Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

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Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Admin on Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:12 am

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The goals of the New Atheists

Post  Eric on Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:54 pm

One goal of the New Atheists is that of raising awareness to mainstream atheism. They have been much more effective than the Secular Humanist movement which languished in obscurity for about 3 decades with an approach that was much more accommodationist in tone. In that time we saw the rise of the religious right in this country to the highest levels of power.

The New Atheism was a backlash against the rise of religious extremism(foreign and domestic) that has put atheism "on the map". They did it without being polite and now the beginnings of acceptance are in the air. Now atheism has it's own section in major book store chains, TV personality Bill Maher is an open atheist with the successful movie on atheism "Religulous" to his credit, and non-believers were referenced in President Obama's inauguration address.

Making a lot of noise, and yes, being controversial gets you attention and respect. The polite approach alone has been tried and it hasn't worked. The New Atheists have changed the conversation in America for the better and I for one am very grateful for that.

Another point on this debate. It has occurred to me that both the accommodationist and "confrontationist" approaches work best together than either one does alone in a sort of "good cop/bad cop" way. I even heard Dawkins say in a Q&A posted on YouTube recently that both approaches had their place (he referred to accommodationism as the "seductive" approach). Thoughts?
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Ridicule as a weapon of choice

Post  TheTrueScotsman on Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:01 pm

I am a long time listener but this is the first time I have posted in the forum. So hello.

I was interested that little or no mention was made in this episode about the power of ridicule in effectively influencing, not the subject of the ridicule, but the bystander or waverer who is being influenced by the subject. In ridiculing someone like Robertson or Comfort then we surely prick their pomposity and undermine their arguments, and therefore the general public are less likely to accept their positions.

The other side use ridicule very effectively. When Ken Hamm puts up a picture of a chimp with lipstick and pearls and says "Did your grandmother look like this" then it makes it difficult for anyone to admit (at least superficially) to listening to those stupid evolutionists. Peer pressure is a very effective tool at moulding minds, especially younger ones, and if we remove ridicule from the armoury is makes it harder to reach certain people.

Rational, reasonable argument is only effective when both parties are willing to be reasonable and rational.

I'd be interested to see what the literature says about this.

Also, people like PZ and Dawkins and Hitchins etc, may just be preaching to the choir (I would argue they are not) but when they do they galvanize the choir to action and this spawns different people in different approaches and niches.

It annoys me a little that this spat is going on as the ambitions of both sides are the same - a limiting of "faith" and a promotion of rationality and secular values. Surely there is ample room for both approaches.

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The power of ridicule

Post  Eric on Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:06 pm

TheTrueScotsman wrote:I was interested that little or no mention was made in this episode about the power of ridicule in effectively influencing, not the subject of the ridicule, but the bystander or waverer who is being influenced by the subject. In ridiculing someone like Robertson or Comfort then we surely prick their pomposity and undermine their arguments, and therefore the general public are less likely to accept their positions.

The other side use ridicule very effectively. When Ken Hamm puts up a picture of a chimp with lipstick and pearls and says "Did your grandmother look like this" then it makes it difficult for anyone to admit (at least superficially) to listening to those stupid evolutionists. Peer pressure is a very effective tool at moulding minds, especially younger ones, and if we remove ridicule from the armoury is makes it harder to reach certain people.
Good points. I remember hearing(maybe on RD) that the Mormon Church is very secretive of their more loopy beliefs because they are rightly afraid of becoming a national laughing stock. They understand the power of ridicule. Tom Cruise's over the top antics hasn't helped Scientology's reputation any either. They fight fiercely against ridicule by trying to ban embarrassing videos of Cruise leaked on YouTube.

Steven Novella at NeuroLogica Blog wrote about this in the comments for his blog post Concern Trolls and Free Speech Nazis:
The literature shows that most people most of the time do not respond to intellectual arguments. They respond to peer-pressure. This is not a judgment – it is the interpretation of the psychological literature.

