2015-10-05

Glenn Greenwald talks about the New Atheists

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

This is a “watch this space” post — PZ Myers has posted his own paraphrase of some points on the following discussion on his blog and I expect to be make my own notes to place here on Vridar asap.

The line that caught my eye was “New Atheists are engaging in rank tribalism. See Ashley Miller.” (I recently posted a reference to Ashley’s post here, as some readers will know.)

Updated 6th Oct 2015:– follow up post at Sam Harris: Intellectual Coward or Misrepresented Victim?

 

56 Comments

  • John MacDonald
    2015-10-05 23:54:23 UTC - 23:54 | Permalink

    I like the point Avalos makes when he indicates the first wave of New Atheists (Harris and company) was largely unimpressive because they didn’t have the background to take on religion, but the new wave of Atheists also consist of highly trained biblical scholars that have the ability to deconstruct religion.

  • 2015-10-06 00:49:18 UTC - 00:49 | Permalink

    The irony is that that was posted on Freethoughtblogs, the world leader in atheist tribalism. In many ways, what Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, etc. are engaging in is atheist anti-tribalism.

    • Gavin
      2015-10-06 03:42:17 UTC - 03:42 | Permalink

      Aside from the relative diversity of their backgrounds, what would you say makes them anti-tribalistic? I’ve often found their supporters to be dogmatically intolerant of criticism of their heroes; but but never found Dennett, say, to be dogmatic in any way (in fact, his pre-“New Atheist” work has been highly formative). “New Atheism” seems like an arbitrary label for those united just in their opposition to religious extremism, but has become a tribalistic banner.

    • C Murdock
      2015-10-06 03:50:12 UTC - 03:50 | Permalink

      @ E. Harding

      It really stretches credibility to me that people from the Myers, etc. camp accuse people like Harris, Coyne, etc. of “tribalism”, when you consider that it is the former who keep coming up with labels to rally behind (such as “Atheism Plus”, or “New Atheism” which Avalos explicitly identifies as). By contrast, Christopher Hitchens rejected the term “New Atheist”, saying he was no different from his predecessors, and iirc (correct me if I’m wrong) Harris is even reluctant to call himself an atheist out of an aversion toward identifying labels. My personal impression is that there’s a lot more groupthink, rallying for the cause, and pushing of the Atheist Agenda (speaking as an atheist myself) from the Myers, etc. than from the Harris, etc. who are more interested in talking about other issues like science education.

      • Dutch Delight
        2015-10-08 12:25:59 UTC - 12:25 | Permalink

        @C. Murdock

        It is the former who keep coming up with labels to rally behind (such as “Atheism Plus”, or “New Atheism”

        “New Atheism” is a label made up by religiously inclined people, and most non believers don’t particularly care for it. It didn’t come from PZ (et al), or FTB
        in any way, shape or form, nor was it ever endorsed as a label to rally behind. At best you could say that the label has stuck in the general press, which is why it has a lot of recognition, and it still gets used in lots of places because of that.

        You are repeating misinformation, or are making things up yourself.

        “Atheism Plus” is not a PZ (et al) initiative, nor did the FTB network endorse it, at best the contributors gave their individual opinions, as FTB is about opinions…
        *gasp* *shock* *horror*

        Why did you come here and lie C. Murdock?

        • MosesZD
          2015-10-16 19:53:55 UTC - 19:53 | Permalink

          They absolutely came up with Atheism Plus and they absolutely did endorse it. And when it failed, they pretended otherwise.

          Myers supported it on his blog. Jen McCreight founded it (on her blog). All the big name bloggers supported it. Richard Carrier made long tour-de-force video where he claimed he’d be the ‘intellectual artillery’ of the movement during his ‘you’re with us or scum’ speech.

          It’s just a flat-out lie to pretend this was an FTB baby.

          • John Greg
            2015-10-18 18:05:50 UTC - 18:05 | Permalink

            You mean to say, It’s just a flat-out lie to pretend this WASN’T an FTB baby.

