“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Atheists Denounce Myers

Atheist Matthew Nisbet, Ph.D, is a professor in the School of Communication at American University, and a blogger on Scienceblogs, the site hosting P.Z. Myers' vile.

Yesterday morning, he distanced himself from Myers' bigotry understanding how much fanatic extremists like Myers hurts their atheist cause. Surprisingly, he draws attention to Jeff Gardner's piece at the National Catholic Register in regard to focusing on the damage Myers has done within the faith-based community and its byproduct of deteriorating society's overall perception of Atheists:

Atheists have a major image problem. There's a reason that when people ask me what I believe I have to say with a smile: "I'm an atheist...but a friendly atheist."

...These "new atheists" are the dark under belly of atheism. In books, blogs, and public statements, they sell us ideological porn, sophomoric rants that feed our dark sides and reinforce our own unfair stereotypes about the "other," i.e. the religious.

Yet all of this does far more harm than good. The addictive nature of their rhetoric radicalizes us and leads us to an ever more closed off conversation about how we are superior and everyone else is delusional.

In the process, we miss out on working together with religious communities around shared common values and problems. And when their self-promoting atheist punditry is picked up by either the mainstream press or the religious media, we as a community of atheists incur deep self-inflicted wounds, with news coverage feeding the stereotype that we are a bunch of intolerant and arrogant eccentrics.

Consider this recent article at the National Catholic Register. Titled "The Face of the New Atheism," it profiles PZ Myers and his rants against the Eucharist and the Catholic community. Notice the key words emphasized. The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of "hate," "contempt," "dogmatism," "a junior high level understanding of religion," "irate," "incredulous," "bigoted"...the list goes on.

Is this how we really want Catholics to view us? Do we really want a group of moderately religious Americans--who polls show otherwise prize science, reason, and stand for many of the same values that we hold dear--to think of us through the prism of PZ Myers?

The image of atheism doesn't have to be this way....

The points of emphasis for the rest of the public should be on "strong community member and leaders," "teachers," "listeners," "working with others on common problems," "tolerant," "engaged," "open-minded," "pragmatic," "improving society," "cares about people and social issues..."

This is the "new atheism" that we should promote, not an image of attacks and intolerance.


colbert said...

I am certainly relieved to learn that my right to believe in God and to practice my religion are overwhelmingly tolerated by the open minded, strong community leader majority of the atheist community.

But, soft sarcasm aside, why is the atheist community speaking out now, nearly a month after the incident?

Lara said...

Now where have they been all month?

A Voice in the Crowd said...

I found two other atheist blogs denouncing Myers earlier in the month, but Nisbett did it the most articulately and I felt it was worthy of a post.

I am not sure it is Nisbett's responsibility to police lunatics like Myers, or to jump into the middle of a heated brawl, but I am happy he posted this post on his blog.

Lara said...

I'm grateful as well, Voice, although had the atheists spoken up earlier, Myers may have tempered himself a bit more knowing his peers weren't impressed.

Who knows? Their speaking up may have made no difference either, considering his state of mind...

Doug Indeap said...

Just as variety is found in most communities, atheists come in all stripes.

This is not a matter, I think, of atheists remaining silent or rising only lately to criticize. Many atheists have long criticized various of the so-called "new atheists" like Myers and Dawkins, expressing much the same concerns as voiced in this post. Dawkins, indeed, commonly notes during his speeches that such criticism by atheists is among the most numerous and forceful that he receives.

Alycin said...

My comment that got lost in cyberspace touched on this.

I didn't like the way that Tom tried to generalize atheists and implied, like so many Christians do, that atheists have no morals. This is a lie that people should be ashamed to promote. All humans are born with consciences to guide us. Some of us have better-formed consciences than others, but we ALL have morals...

Most self-proclaimed atheists that I have come into contact with do not claim that there is no God, but rather that they are not convinced of a God. Many will freely admit that they cannot prove that there is not a God any more than can be proven to them that there is one.

My point in all this: atheists should not be defined by Myers' actions. Myers' main problem is his arrogance. His atheism cannot be blamed for his thoughts or actions. The atheist umbrella is so broad that to even use the term "atheist mindset" is to forfeit your point. Mindsets and beliefs vary GREATLY when it comes to people who call themselves atheists.

It is about as accurate to view all atheists through the Myers lens, as it is to view all deists through the Muslim extremist lens.