Genetics 101: “Please Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”

Genetics 101

by admin Posted on December 9, 2011

A recent response from a reader aptly named “Hunt” about atheist criticism and tactics quotes one of the mavens of the movement (now that new atheism is not new they seem to want the name back), Greta Christina, who runs a site called Greta Christina.

I am taking Hunt at his usually impolite word when he says she says,

“People don’t dislike atheists because of  our tactics; they dislike atheists because of who we are”

I don’t have any idea of what that throwaway line means either (“I don’t like you because you’re a mean and nasty old bugger Uncle Crank. I dislike you because you’re an uncle”).  But giving Ms Christina the benefit of a doubt, since I have occasionally smiled at her postings, let me just say that “Hunt” has ripped another page out of the Atheist Surefire Response Manual (send $750 to me for your free copy along with prayer request), while totally belying everything Ms Christina is vouching for–because Hunt’s tactics are a lot like Uncle Crank.

Uncle Crank

In the history of fighting for basic human rights, from which Hunt’s “rationale” is derived, there have certainly been instances where the genetic argument works:  African-Americans were not disliked for their actions but for the colour of their skin (who they were).  Women and gays were held in contempt by an unconscientized America as women and gays.

At a certain point, however, the dis-resemblance of victimized classes overrides resemblance and the genetic argument becomes a genetic fallacy.  America’s first experience of this is when fat people wanted to be considered a civil rights cause:  After all, they suffered workplace discrimination, weren’t happy that the racks at Walmart couldn’t accommodate XXX-L in sufficient quantity (though that has hugely changed) and weren’t popular on airplanes.

But whatever the merits of seeing fatness as a socially, genetically and psychologically determined condition rather than an outcome, people still think fat people are fat. And blacks, gays, women and Buddhist monks–probably even atheists–groan when they see a fatty waddling down the aisle toward the only remaining seat, next to them. Me, I’d prefer the fatty to the Buddhist monk. Monks are rude and don’t use deodorant.

my Space

That is what happens when you try to make atheists the same sort of “victims” that blacks, gays and women have historically and really been on the basis of suspicion and dislike.  The difference of course is that the three latter classes are powerless to control or alter, except through extraordinary means, anything about who or what they are.

Changing your mind is not at all like changing your skin colour.  I had a useful discussion about this with Paul Cliteur a few years back in Amsterdam while he was finishing his superb book The Secular Outlook.  It should be required reading for every atheist.  But don’t bother reading it if you want different information than I’m giving you here.  Go on believing what you have believed because you read it on an atheist website.

“Believing” or disbelieving something is not the same sort of thing as being something, even though we use the verb ‘to be” to describe various kinds of conditions ranging from illness to sexuality.  Anyone who claims a modicum of philosophical sophistication knows what a category mistake is, so you will know that you can’t shove everything into one box and call it sand when there are sea shells and dead animals and coins and syringes in it.  Atheists have the power to change their mind–indeed once prided themselves on this ability.

Atheists have, theoretically, the ability to become believers.  Believers have the power to become atheists.  I know people who have gone in either direction and swing, like me, both ways. That’s the routine.

which is it

It’s precisely this intellectual motility combined with the methods that you use or choose to get there that define you as an atheist.  But to say that people dislike you because you don’t believe in god surely has something to do with the way you externalize that belief.  If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t be appalled at fundamentalism. If radically conservative Christian and Muslims were Quakers or non-voting Amish who would care about them?  We care about them because they are vocal and in-your-face with their absurd moral agendas.

Consequently, like it or not, the basic reason people dislike atheists is not because of some hypogeal characteristic that makes atheism an essence but the observable things that atheists say or do.  The same reason you don’t like uncle Crank.

And like it or not, that makes them (us) much more like the heretics and apostates of yore, our close cousins, than like the victimized members of twentieth century rights-struggles. If, in other words, you choose categories, be careful what you choose.

Never mind.  I dealt with this issue a couple of years ago when people were sleeping.  I don’t buy the fact that the word atheist is a scary word: that’s something atheists like to think because it feeds the victimization mentality now resurgent in the community.

Have a look:

Who Was You?