  • anon
    2015-10-06 08:56:58 UTC - 08:56 | Permalink

    Response to a comment made in video about Wahabism—-
    Wahabism may predate U.S. intervention—but not colonialism (“Western” intervention)

    from Wiki—“The Wahhabi mission started as a revivalist movement in the remote, arid region of Najd. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the Al Saud dynasty, and with it Wahhabism, spread to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. After the discovery of petroleum near the Persian Gulf in 1939, it had access to oil export revenues, revenue that grew to billions of dollars. This money—spent on books, media, schools, universities, mosques, scholarships, fellowships, lucrative jobs for journalists, academics and Islamic scholars—gave Wahabism a “preeminent position of strength” in Islam around the world.”

    (—the above misses the geopolitical rivalry between Saudi and Iran–which according to some scholars was one motivating factor of spreading Wahabism—and thus Saudi soft-power/influence to the Muslim-Majority regions….)

    The Tanzimat reforms of the Ottoman Empire began around 1839 (Meiji restoration (a Modernizing effort) in Japan was around 1868…and other countries in the East also responded similarly….) These were “Modernizing efforts” in response to Western colonization projects…..these Modernizing movements and colonial projects in turn brought about a revivalist/anticolonial response from some Muslims….such as….
    http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/book/islam-9780195107999/islam-9780195107999-chapter-13
    “Liberation from colonialism was elaborated as an Islamic movement, from Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s (1786–1831) uprising in India in 1826 to the anti-imperialist undertakings of Iran’s Mirza Hasan Shirazi (1815–94) and Shaykh Fadlullah Nuri (1843–1909) or Central Asia’s Imam Shamil (1796–1871), Algeria’s Amir Abd al-Qadir (1808–83), Somaliland’s Muhammad ibn Abdille Hasan (1864–1920), Sudan’s Mahdi (d. 1885), Iran’s Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838–87), or the Tijani jihads (holy wars) in West Africa between the 1780s and the 1880s (the Sokoto caliphate of Uthman dan Fodio [c. 1754–1817] and the revolt of al-Hajj Umar Tal of Futa Toro [c. 1794–1864]). Other “Islamic” movements have included Malaya’s Hizbul Islam (Islamic Party), India’s Jamiat-i Ulama-i Hind (Party of Ulama), Iran’s Shiite ulama in the 1920s, Libya’s Sanusiyyah (led by Umar Mukhtar, 1858–1931), or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim leaders of various intellectual endeavors during the colonial period have included Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), Abul-Kalam Azad (1888–1958), and India’s Mawlana Husain Ahmad Madani (1879–1957) and Mawlana Abul-Ala Mawdudi (1903–79), later of Pakistan. These movements and thinkers were among the first to organize an indiginous anticolonial movement. They articulated anticolonialism in the language of the jihad, relating struggles for liberation to Islam”

    Some of these movements that emerged are labelled as “Purists” because they are based on a revisionist utopian idea that there was such a thing as “Pure” Islam in the Early days….and that if Muslims went back to it their problems would be solved…..This stems from the question of why Muslims who were a world power for so long—were no longer so—and the explanation was that they had forgotten the “Pure” Islam….(or something like that..according to some scholars.)

    Modernizing efforts in the East by their own leaders or by the colonizers were not pretty and caused a lot of tensions in the societies….

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-10-06 10:46:37 UTC - 10:46 | Permalink

      We see similar ideas of a longing to return to a time of innocent/purist origins in Hinduism (tied up with Indian nationalism today), early Christian gnostics, the history of the Protestant Reformation, Christian fundamentalists today, and other ideologies, some of them less savoury.

      • David Ashton
        2015-10-06 11:50:42 UTC - 11:50 | Permalink

        The adjective “innocent” has another aspect. The early Hindu scriptures and hierarchies, the militancy of early Islam, the contradiction between Biblical Protestantism and the emerging Enlightenment, had their downsides.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2015-10-06 11:10:51 UTC - 11:10 | Permalink

    I have just finished listening to the video discussion. Early they explain that the interview is a follow up to another video that they recommend we watch for context: https://www.facebook.com/SecularTalk/videos/854338584635789/

    I have not seen that earlier video yet. But I have taken some notes and quotations from the Greenwald discussion and hope to write them up and post here soon.