One might then argue that making a belief socially acceptable or socially ridiculed might be an effective strategy – especially for those on the fence.
Ridicule and mockery has it's place and I don't think we should just dismiss this strategy of swaying people to our side.
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:11 am

Eric wrote: Now atheism has it's own section in major book store chains, TV personality Bill Maher is an open atheist with the successful movie on atheism "Religulous" to his credit, and non-believers were referenced in President Obama's inauguration address.
Bill Maher isn't an atheist. He's specifically stated that he does believe in a force but he isn't sure if he should call it God. Maher is probably closer to being like a deist. Maher also believes in a lot of superstitious woo and anti-vaccine pseudoscience. He doesn't even believe in the germ theory so I'm not sure Maher is the best example of a skeptical rationalist.


The other side use ridicule very effectively. When Ken Hamm puts up a picture of a chimp with lipstick and pearls and says "Did your grandmother look like this" then it makes it difficult for anyone to admit (at least superficially) to listening to those stupid evolutionists. Peer pressure is a very effective tool at moulding minds, especially younger ones, and if we remove ridicule from the armoury is makes it harder to reach certain people.
On the other hand, there are plenty of instances where the Right uses ridicule but it doesn't work very effectively. Case in point is the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party frequently invokes Godwin's law in debate to ridicule Obama but outside of their own conspiracy theorists, is the Tea Party really successfully convincing anyone that Obama is a Nazi who was secretly born in Kenya? Sometimes when you use the same joke too many times it also becomes stale and predictable. Godwin's law may have started out as a harmless joke but now it's just an annoying ad hom argument (expect when the Doubtcasters use it, of course). There's also a certain talent to ridicule. You have to have a certain skill to use it effectively. Simply calling someone stupid or delusional may be ridicule but how many people can say they've had their minds changed because someone called them an idiot? On the other hand, Julia Sweeney has stated in past interviews I've heard her in on the FFRF podcast that even many Christians enjoy her comedy show because she's using comedy to critique religion and it sort of softens the criticism to make them less defensive to it but I think she can pull it off more effectively than the PZ examples the Doubtcasters used because she's a professional comedian and knows how to use ridicule in an effective way that gets everyone on board with her. I don't think there's anything wrong with using ridicule in itself and ridicule can be helpful at times but you just can't say any offensive thing that pops in your mind and expect it to work. It's an art form you have to perfect.

Another problem I have with the confrontationalist approach is not only the tone of its argument but many of the arguments some anti-theist use are simply inaccurate history and bad biblical scholarship. Like many anti-theistic atheists presume fundamentalist Christianity was the original true version of Christianity and any other interpretation of the bible is wrong and any accomandationists are just cherry picking. They make the mistake in assuming that expect for maybe a few heretics who tried to hijack Christianity throughout the centuries, the history of the church has been mostly straightforward and linear. Like on the question of the Trinity, they might presume Christians have always believed in the Trinity since the beginning of the religion, that it was clearly taught in the bible, and they might even think Jesus believed he was God himself. Yet they are either unaware of or blatantly ignore the fact that the Trinity is actually a later Christian belief. There were multiple views of the nature of Jesus in the early church and not all Christians have thought the same way. But since the doctrine of the Trinity is the most popular belief in modern Christianity, these atheists jump to the automatic conclusion that Christianity must have always thought that way and any Christian who doesn't believe in the Trinity isn't a real Christian. Not only is that being dismissive to non-Trinitian Christians, it's blatantly ignoring what real historical facts have proved to us about the history of the faith. I think the danger of confrontationalism is that many anti-theists presume that because an argument is being made against Christianity, it must therefore be correct, but there are such things as good arguments and bad arguments against Christianity and we need to be careful in not presuming that because something is an argument against religion, we should automatically be for it. That's one of the reasons why I haven't hopped on board the New Atheist bandwagon because to be perfectly blunt as someone who loves religious history and cares about facts, I frankly find that the New Atheists have bad historical scholarship and even Wikipedia has more accurate history than Dawkins.