The Boston Lowells knew who they were. From their perch on Beacon Hill they enjoyed a perspective that encouraged them to believe in the Unitarian credo: the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the neighborhood of Boston. When William Filene opened a discount store in the basement of his father’s store to sell overstock and closeout merchandise through his “automatic bargain basement” (off the rack, serve yourself), Beacon Hill was a swarm of indignation. The son of a (Jewish!) peddler would throw Boston society into disarray. Cheap clothes that looked like finery? Now even Irishwomen who worked as chambermaids could look respectable. That is, if you didn’t look too closely.

Never to be persuaded without a firsthand look, Anna Parker Lowell walked into Filene’s downtown store near Washington Street, coiffed and umbrellad, sought directions “to the so-called Basement” and took the steps with the polish of someone who was used to grand staircases. Once aground she saw women flipping through racks of dresses like playing cards–choosing, refusing, playing tug-a-war, even threatening bodily harm if a latecomer tried to prise her find away from someone with a prior claim. “Disgusting,” Mrs Lowell tsked to herself. “Just look at them.”

Just when she had satisfied herself that Edward Filene’s brainstorm would mean the end of high society in Boston her eyes lit on a beautiful taffeta gown that looked just the thing for the spring ball at Harvard. She moved closer for a better look. As she reached to collect her prize, a woman of questionable pedigree snapped it from the rack and headed for the till. “Not so fast my dear,” said Mrs Lowell. “I was about to have that dress.” “You was,” said the woman without slowing. “I don’t think you understand.” I had chosen that dress. I was just about to collect it.” “You was,” said the woman, unable to evade Mrs Lowell’s pursuit because of a crowded aisle. “Look here, madam. I didn’t want to tell you who I was, but I will if you persist.” The woman stopped, turned, looked Mrs Lowell in the eye, and said “Ok dearie: Who wasyou?”

I have always wondered what people mean when they say “That’s who I am,” but usually they mean something silly and parochial: I’m a Catholic, a democrat, a creationist, a car dealer, an ex-con, a neo-con. It’s the substitution of code for argument, a conversation stopper rather than an invitation to discuss a position or idea. Clearly identity matters, but the twentieth century was distinctive in breaking down the sorts of identities that isolated people from majority communities and power structures.

There are big identities and small identities, weak and strong. Part of this has to do with the nature of language and part with the nature of things. Being a democrat or a used car salesman are weak identities: you can change those things tomorrow if you change your mind or lose your job. Being an African-American or a male, despite the fact that we know a lot more about race and sexuality now than we did fifty years ago, still have a lot to do with properties and are much more difficult to change. To say, “I’m gay,” is not just to say “I’m not straight” but to challenge the idea of straight as normative and authoritative. That’s different from saying, “I’m Catholic,” if by that you mean you’re on your way to heaven and the guy you’re talking to is going the opposite way. Beware of anyone who says “That’s who/what I am” with a smile on his face.

Identities can be a great source of fun, as when Ambrose Bierce (the Devil’s Dictionary, 1925) defines a bride as “a woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her” and “Brute” as husband, or a “minister as “An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility.” Too bad that in Bierce’s day the Vegan craze wasn’t what it is in the twenty first century, but he did have this to say about clairvoyants: “A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.”

The weakest identities of all are the ones that have to do with what we believe to be the meaning of life. I can remember in college three distinct phases of change: being a socialist at seventeen, a half-hearted anarchist at twenty, and an existentialist at twenty one.

I recovered from these infatuations by not permitting myself to stop reading and never reading Camus after thirty. With confusion intact, I went to Divinity School and emerged as confused and doubtful as ever. Voltaire (or maybe his aunt) said it was only his skepticism that prevented him from being an atheist. That was me, too.

I can’t doubt that there are “meaning-of-life” identities that one holds passionately and therefore appear to qualify for the “That’s who I am” category of identification. I have known people whose non-belief is as fervent as the belief of a twice born Baptist or Mormon elder, people who say “I am an atheist” as proudly as an evangelical says “I’m born again.” It’s tempting to say, isn’t it, that the difference between these two statements is that the atheist is smart and the Born again needs his intelligence quotient checked. But we all know that identity statements are code for a whole range of ideas that need to be unpacked and call for explanation. An atheist who felt his non-belief in God entitled him to murder children because of the absence of divine commands to the contrary would be no better than a cult member who believed that disobedient sons can be stoned because it says they can in the Bible.

I feel my Atheist Reader squirming, because while you liked the Bright-Dim difference, you don’t like equivalences. When Katherine Hepburn turns out to be an atheist people say, “I just knew it. Such a strong woman.” When Pol-Pot says God is bunk, we think “Well that’s different, isn’t it—and so far away?”