    I have given very little attention to Sam Harris since reading his two books, End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. So I was interested to hear Glen Greenwald’s take on why so much controversy surrounds him — AND ……

    What Greenwald says certainly explains something I have had a difficult time in grasping — that is, why people like Coel and others have gone to such lengths to accuse me or any critic of Sam Harris as lying or misquoting him.

    Another interesting snippet was when Glen Greenwald found it hard for a while to understand why some people said they loved what he wrote as well as what Dawkins and Harris were writing and could not understand why they disagreed with each other so strongly. Interesting — because I’ve had a few similar comments from some readers: people who like what I write as well as what Dawkins and Harris say and cannot understand why I appear to disagree with the New Atheists so vehemently.

    But back to Sam Harris — I am now quite suspicious about what might lie behind Harris’s apparent modification of his views. I should begin to take closer note of what he writes as well as his Muslim colleague with whom he collaborated on his latest book.

    Also loved especially the last 15 or 20 minutes discussing the NSA and Snowden.

    • Al
      2015-10-06 11:35:44 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

      I am also suspicious about Harris’ so-called change of heart. I doubt we will see much modification in his future writings. He previously claimed (in 2014) to have changed his mind about the use of force by the US after watching Dirty Wars yet I have not seen any change in his views in that respect since he made that post.

      I think the whole ‘dialogue’ with Nawaz is little more than a publicity stunt that benefits both parties. Harris essentially gets to claim he has a ‘Muslim friend’ and Nawaz gets the profits from the booksales. It’s essentially cashing in on the whole Muslim reform angle that neocons are pushing now; hot on the heels of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s text. The audience is largely new atheist fanbois and neoconservatives not Muslims.

      • AU
        2015-10-06 22:01:37 UTC - 22:01 | Permalink

        As I said in a previous post, I am pretty sure Maajid isn’t a “Muslim” – devout or non-devout – he is as much of a Muslim as Ayaan is, he just doesn’t say he isn’t because then he loses the whole “reformer” credential.

        • Lowen Gartner
          2015-10-06 22:17:48 UTC - 22:17 | Permalink

          What is the problem with Aayan?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-10-06 22:22:06 UTC - 22:22 | Permalink

          People can identify themselves with a religion without being devoutly practicing their faith. In some countries everyone is a Muslim on their identity cards by default. They observe many of the customs but it’s primarily a social thing. This is true of Buddhists, Jews, Christians and Muslims.

          • David Ashton
            2015-10-07 09:56:09 UTC - 09:56 | Permalink

            Quite true that “religious” observance is “primarily social” for many who would identify as Christians and Muslims. This certainly applies to many in the earlier wave of Muslim immigrants to Britain. Muslims are expected to maintain the five pillars, and probably most attempt to do so. For example, Ramadan fasting was almost universal among the Muslim pupils I taught in British schools, and more recent immigrant waves, including imported mullahs, have reinforced these practices and also identity-commitment among young south Asians born and brought up in Britain. I should at a guess think that a majority of self-identified Muslims believe in and pray to Allah, even if they do not all follow the prescribed cleansing rituals before doing so. White converts are devout and dogmatic. Islam binds the religious with the sociopolitical more closely than modern Christianity, although only a tiny minority are actively “violent”.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2015-10-07 10:13:36 UTC - 10:13 | Permalink

              International surveys would be interesting — perhaps some exist on this question. (My own experiences in Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia would lead me to suspect most don’t regularly pray — but formal surveys should be more reliable indicators.)

              • David Ashton
                2015-10-07 10:41:44 UTC - 10:41 | Permalink

                Turkey has had a secularist disposition. The situation may be quite different in the Arab world, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran. Mosque attendance presumably would be a main indicator, and it would perhaps be too much to suppose that many attendees do not actually pray (like my mother on the few occasions she went to church and knelt down, telling me later that she just counted until it seemed the time to get up).