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Straw men

Post  Eric on Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:36 am

Neon Genesis wrote:Bill Maher isn't an atheist. He's specifically stated that he does believe in a force but he isn't sure if he should call it God. Maher is probably closer to being like a deist. Maher also believes in a lot of superstitious woo and anti-vaccine pseudoscience. He doesn't even believe in the germ theory so I'm not sure Maher is the best example of a skeptical rationalist.
Bill Maher's movie "Religulous" is a skeptical critique of religion. As far as I know he doesn't believe in God and has had many of the New Atheists on his show whom he seems to agree with for the most part. Now he's deist? Really? Where does that come from? Well, if that's true, he still hasn't changed his views on religion. Regarding his other positions of pseudoscience, I'm well aware of but didn't mention them. I only meant to address his anti-religious stance and contributions in that area. I never said that he is "the best example of a skeptical rationalist" so don't put words in my mouth. He has some good ideas and some bad ones. I feel the ideas stand or fall on their own merits and the bad ones shouldn't discredit the good ones.


Last edited by Eric on Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:38 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Sat Jul 10, 2010 3:56 am

Quotes from Maher on his religious views http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Maher#Views_on_religion
Maher has stated on Politically Incorrect, Real Time, and in several appearances on Larry King Live, viewpoints that can variously be interpreted as a kind of deism or agnosticism. He has stated that religion is nothing more than tradition and superstition. In 2002, he told the Onion AV Club, "I'm not an atheist. There's a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn't believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don't need. But I'm not an atheist, no. I believe there's some force. If you want to call it God... I don't believe God is a single parent who writes books."[36] He asserts that religion provides answers to questions that "cannot possibly be answered." Questions such as "Where do I go when I die?" or "Is there a heaven?", he says, are impossible to answer. By claiming to have the answers, Maher argues, religion is dishonest and it "stops people from thinking."

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  TheTrueScotsman on Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:36 am

Neon Genesis:

Simply calling someone stupid or delusional may be ridicule but how many people can say they've had their minds changed because someone called them an idiot?

I don't disagree at all. I made the point that ridicule will probably entrench the subject and their true-believers but it works on those waverers and doubters; it undermines the subject's pedestal.

Its why kings and tyrants and popes try to ban mockery.

Quick edit: I remembered this video. Is this confrontational?
http://adam-buxton.com/ad/wp-content/ANEWPOPE2SCRENDER.mp4

Should atheists and non-believers refrain from such parodies because it is likely to offend the Catholics?


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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:40 am

But then in the Four Hoursemen videos, Daniel Dennet stated that the majority of complaints he gets are actually from his atheist readers rather than believers, so is it really effective in winning support of doubters?

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  TheTrueScotsman on Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:51 am

I would imagine the majority of Dennett's readers are atheistic (or at least sympathetic), so the majority of complainants would come from there too.

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Bill Maher

Post  Eric on Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:46 am

I'm aware that Maher has made a distinction between atheism and agnosticism that I don't agree with. It's the classic mistake of saying atheism is another form of faith blah blah blah... He stresses that God is unknowable which is agnosticism. I don't get deism from any of the quotes you cite. For all practical purposes he's a non-believer in religion and the personable god of faith. He's promotes the New Atheists and publicly challenges people's religious certainties. I'll take it as a form of raising awareness which is what I originally wrote about.
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Sat Jul 10, 2010 8:21 pm

Eric wrote: I don't get deism from any of the quotes you cite.
This quote here
I believe there's some force. If you want to call it God...

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Rationalist

Post  Eric on Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:31 am

Yeah... I read that... I'm sorry, it's just too vague. He could just as well mean Einstein's god or something which is a poetic way to describe natural law.

Here's a short video clip of Maher on Larry King talking about "Religulous". In it he aligns himself with "rationalists" which he describes as "people who don't believe in something supernatural..." which rules out deism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqo1a1CTf8w

Unless he has since then specifically self identified as deist, I'm not buying it.