Personally, I don’t like people who say “That’s who I am,” or “That’s what weare,” or “We need to be honest about who we are.” At a crude level I want to say WTF? It’s eerily metaphysical when atheists do it—not only because it’s the language God uses when he introduces himself to Moses on Sinai. You remember, right?: Moses hasn’t been properly introduced and God says, “That’s who I am,” and when pressed after Moses accuses God of being slippery says “I am what I am.”

I reckon what he really means is, “You know—God—the one who does firmament, landscaping, Leviathan, floods, human beings God.” In fairness, however, the Hebrew Bible insisted that God was not just a proposition but an actor on the human stage. I don’t believe that God did any of the things ascribed to him in the Bible, but to believe in a doer and deeds is a perfectly legitimate way to establish an identity—even if it’s a fictional identity. That’s why Jewish atheists begin by denying the deeds and then the doer. None of this silly ontological stuff: too Christian, too mental.

But I find it a lot harder to know who I am or what we are on the basis of not believing something.

“We need to be honest about who we are” coming from an atheist doesn’t translate easily into the propertied descriptions of being black, gay, female or physically challenged–things over which people have no choice and no control.

It’s tempting, I know, to think the things we believe or don’t believe have the same status as the things that constitute us as persons or collectives of persons. But you would laugh at a used car salesman saying at dinner, “Dammit, Mother, I’m tired of hiding from who I am. Tomorrow I’m going right into the boss’s office and say to him, ‘Mr Jones: I am Bill Smith and I’m an atheist.” You would not laugh at someone who said, “Mr Jones: I haven’t had a raise in two years. Is it because I’m black?”

Atheists often complain when religious groups claim special treatment on the pretext that any speech against religion is defamatory while claiming equivalent protection for their own beliefs. But atheists need to be very careful about traveling the road of victimization and minority rights or simply adopting the legal definitions supplied under non-discrimination laws. Especially when racial, sexual orientation and gender provisions do not apply to atheism and the protection accorded to religious beliefs, if embraced by atheists, creates a stew of issues–not the least of which is that there is no settled definition of atheism and if there were a true freethinker would reject it.

Difference is deceptive, especially when it comes to self-definition. Is coming out atheist like coming out gay, an act of courage? On what basis–the fact that terms like “minority,” “unpopular” and “misunderstood” can be applied to both categories? But simply to embrace a minority position toward a “divine being” based on denying a premise is not an act of bravery. It doesn’t make you who you are or what you are. It’s neither race, profession nor party platform—not even a philosophical position or scientific theory. It’s not something to be ashamed of or proud of. It’s just about an idea—even if it’s a really Big idea.

16 thoughts on “Genetics 101: “Please Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”

  1. I have no quarrel with any of this as far as it goes, but the fact still remains that the reason atheists are disliked by religionists is because of what they THINK, not because of their tone or their body language or any of that stuff. Is a belief (or lack one) not a genus? If someone hates Catholics, what do they hate?

    Does it take courage to come out as an atheist? For some people it does, not because they are a persecuted minority, but because it can be an earthquake on a personal and familial level, especially if one is in an entrenched religious environment. it can split up marriages, cost people relationships with parents, etc.

    I’m originally from the deep south, and I used to keep my atheism a secret because people reacted (quite literally) as if I said I worshiped the dark prince Satan (I was told more than once that atheism and Satan worship were somehow the same thing).

    People ARE rude to atheists, and they do discriminate in employment and in other ways. There often IS a knee jerk reaction from religionists who insist on transforming what should be a trivial difference into a profound one.

    Whatever irrational hostility some atheists seem to carry towards religion (and I think the angry ones tend to be the ones who have previously had an abusive relationship with religion) is reciprocated a thousandfold.

    Incidentally, nobody hates religion more than religionists. They just hate everybody ELSE’S religion. Try listening to 15 minutes of Christian radio on the subject of Muslims (or Hindus or Buddhists or Scientologists) sometime.

    I will be bothered by rude atheists whenever the rest of the world becomes bothered by rude religionists.

    • You are correct as far as fundamentalist Christians pariticularly in a certain cultural context. But liberal Christians are not rude and hostile towards other religious faiths, and do constantly criticise fundamentalism, including addressing their hatred towards people who believe in a different worldview.

