I’m a fan of PZ Myers, I follow his blog, I’ve seen him speak, and while I don’t always agree with him, I find him to be generally, pretty consistent. And even when I don’t agree with someone, if they seem to be at least sticking to a certain logic I can respect that.
But then there is his almost visceral hatred of everything Stedman. As an ‘accommodationalist’ myself, I’m always somewhat at a loss when it comes to this. I would never be surprised if Dawkins or Harris ran Stedman through with a rhetorical lance, but with PZ it always seems… strangely inconsistent.
Why? Well, let’s take Dawkins argument that religious indoctrination of children is child abuse. Dawkins makes it clear in his book, that he doesn’t mean parents teaching their kids about cuddly-jesus, loving jesus, is abuse. Dawkins is referring the teaching kids about hellfire, and eternal torment for doubting god, being a homosexual, or even masturbating.
And you know, I actually agree, this can be abusive. Not every kid will react the same to this sort of teaching, but it will and does affect some kids in a very damaging way. So, yes, abuse is a valid way to describe it.
Here is the thing. If we were talking about child sexual abuse, or even adult rape, people like PZ and the Atheismplus types, would be all about ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘safe spaces’ and listening to the victim of the abuse and not mocking them.
And when it comes to people who have overcome religious abuse from their past, people who now identify as atheists, it is all good. You’re part of the A-team. But when it comes to the victims, who are still suffering, who haven’t freed themselves from the yoke of religion….
Those victims… are stupid, ignorant and foolish. They deserve to have their identity mocked and ridiculed, all in the name of some sort of atheist tough-love, designed to shake them to their senses.
This sort of tough-love may even work for some people. I’ve talked with more than a few atheists who say they were converted by people like Dawkins and PZ pounding on the gates of religion. But religion is not just institutions, it is people, and not everyone responds to tough-love. Sometimes ridiculing a person’s identity, however self-damaging that identity might be, is just as abusive, just as damaging to their psyche. And to no good result.
I tend to see these religious people, the ones still suffering, like alcoholics, or other addicts. Yes, I think as atheists, we need to try and contain the damage these people can do to others and themselves. But my accommodationalism (I can’t speak for Stedman) is about listening to them, and trying to help them find their way. Not trying to force my way on them, or mocking them for not being a tough proud atheist, like me. Strident atheism is not toxic to me, but it can be to others, just like alcohol affects people differently.
I drink on occasion, and fortunately, I can take it or leave it. It’s not because I’m stronger or better than those who become alcoholics, I’m just lucky. It doesn’t mean I’m going to offer an alcoholic a drink, or make excuses when they drink and drive. But addiction is a disease. And whether people are abusing alcohol or faith, they need our help, not our scorn.
I think the ‘atheism movement’ needs to makes reasonable accommodations for minorities, women, and even theists. Accommodation doesn’t mean these groups, or any others, should get the final word… dealing with the world around us is a work in progress. We need all the help we can get. The important part to ‘reasonable accommodation’ is the word ‘reasonable’. Not everyone is going to agree on what that means, but trying to see through the eyes of others is never a bad thing.