In an attempt to bring this back on topic... while searching YouTube I found many clips of new atheists on Bill Maher's show on HBO and he's definitely a fan Dawkins, Hitches, and Harris. You'll find no greater examples of religious ridicule than Maher gets on the subject, I put him up there with Carlin on that front. The title of his movie "Religulous" sums it up perfectly.
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Eric on Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:06 pm

Coincidentally, PZ Myers just posted on this topic over at Pharyngula, The Sunday Sacrilege: The Joke. Or maybe he's a listener to RD and felt compelled to post on this, after all, he was mentioned a lot in the podcast. You won't be surprised that he defends the value of ridicule...
Here's another example of a religious absurdity: Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi of Iran announced that women dressing immodestly cause earthquakes, and even used the fear of divine wrath to threaten Iranian people with death "under the rubble" if they didn't get on board with the theocratic policy of oppressing women. ...

... Jen McCreight did something different: she called for a boobquake, suggesting that women dress immodestly (by Iranian cleric standards) on a specific day, and invite God to smite the planet with earthquakes…a suggestion that would only be made in confidence that Seddiqi's claim was baseless. And it was a phenomenon. Boobquake was picked up by news media around the world, got millions to pay attention, and effectively highlighted the silliness of a religious claim. It was media-savvy and human-psychology-savvy — it used humor, sex, and fun to make a serious point interesting, and led people to look at the science of earthquakes. Did it make hordes of Muslims convert to atheism? Of course not. But it did make an Islamic authority look a bit more ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
Overall it's an fairly even handed piece on this debate where he acknowledges the value of both approaches...
Both sides are wrong, and both sides are right, and there sure aren't many people standing at either extreme. You can reason some people out of indoctrination, and slow and patient instruction can win people over to atheism. I know some of them; they write to me and tell me that something I said actually led them to think through their position. ...

...Sometimes you can reason people out of deeply held beliefs. But it helps if first you stir their discontent with those beliefs, if you wake them up to the fact that they look ridiculous…and that yes, there is a whole group of people who are laughing at them.
This plays to what I mentioned earlier about the "good cop/bad cop" strategy as being most effective.
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:04 pm

But again, ridicule is an art. The ridicule has to be actually funny to work effectively. But even then, as PZ Meyers points out, the only people it might convince are people who are already prone to side with them to begin with. I don't know any atheist who was convinced to convert to fundamentalist Christianity because they watched Ben Stein ridicule evolution in Expelled. Likewise, I don't know of any Catholics who deconverted to atheism because of PZ Meyers' transubstantiation shenanigans.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Expat Lib on Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:22 am

First off, great podcast. I've been a listener for a while now, but I've never posted here before. This episode really made me want to join the conversation.

As several of the other comments state, I think both the Accommodationists and the "Confrontationalists" are necessary voices in the atheist movement, but not just because of the "good cop/ bad cop" argument. Logic and reason aren't the only things you need to impart real change on society. Society needs to be in a place to accept that logic and reason. Atheists have had the logic and reason argument on their side for years, but I think they've been on the loosing side of being in a spot where society is able to accept them. As PZ said in his post (mentioned in a previous comment), you can't reason someone away from a belief that they didn't reason themselves into.

I see the new "confrontationalist" atheists as trying to change the culture more than change someone's mind. Openly mocking religion, I think, is proving itself to be a useful tool in that regard.

I think the racism analogy used in the podcast was particularly apt. At one point in history, believing people are inferior based on race was the norm. At some point, the culture changed to a degree where it was more normal to consider such a belief stupid. I don't think it got that way because anti-racists sat down for logical debates with racists. Another example may be the perception of homosexuality. The public perception still has a long way to go, but just a couple of decades ago it was considered a disease. Some of the change in in the culture could be attributed to "accommodationism" with homophobes, but a lot of the change has been driven by comedians and pundits who laughed at homophobia's stupidity.

I think the new atheists are shooting for the long term. They're not trying to change anyone's mind. They're trying to sew the seeds that will eventually change the default perception of theism.

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More on goals

Post  Eric on Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:27 am

Expat Lib wrote:I see the new "confrontationalist" atheists as trying to change the culture more than change someone's mind. Openly mocking religion, I think, is proving itself to be a useful tool in that regard.
Exactly. This goes to my point of raising awareness to get mainstream acceptance and respect for the atheist community. The accommodationist approach wasn't getting the job done by itself. Like it was pointed out in the podcast, it depends on what your goals are. Converting hardcore believers isn't the only goal.