      • That’s why I make an effort to use the word “religionist” instead of “religious” or generically Christian. I use the specific word “religionist” to refer to those who actively politicize and/or evangelize their religion. I believe Maureen Dowd uses the phrase, “arm band religion.” That’s what I’m talking about.

      • My experience as a liberal Christian is that this only partly true. On one hand, of course we constantly resent and criticise fundamentalism, for all the good it does. But on the other hand, we try very hard not to hate, even if we actually do hate. We avoid hate to the point of neurosis.

        We know our history well enough that we know what happens when sects conflict. People get hurt. Moreover, sectarian conflict, even of the verbal variety, is bad PR. We want to get people to donate to our charities. If we make a point of putting our differences out there in the public sphere, it hurts us and those we are trying to help, because people won’t donate to an organisation involved in partisan squabbling.

        The effect is that the liberal church has contributed to (as Chris Hedges put it) the failure of the liberal classes to adequately challenge counter-enlightenment thinking.

        It’s a pretty tough bind we’re in, even if it’s partly of our own making. If anyone has any concrete suggestions, please let us know.

      • Modern religious people are “bothered” by your “religionists” Ken. As soon as people start intruding on others and abusing their freedoms using religion, decent religious people are critical. The only people who aren’t “bothered” by “religionists” or fundamentalists, are themselves. So why aren’t you bothered about rude atheists.

      • Pseudonym: I don’t think your experience as a liberal Christian, conflicts with my description of modern liberal Christian churches. In my experience and research, liberal Christians do not display hatred towards fundamentalists but are genuinely and publically critical. Modern liberal Christian churches are publically critical and generally achieve their message in an amusing or cynical, sometimes subtle, but always educational way.

        For example St Matthew’s in the City Auckland, a big inclusive ‘progressive’ church open to all people of any faith and non believers, http://www.stmatthews.org.nz/index.php
        is …. critical of dogmatic religion and fundamentalism in interesting and clever ways:
        http://www.stmatthews.org.nz/nav.php?id=982&sid=527
        including billboards on the church property which are picked up and heavily publicised and appreciated by all (except fundamentalists, generally internationally as NZ is a bit scarce on those)



        etc….

        St Matthews in the City, while being open to anyone, is involved in interfaith groups, social justice and education, community projects and activities: caring for the aged, tree planting etc. Many liberal churches are active such activities and interfaith groups around the world and in New Zealand the network was advocated and sponsored over a decade ago due to increased faiths immigrating, by our (atheist) Prime Minister who worked closely with religious groups and my home Study of Religion Department at Victoria University in Wellington.

      • “Modern religious people are “bothered” by your “religionists” Ken. As soon as people start intruding on others and abusing their freedoms using religion, decent religious people are critical.”

        In my experience, this is simply not true, especially not in the US (I’ve lived and traveled in the UK, West Africa and South America, so i have some context for comparison). Most “liberal Christians” (and my wife is one of them) are quiet and non-confrontational about strident religionism. I am not just defining “religionism” as mundane bigotry, by the way, but also the oblivious pushiness and entitlement endemic to it. It’s always “rude” to say there’s no God, but never rude to say there is one. There’s a smug ubiquity of unconscious presumptions in the culture, each one too trivial, in each individual instance, to allow for polite objection, but which become cumulatively insufferable.

        My wife is a liberal Catholic. Our kids are baptized Catholics. I was
        raised in both Catholic and Southern Baptist traditions (mixed parentage), went to Catholic schools and took a BA in Religion at College. I, like most atheists, have been surrounded by religious people my whole life, including some highly compassionate ones interested in Social Justice. My wife is a pro-choice, pro-GBLT Catholic who works for a major religious charity at a high administrative level. She’s a much better person than I am (though I think it’s in spite of her religion, not on account of it), but she does not like confrontation, is not prone to challenge her own Church or congregants on issues I know she cares about (like the Church’s obstruction of condoms in Africa) just because she doesn’t want the unpleasantness of one-on-one direct confrontation with other people.

        A lot of liberal Christians are passive by nature, not instinctively confrontational, but conciliatory, tolerant to a fault, appealing to impulses (such as empathy) that don’t exist (or at least are overridden by competing impulses and motivations) in religionists.

