the main body of the movement, I think you wind up with serious problems in getting your message across. I think this has happened with environmentalism to some extent, where a large part of the public had (at least in the past, I think it's changing now) the impression that all environmentalists were EarthFirst ecoterrorists. Whether that's the case with atheism now, I don't know, but the risk is there.|
Sometimes it's hard to separate tone from substance, when they're part of the same thing. I'm referring to the second and longer part of PZ's post where he berates other atheists for wanting him to impose "self-censorship" on his views on Christians and Christianity. He wants complete freedom to ridicule religious beliefs and not to have them protected and privileged in a "walled garden". In this case, the substance is whether or not he should use that tone.
I reckon that attacks on religious belief (a la the "cracker"/communion wafer incident a while back) are foolishly counterproductive if you're trying to eliminate atheist discrimination or trying to argue against creationism. (But personally, I think that PZ is more interested in ridiculing religion for an audience and so isn't too fussed about entrenching opinions.) Does he have the right to ridicule religion? Absolutely - he's doing it right now. Is it a smart thing to do? Depends on the context, I guess. If he's preaching to the faithful, it might be useful and amusing. If trying to persuade Christians to stop discriminating against atheists or to see the errors in their beliefs, maybe not.
It might be argued that ridiculing religion is like civil rights movement confrontations - sit ins, occupying whites-only sections of restaurants and buses. But it's not really. It's not defense of rights, but pure offense. That's where I think your MLK analogy breaks down. When applied to attacking anti-atheism, yes it fits. But when applied to publicly attacking religious belief itself, that approach is more like the Nation of Islam. (Treading close to Godwin territory?)
Anyway, I hate to comment and run, but I'm off for the weekend here shortly and away from the machine, so I won't be able to respond to anything directly for a while.
That's a great post, and one with which I don't entirely disagree. However there are bits of it I do disagree with....shock horror!
First, I think describing PZ et al as a lunatic fringe is beyond the pale. Really, they are criticising IDEAS. Loudly, rudely and with ridicule it's true, but lunatic fringe? Analogy with ecoterrorists? Seriously? Nation of Islam (yes, awfully close to Godwin, abort abort, pull up!!!!)? Really?
Where in anything PZ has said is there an advocacy of violence? Actual violence not nasty words? Back away from the rhetoric! It's got outta hand! The two do not compare.
Second, ridicule, shock tactics like cracker thingy, work. They jolt, they jar, they draw the attention. It's not about preaching to the converted it's about challenging the status quo. Was Rosa Parks being purely offensive when she refused to get out of her seat? Doubtlessly it offended someone.
This is the kernel of our disagreement: you see what PZ is doing as purely designed to offend and that that is a bad thing. I don't. I think what he does by and large offends incidentally. Sure, occasionally he goes out of his way to offend, sometimes he gets that right and hits the mark. Sometimes he doesn't. I find it interesting that you are complaining about the cracker thing. He stuck a nail through a biscuit and stuck the biscuit in the bin. And people threatened to kill him because of it. In this, pick a side. The side of the people making the death threats is the wrong one.
You also seem to see ridiculing religion as an inherently bad thing, I don't. I think ridiculing poor ideas is good. More than that I think it is necessary. So indeed did Thomas Jefferson, so I'm in fairly decent company even though he owned slaves! If one wants to challenge religious privilege (good thing) then sorry but challenging the basis for that privilege is a necessary part of it. And yes it will offend.
However, that said, this is not the only way. MLK was quite outspoken, read that letter I linked, seriously. We accept such vehement ridicule and exchanges of views in science, politics, in every sphere of discourse except religion. Your comment is expressly trying to separate religion again, to make the ideas beyond examination. I'd argue that's precisely what got us into this mess in the first place. BUT if you have a nicer way to finesse your opposing religious privilege then great, I know these methods are out there and I am as strong an advocate for them as I am for the more PZ-esque methods. Really, go to it. I am very serious when I say let a thousand flowers bloom. I really do mean it.
Anyway, you're not the only one with things to do. Adios!