Another goal is neutralizing a potential threat's influence. Think of Sarah Palin. After she made a total ass of herself on TV Tina Fey hilariously mocked and ridiculed her and helped turn her into a national laughing stock. Did that change many of Palin's core supporters minds about her? No, they're more fanatical than ever. But, her reputation among moderate voters was damaged beyond repair. So bad that Palin may have destroyed McCain's chances of winning. I've seen polls that show that even Republicans who like her realize that she's unelectable and don't support her for President. Palin's core supporters still love her, but her ability to influence fence sitters has been effectively neutralized thanks to the power of ridicule.
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:17 pm

If ridicule is free game, can we ridicule Dawkins and co. too? I love this parody of Dawkins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFXIALf9zDA

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Even more on goals

Post  Expat Lib on Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:30 pm

Think of Sarah Palin. After she made a total ass of herself on TV Tina Fey hilariously mocked and ridiculed her and helped turn her into a national laughing stock. Did that change many of Palin's core supporters minds about her? No, they're more fanatical than ever. But, her reputation among moderate voters was damaged beyond repair. So bad that Palin may have destroyed McCain's chances of winning.

I think my step mother might be a good case-in-point regarding this. She is a die-hard republican, and she probably would have not considered Palin a serious threat. She's also, however, a great barometer for society as a whole. After the election she was a little worried about an Obama presidency, but a direct quote was: "we have to make sure that woman [Palin] never gets elected to office." She's also a 30 Rock and SNL fan.

As for the Dawkins video, I think I've seen it before. I do love the image of the dancing Darwin. Who made it? It's obviously too slick to be something cobbled together in some guy's basement. Still, it seems like an appeal to ignorance. The main theme is that Dawkins thinks he's better than you because he has a PhD. I mean, in terms of an understanding of evolutionary biology, he is better than me. He's a (former) professor from Oxford. I might be better than him at other things, but in terms of understanding the complexities of how organisms evolved, I'm pretty sure he is better than me. I mean if I felt slighted by a pilot of a 747, I don't think I could feel good about making a video that rapped, "so you think you're good at flying the plane, do you think I can't do the same?"

I do think the "new atheist" community is open to this sort of criticism. In fact, I'm pretty sure when I saw it before, it was linked to either PZ's blog or Dawkins' site.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:16 pm

I don't get the impression the video was attacking Dawkins for having a PHd but for how Dawkins brags about his intelligence and his arrogant personality.

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Balance etc. on Mooney

Post  danceswithanxiety on Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:38 pm

I thought this was another missed opportunity to raise a couple of concerns that don't get enough attention in the context of "confrontationalism" versus "accommodationism."

1) So much of the discussion seems to assume that all the meanness worth discussing comes from atheists. This is absurd and, by now, tiresome. We need to stop encouraging it and start interrogating and stopping it. What do I mean?

I mean this: how many times do theists have to shout -- in print, on radio, from the pulpit, on tee-vee, from roadside signs -- that atheists (among others) will burn in hell forever, and justly -- justly because the very founder of the universe has authorized it and seen to it -- before it will be seen as a harsh, unkind, brutal, unspeakably nasty thing to say?? The first several billion instances of this haven't closed the deal? Add in the not-rare theological view that the saved will watch the damned from heaven and it underscores the callous barbarity of it. Or pick a different example -- certain Muslim fanatics are fond of telling us all how much suffering we deserve and how certainly we'll get it from Allah because we [don't hate gay people enough, let women drive cars, whatever.]

And yet we have to spin our wheels and gasp and swoon and reach for the smelling salts over and over again because Chris Hitchens is sometimes abrasive in public and because Richard Dawkins said "faith-head"?

It takes at least two to make a conflict. If you want to cast around and swat at "uncivil" discourse, please do us all the favor of looking at ALL SIDES and noticing its many forms and manifestations. To do less is lazy and unhelpful. Discussions of civility that look at only one side are nothing but special pleading.