        I actually don’t think religious liberals have any OBLIGATION to stifle their zealots. It’s all free speech to me. I think it is counterproductive for atheists to be gratuitously insulting. No one was ever persuaded to or away from a belief by being called stupid and/or crazy, but I also don’t feel any obligation, simply because I lack one of the same beliefs that rude atheists lack, to police them or object to them or protect theists from being annoyed or having their feelings hurt. Welcome to a slightly more level playing field.

      • Ken,

        On a more general note, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are polls in the USA which suggest that ‘atheist’ is one of the least attractive descriptors a person can have. If you want to be president, it is, apparently, better to be a gay muslim.🙂

        http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheistSurveys.htm

        Furthermore, on a global scale, many countries are not as ‘enlightened’ as the USA. Apostasy is, in many, if not indeed most, muslim countries punishable by the death penalty. The fact that this is very rarely if ever carried through is, er, only slightly encouraging, I’m sure.

        i myself am a very lucky, happy, non-whining atheist, with very little to complain about. True, my daughters are, I think, the only children in their school who have openly said they are secular, and to some extent have regretted this and now play it much more quietly (like good atheists of yore), although my eldest’s request to drop Religious education was refused on the grounds that it is a compulsory subject. When it was pointed out that this was not in fact the case, the head teacher resorted to telling her that alternative arrangements could not be arranged for her to timetable an alternative.

        This is not really a big issue, though here in Northern Ireland, it is fair to say that we have more than our fair share of religious fundamentalists, including in high positionas in government, and that it is not the most comfortable place for an atheist, albeit it is not exactly dangerous or suffocating either.

        I’m afraid I just don’t get the ‘why do atheists complain?’ objection.🙂

      • David et al.: So many books have been written on religion in America since, literally, de Tocqueville’s, that there is no easy way to take this on. The country was an uneven blend of Enlightenment, deist intellectuals like Jefferson and Franklin and cornpone roughnecks who reproduced in greater numbers than the Virginia and Boston elite and just wanted the Old Time Religion. The sociology is almost overpowering–you might start with Stephen Prothero’s book, though I think it’s not adequate. The standard dry survey is Yale historian Sidney Ahlstrom’s Religious History of the American People, though there are at least a dozen others since he wrote it in the seventies. I have seen reputable analysts like OT schpolar James Barr crash and burn trying to take on the question of Fundamentalism: it is confounding, complex, maybe insoluble. Even the word “funadmentalism” was invented here in the US, but applied to a narrow range of born again biblical literalist sects at the time. Before that America had had three Great Awakenings of the Calvinist variety, and of very high intellectual caliber; Yale University in 1700 was founded in part by ministers who thought Harvard was going to hell, though Harvard had been founded in 1636 by the staunchest puritan refugees from England.

        BUT: It isn’t at all far of the mark to say that religious liberalism of the sort we recognize today as “dominant” was also born here, from a different mother. While tent meetings were happening in Georgia, quietist Quakers ruled in Pennsylvania and led the anti-slavery movement. Mainstream protestantism in America is as liberal as one can imagine, though in steep decline, like religion generally. Presbyterians, Episcopalians (Anglicans) and even Methodists and Lutherans of certain stipes fight to keep their members. It is CERTAINLY true that the regressive, fundmentalist (and stranger) Christianity thrives in America as nowhere else, though there is now a strong liberal (and hence schismatic trend) in the evangelical churches as well.
        My point here is not to write another book (though I could and have been tempted to) but to say that it is the sheer robustness of this kind of religion that drives unbelivers to be angrier here. It is true that “atheists” are not popular, but despite a certain uptick in their desire to claim victimization since new atheism (stupidly I think, given the numbers) began to advocate confrontation, they are simply unpopular, patronized, perhaps occasionally ridiculed. Unlike the UK and (even) Holland and Canada however, and this is the irony, America is officially, constitutionally secular–the first country in the world, I believe, to dictate strict separation of Church and State–the First Amendment. This is why the terms secular and religion (and atheist) are bound to collide. And while the framers of the Constitution made it that way to avoid the 500 years of religious warfare that had riddled the Europe they came from, the protracted culture wars that have arisen in the XXI century seem verbally just as bloody. The explanations for me are always historical: I am sorry for that. But to try to make sense of it only at the receiving end will just cause you tear your hair out. I think that if the First Amendment were put to a vote today, it would fail in this Congress and in the states. In fact, I’ve suggested more than once that the best way to make America truly secular is to repeal it and declare the country officially Baptist.