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-10-07 18:47:25 UTC - 18:47 | Permalink

                Three books I have found useful in exploring the undercurrents of this question:

                Muslim Secular Democracy: Voices From Within edited by Lily Zubaidiah Rahim (I’ve posted here on a few of the chapters of her book). Soon after this book was released we had the secular Muslim overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt — which makes a tragic/criminal appendix to the book’s theme.

                Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed (based on a wide range of international polling data — have referred to in a few posts here)

                Inside Muslim Minds by Riaz Hassan (also referenced once or twice here)

              • David Ashton
                2015-10-08 09:19:56 UTC - 09:19 | Permalink

                I have read only the Esposito book which has a certain slant (“vibrant…diversity” & “no compulsion in religion”), even in the sort of questions asked, but contains some useful points, such as the greater desire for free speech as well as better living-standards. Suicide-bombing and the murder of children are not countenanced by the Qur’an, but there are other questions about what it does expect from the “commitment” to Allah and the example of Muhammad PBUH.

                One big issue is how free speech, the abolition of punishment for apostasy, serious criticism of the Qur’an and Hadith, and reducing sectarian conflict, can effectively challenge the established clerical “magisterium” and moderate sharia legislation from indigenous populism. The “west” certainly cannot/should not attempt to impose its “system” by force or corruption, but how can that effective challenge be encouraged?

                Ordinary Muslim families can be very nice people, but their beliefs can hardly be a matter of total indifference to atheists happy about attacking the scriptural foundations of “Judeo-Christianity”.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-10-08 11:08:47 UTC - 11:08 | Permalink

                I wonder — I don’t understand why anyone should care about what “very nice people” believe.

              • David Ashton
                2015-10-08 11:42:39 UTC - 11:42 | Permalink

                Many conservative Christian scripture scholars are nice people.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-10-08 14:55:09 UTC - 14:55 | Permalink

                Same question. Their beliefs are of no concern to me. I’m an atheist, not an anti-theist. Social harmony requires a mutual respect for all beliefs. What people do, regardless of beliefs — now that’s a concern. But there is no concern for “very nice people”.

              • David Ashton
                2015-10-08 21:40:45 UTC - 21:40 | Permalink

                Sorry to labor the point. Some people do things because of their beliefs. Religious belief-systems are not all homologous. Some scriptures contain verses that seem incompatible with the verses of other scriptures, and can arouse hostility towards other communities of believers; e.g. Qur’an, “Take not Jews and Christians as friends”, which may or may not be considered “dated”.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-10-09 02:52:10 UTC - 02:52 | Permalink

                Is there something missing here? We have many “very nice people” who appear to attribute their “very niceness” to their beliefs in X. Yet, as you point out, a few people kill others because (they say) their beliefs in the same X tell them to kill. Same religion, X, we are told by both groups — the many and the few. Many are very nice people; a few are criminals. Both the many and the few apparently tell us their goodness or their badness is the consequence of their common belief in X. Is that really what we are seeing?

                What should we do?

              • David Ashton
                2015-10-09 10:22:07 UTC - 10:22 | Permalink

                What to do? I am not a powerful politician and can only voice personal suggestions on issues of culture clash (e.g. Israel/Palestine). What students of these problems can and must do is try to look into the evidence as thoroughly and objectively as possible (e.g. “search the scriptures”, NT, OT, Qur’an, Hadith, Talmud, &c). It still seems to me that a comparison between the Qur’an and the NT indicates that the former is more militant and less pacifist than the latter, and in post-christian Europe (if not the USA) the residual “unselfish” sentiments of the latter in “left-liberalism” make an unhealthy de facto partnership with the “aggressive” elements of the former.

                I have yet to provide my promised book list relevant to these issues, because currently inundated with other matters, but will do so ASAP (i.e. eventually)!