2) One of the brilliant insights of Martin Luther King Jr's letter from a Birmingham jail is that confrontation -- in his case peaceful but persistent resistance -- forces people on the fence to take a side. They can no longer wish away the ideas at stake. They can no longer go blithely along as though nothing of consequence is being fought out. No, being in-your-face will not convince a lot people -- it certainly won't convince those most directly opposed -- but it confronts the wider world with the necessity of dealing with the questions raised, and some of those will look past the rhetoric and try to understand what's really going on. This will favor the side that favors truth.

His example also illustrates that "nasty" and "confrontation" and "aggression" are very much in the eye of the beholder, and very much sewn into the wider conflict, not extrinsic to it. I guarantee you that segregationist whites in the 1950s were sincerely convinced MLK Jr. was set to destroy their way of life despite his frequent protestations that he was peaceful, well-meaning, harmless, etc. Today's example would be the social conservatives who think the mere visibility of gay people represents an existential threat. They're deluded, but they're not playing a rhetorical game when they say things like that. Trying to find sequences of words that will cause them to forget that homosexuality is a threat to their closest ideals is a waste of time, and while you're wasting that time, they are wrecking the lives of people, and trying to do more of the same. So sure, be "nice," especially if you want to convince someone of this or that, but don't overlook the fact that for some portion of the "other side," there is and shall never be a "nice" way to present atheism, evolution, neuroscience, nanotechnology, or non-theistic accounts of cosmology. Never. Yes, that is bleak, but it's also true -- and we can see it.

There are people alive today who have never sincerely accepted racial equality. They were raised with a different view, and that view was bound up with their sense of identity. However, partly through ridicule -- yes, ridicule! Sharp comments! Saying unkind things about their view with full throat and/or pointing out that the people who hold that view are complete assholes who are on the wrong side of things!! -- they have come to understand that it's just not worth the trouble to, say, insert the N-word into every conversation. They've come to realize that large numbers of people will think they are risible, despicable racists for doing so. This is valuable not because their minds have been changed -- as I said, in many cases, their minds have NOT been changed -- but because it clears the discursive field of that kind of hateful junk, and therefore everyone else experiences a social world in which that kind of racist thinking is harder and harder to find, and when it is found it is coded as "deviant," and therefore it is harder and harder to imbibe and embrace that view of the world and self. It is no longer the air many people breath because, in no small part, it has been so mercilessly heckled, hectored, and scorned out of existence. In short, RIDICULE and VITRIOL CAN WORK. We have all seen it. It has a place, though it is not the only means (who, by the way, says otherwise?).

Yes, the psychological barriers to changing minds with derision and harshness are strong and not to be ignored, but this means we need to be smarter and more determined in how we proceed. Taking perfectly functional methods off the table is foolish.

3) You should have asked Mooney if he can cite any research that Templeton has funded that has resulted in anti-accommodationist findings. I am not saying this has never happened -- maybe? -- I'm just saying I would be stunned if it has ever happened. And if it did, did the researcher continue to work with them in good standing? Mooney is not lying when he says they're not dictating his research or his findings. What he (and apparently, the RD guys? Guys?) don't seem to notice is that Templeton doesn't need to tell Mooney what to say because he's already saying it. They picked him and gave him money, encouragement, and social capital because he was already singing the song they want to hear -- he has already started with their preferred assumptions, and has already shown a strong penchant for arriving at their preferred conclusions.

4) You were very kind in allowing Mooney to weasel his way out of answering the perfectly valid question about scientifically studying intercessionary prayer. He started babbling about how difficult it might be to set up a proper experiment. Really, Chris Mooney? That's your answer? That some experiments are set up better than others? That is NOT an answer to the actual question at hand.

I love the Reasonable Doubts show and I always listen. I appreciate the civilized tone in which you conduct yourselves -- clearly better than I would do. I offer this as a "fan" of the show in the spirit of constructive criticism.