      • Ken, In certain social contexts as I implied above, fundamentalist and conservative religions are more prominent and saturate government and education too. This would imply America and West Africa as well. In the UK and the Antipodes the situation is entirely different. I have been living in the UK for six years researching religion and contemporary belief and practice too. Many Christians here and in the Antipodes are secular Christians, if not most here and all in the Antipodes, and many do not believe in ‘God’. It was coined as Secular Christianity or Christianity without God. There is simply not the prejudice against non believers that you suggest. For the UK, even Rowan Williams, stepping down as Bishop of a conservative English Church, has been outspoken on many matters of social justice. I have worked with many different types of religious groups, I work with religious colleagues as well as non believers, and never in my life have I been criticised here or in the Antipodes for my lack of belief and I know nobody who has. Yet Fundamentalism is publically vilified. Not even when I was a child and most of my schoolmates went to church or synagogue or mosque. It simply isn’t relevant. It’s about cultural context, secular government, secular justice system and secular education. It’s about personal worldviews being irrelevant to social and interactive life.
        http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199577873.do

        For an example reflecting the Antipodean situation see my reply to Pseudonym, and have a look at Lloyd Geering, former minister, emeritus Professor and Christian theologian, who like many people and their leaders, do not believe in ‘God’. http://www.bookfinder.com/author/lloyd-geering/

      • For what it’s worth, my prognosis regarding the cranky atheism which is the focus of so much objection here, and with which I do have some sympathy (though no doubt I would find more of it ‘permissible’ than some here) is that it will gradually subside. I don’t mean that it will disappear.

        Atheism may have long roots historically, but they have been, until very recently, very thin and straggley, and (as is the norm with roots) somewhat buried. The world (generalizing disasterously here) is not used to atheism sprouting and flowering above ground, and to be fair atheism itself is not entirely familiar with the exotic new environment either.

      • @ Joseph.

        ‘In fact, I’ve suggested more than once that the best way to make America truly secular is to repeal it and declare the country officially Baptist.’

        Nice one.🙂

        @ steph,

        yes, it is better when people are not bickering so much. The antipodes sound attractive in that sense.

        On another note, I do think the question of whether atheism/atheists are (and I’m generalizing horribly here) unpopular is or isn’t linked to their behavior is an interesting one, and I must admit, I’m not tempted to agree that it’s because there are a number of cranky ones. With atheism (fairly consistently, though not always recently) ‘ranked’ below lesbian muslim in the USA and under threat of excecution (albeit only in principle) in large areas of the globe, I think that anyone making a case that most of them are cranky would have a bit of a task to be convincing.

        Apologies for repeating the data set.🙂

        For the record, I think atheist is ranked above gay and vegetarian here. In fact, in certain parts of the country it wouldn’t matter if you were a black lesbian atheist psychpath vegetarian so long as you were a Protestant (or Roman catholic as appropriate to street context) black lesbian atheist psychpath vegetarian. It’s a question of priorities.

  2. The (by now) familiar mixture of mousse and manure reheated and served up, with a slice of caricature on the side and a dash of inconsistency to top it all off. Yum yum. Ho hum.

    Why am I slightly reminded of Marvin from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe?

    “Reverse primary thrust, Marvin.” That’s what they say to me. “Open airlock number 3, Marvin.” “Marvin, can you pick up that piece of paper?” Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper. ‘

  3. Joseph,

    It seems that in a lot of your posts, the jumping off point is an objection to a particular atheist, or a particular type of New atheist, or somesuch understandable and arguably justifiable starting point, but that you very soon lapse into just talking about ‘atheism’. I need hardly point out, I’m sure that this segue from the particular to the general all but renders the latter pointless, and it is virtually impossible to address, being, er, straw.

    To add, it seems to be there are at least a couple of other fallacies lurking in there. Were one to adopt your argument that atheism is not like being a woman, or black, or gay (ie something one can’t change) and is therefore a weak basis to bring up discrimination, I suggest you hop into your time machine and go back a few decades to McCarthyism.

    Finally, I find your otherwize intelligent as usual discourse somewhat inconsistent with another recent post, since it sounds a bit like what Dawkins said to Rebecca Watson (‘you/they have nothing to ‘really’ complain about) and I’m sure you wouldn’t endorse that.🙂

    Luckily, atheism is not reliant on the New Oxonian for its survival.

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