Monday, October 11, 2010

Accommodation And Confrontation

*Imagine a pastor preaching to his congregation on a Sunday morning:
There is an answer, and it's on display right here in this room. The solution, the only longterm solution, is the sanity of God’s Word. The lesser struggles to keep silly skepticism out off our textbooks or to keep pseudoscientific nonsense like evolution out of our classrooms are important, but they are endless chores -- at some point we just have to stop pandering to the ideological noise that spawns these unending tasks and cut right to the source: science.
We must confront untruths; letting them lie unquestioned is simply a way to allow them to fester and grow.
No, the words above are not the latest rant from Pat Robertson nor are they from your local fundie preacher. They are not even from a Christian, but a well known militant-atheist, PZ Meyers. With just a couple key changes (shown above in italics) his statement, originally about the elimination of religion, becomes indistinguishable from statements by extremists on the extreme opposite side of the belief spectrum. This goes to show the line of thinking in both cases, fundie Christian and militant-atheist, are not far removed from one another. And it looks like it is getting worse. The Don’t Be A Dick idea is losing ground and in its place is the idea that anti-accommodation (anti-theism), expressed in the original quote above, is best.

More and more people are coming out and stating their anti-theism and they are proud of it. They are proud of the exact behavior they so radically oppose in extremists theists. It should not be all that surprising that this idea of opposing religion regardless if it is harmful or not should come from Pharyngula. You can read the blog post that is making its way through the blogosphere, from which I took the passage I quoted at the beginning of this post, here. It is your general “religion in any form is evil and must be eradicated” polemic. You can also read about it on sites such as Friendly Atheist and Blag Hag.

The post by PZ Meyers is his talk he gave to a group about accommodation and confrontation. In it he talks about the “real battle” going on today with extremists trying to undermine education and science. He has a point about this and I see no real problem with his style of confronting these types of people who wish to deny scientific fact. He then goes on to explain that this battle has been going on for a very long time and that those who oppose the extremists trying to undermine science (I assume he is only including fellow atheists here, he makes the reason why clear latter) have not been making any real success.
We have been treading water for 50 years. In one sense, that's a very good thing: better to stay afloat in one place than to sink…
It is about time, he says, that they began to make some kind of progress.
But isn't it also about time we learned a new stroke and actually made some progress towards the shore?
Okay, nothing wrong with trying to do better and actually achieve your goals.
Shouldn't we move beyond just reacting to every assault by Idiot America on science education, and honestly look at the root causes of this chronic malignancy and do something about it?
The “root causes”? Hmm, I have a bad feeling I, along with every other theist/Christian, are about to get thrown under a bus…
The sea our country is drowning in is a raging religiosity… We keep hearing that the answer is to find the still waters of a more moderate faith, but I'm sorry, I don't feel like drowning there either.
At some point we just have to stop pandering to the ideological noise that spawns these unending tasks and cut right to the source: religion.
Yup, I knew it. The rest of his post goes on to try and cast all religious as essentially evil as far as science and evolution are concerned. He tries to say that simply because atheists do not believe in religion (thus it must be false) the simple act of believing in a God somehow makes us part of a “disease”.
Religion isn't the problem, they claim, it's only the extremists and zealots and weirdos. The majority of believers are moderates and even share some values with us.
"But is a moderate superstition true?", we repeat, and "How can a myth be made more true if its proponents are simply calmer in stating it?"
Since when was this about whether or not our religious beliefs were true? We believe them to be, atheists do not. The real issue here is the extremists and more importantly their actions of attempting to undermine things such as public education. It is not about if their beliefs are true or not, but how they are attempting to force their beliefs upon others.
I mean, it's nice and all that most Christians aren't out chanting "God Hates Fags" and are a little embarrassed when some yokel whines that he didn't come from no monkey, but they still go out and quietly vote against gay and lesbian rights, and they still sit at home while their school boards set fire to good science.
No, they do not all go out and vote against gay marriage, nor do they all stand by when their children’s education is at risk. Some do, some do not. The same is true of atheists. Not all atheists go out to vote for gay marriage, some sit at their homes and could not care less. Some even vote against it (yes, there are atheists who think homosexuality is wrong). Nor do all atheists stand up when their children’s education is at risk. Some do nothing, heck, some are even bad parents and probably don’t even know their child is about to be taught evolution is false, just like some Christians.
It's all about the truth, people.
I think he really means it is all about “truth” as seen through the eyes of an anti-theist.
I have been told that I must think promoting atheism is more important than promoting good science education;
Sounds about right to me.
I've been told to hush, there are good Christians who support science, and a vocal atheism will scare them away...and I have to ask, you question my support for science education, when you pander to people who you admit will put their superstitions above science if someone says a harsh word about Jesus?
Now he is just setting up a straw man. I highly doubt those atheists who see accommodation as the best approach would agree that this is a rational framing of their reasoning.

Half of PZ Meyer’s reasoning in his post is good. The intentional undermining of things such as education by religious extremists needs to be confronted head on. However, the other half of his reasoning is nothing but an attempt to spread the blame to all those of religious belief in an attempt to throw them under the bus of ridicule and hatred thinly disguised as “criticism” and “truth”. It is nothing more than an attempt to rationalize his bigotry. And it is beginning to catch on with other militant-atheists.

To those militant-atheists who wish to condemn or ignore we theists in the middle, who believe in evolution, who do not take the Bible to be infallible and completely literal, who believe that BLGT’s should be allowed to marry, who do not condemn others to hell fire and brimstone for believing differently, who condemn the radical extremists who bomb buildings, who do not support the likes of Pat Robertson or the Westboro Baptist Church, who do not spread hatred or fear, we are here and we exist. We do not have a skewed view of reality and our beliefs do not impair our reasoning skills or our ability to function in society. To quote Christopher Titus, “now take down that cross from your back, use the wood to build a bridge, and get over it!”.

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