Thanks.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:37 pm

I agree that in comparison to the extremists of the Religious Right, the New Atheists are practically cute little fluffy bunnies. I certainly don't think the New Atheists are the atheist equivalent of the fundamentalists and as I've said in previous posts, I'm not against all forms of ridicule and I think it can be used effectively like in comedy acts etc. My problem though is when the New Atheists go after moderate Christians who are minding their own business and not hurting anyone at all. Even putting aside the whole argument if we should be nice or not, Sam Harris' argument moderate faith simply makes no sense and he doesn't even back it up with any sort of evidence at all. By attacking moderates, the New Atheists are also ignoring many of the good Christians who care about secularism as much as we do and are out there also fighting the good fight. Yes, there are some cases where moderate Christians enable fundamentalists like when Obama defended the National Day of Prayer, but for every Obama out there, there's another Reverend Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance who spoke out against the National Day of Prayer and that reverend guy who's the leader of Americans United was also against it.

In fact, there's lots of religious people who are members of groups like the ACLU and Americans United who's leader is in fact a Christian. There's also Christian denominations out there who defend gay rights, feminism and abortion rights, and defenders of science. To attack all moderates as being enablers of fundamentalists is not only dismissing all the potential allies who exist out there that are just as instrumental in the fight for secularism as the New Atheists are, it's also stereotyping. Just because the Religious Right stereotypes atheists doesn't mean we should fall into the trap of stereotyping religious people ourselves. The way I see the issue of ridicule is that it's like political satire. Nobody would object to political satire that parodies politicians. Political satire is a perfectly legitimate form of ridicule that also doubles as a powerful social commentary. At the same time, even though we all recognize the value of satire, that doesn't mean you should go out and make crude and offensive photoshopped images of Obama as a witch doctor just because it's ridicule. It may be ridicule but I doubt many would argue that makes it justifiable to draw racist political cartoons.

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Reverend Jackass

Post  Eric on Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:47 pm

Sam Harris' point is that when religious moderates say, "My faith is a virtue and you can't question it" they are fighting against the very notion of a direct challenge to religion. It's still taboo in our society to question faith and the moderates are all to happy to uphold this taboo. As soon as any bozo like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or Al Sharpton puts Reverend in front of their name they have instant status and respect. Even though moderates may hate the Pat Robertson's of the world, they indirectly enable them by helping to create an atmosphere that says it's wrong to question faith. This makes sense to me and it needs to be said.
At the same time, even though we all recognize the value of satire, that doesn't mean you should go out and make crude and offensive photoshopped images of Obama as a witch doctor just because it's ridicule.
Dude, of course not, that goes without saying. Likewise, just because I support free speech and free expession for all, that doesn't mean I agree with racist speech.
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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:08 pm

Again, you're stereotyping moderates by lumping them all in this one monolithic group as if they all think alike. Show me a survey that says the majority of moderates don't want atheists to question their religion. Until then, you're just stereotyping and putting words into moderates' mouths. Again, I never said there are no moderates who enable fundamentalists. I said to claim they all enable fundamentalists is no different than the stereotyping the Religious Right does. It's playing the guilty by association card when moderates should be assume innocent until proven guilty. This is the kind of thing that I disagree with the New Atheists on. Sam Harris makes these claims but he fails to back them up with any sort of evidence like surveys or quotes from moderate Christians saying not to challenge their faith. On the other hand, I have the opposite evidence that very recently, the Cathedral of Hope which is the largest liberal LGBT Christian church in the U.S., recently had a sermon defending atheism. You can view the sermon online here but the New Atheists just ignore this kind of thing because it inconveniently contradicts their narrative. It's easier to argue a strawman version of moderate Christians instead of actually arguing what they really argue. The sermon is entitled Atheism The Way Of Reason which you can also download in podcast form from iTunes: http://cathedralofhope.com/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=203

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Generally speaking

Post  Eric on Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:26 pm

Sam Harris isn't saying all moderates do this. He's saying that generally speaking most do and this is evident due to the fact that we live in a society where it's taboo to question faith. Are you saying we don't? No one is saying every single religious person does this. You're the one creating straw men. I'm glad to hear that church defends atheists. They have my full support and I am sure Sam Harris would be approving of this stance of theirs.

If Harris doesn't specifically say, "I'm not saying every single last moderate is the same on this matter... " it's because he assumes we are intelligent enough to understand that, that it goes without saying.
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