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-10-09 11:07:17 UTC - 11:07 | Permalink

                Hi David,

                I can read your reply easily on my desk computer but I know that by now some people will be having all sorts of difficulties attempting to read this exchange on a smaller device (especially if forced to hold the device at a certain angle as they lie in bed drifting off to sleep) — so have resumed our exchange below at http://vridar.org/2015/10/05/glenn-greenwald-talks-about-the-new-atheists/#comment-73678

  • Lowen Gartner
    2015-10-06 19:06:24 UTC - 19:06 | Permalink

    From PZ’s summary “these are two people who put progressive values first, and secondarily see religion as frequently opposing those values, instead of making the rejection of religion primary…” Is this the whole point of the criticism of Harris et. al. here and elsewhere? If so, it seems to me to be a distinction without much of a difference as long as the rejection of religion is based on the horrible track record opposing humanist values (why else?). “…which then makes the occasional embrace of illiberal ideas by our side acceptable.” I am not sure what he means by “our side”. If he means A+ what illiberal ideas do those pomoting A+ have that Harris et. al., would reject?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-10-06 20:41:02 UTC - 20:41 | Permalink

      I don’t recall reading PZ’s summary since my interest was in Glenn Greenwald’s responses and I know very little about PZ. I was originally attracted to PZ’s blog as a science information source but other priorities and interests have left me without time to give it much attention — though I think he has written a few posts critiquing evolutionary psychology and I hope one day to return to these posts because I encounter evolutionary explanations quite a lot in my reading of the psychology of religion.

      Glenn Greenwald does address “two sides” and his encounters with those who cannot understand why there is such a sharp difference between people like himself on the one side and the Sam Harris’s and Dawkins’s on the other. I found his points on that relevant to my own observations and plan to post on them soon.

      • AU
        2015-10-06 21:59:07 UTC - 21:59 | Permalink

        PZ is very anti-theist, and although he once tore pages out of a Quran and threw them in the bin, he seems more interested in criticising Christianity.

        He also happens to be very anti-Imperialism, and I think that’s where part of his fall out with the New Atheists comes from – he feels their criticisms of Islam play into the hands of conservatives and right-wing Christians.

        He’s been extremely critical of Sam Harris for a while now, recently took Dawkins to task for retweeting an article from Breibart (he’s criticised Dawkins before), but all of that pales in comparison with the rape allegations against Michael Shermer, and the subsequent fall-out between New Atheist Michael Nugent from Ireland and PZ Myers.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-10-06 22:18:13 UTC - 22:18 | Permalink

          I’ve been out of touch. Have much to catch up on. I guess that’s an indicator of the differences between Australian and American cultures. Americans are proverbial for their “need to believe” things — belief is important; Australia — who cares what anyone believes?

          (No, that does not mean we/I don’t care about the damage certain religious cults inflict on others nor attempt to do something about such abuses.)

          What’s the Michael Nugent debate all about?

          • AU
            2015-10-06 22:53:45 UTC - 22:53 | Permalink

            PZ is a very vocal supporter of feminism, and he has spoken previously how New Atheism is dominated by males and has criticised it for not being inclusive enough. He also supported Rebecca Watson after the elevator incident involving Dawkinds, so he had a bit of a run in with other New Atheists then.

            He is also very vulgar towards those he disagrees with, and I think the name-calling was dragging on for quite some time and then Atheist Ireland, which I believe is led by Nugent (or if not led, he does have a prominent role there), decided to disassociate themselves with PZ and not invite him to any more of their events, and a number of New Atheists agreed with this, and it all kicked off with PZ’s “fans”.

            Michael Nugent provided the justification, citing many instances of where PZ wished people were dead and said other vulgar, toxic things, and someone then provided links to all the allegations against Myers…

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2015/04/08/atheist-irelands-statement-on-pz-myers/

            I then stopped following it as I got bored, so I don’t know what the “latest” is…

          • Greg
            2015-10-07 07:12:29 UTC - 07:12 | Permalink

            It all started when Alison Smith requested that Myers publish her account of sexual assault by Michael Shermer on her blog so as to warn others. Myers obliged and provided her a platform. In response, Nugent condemned him as irresponsible and unethical for hosting allegations without an investigation.

            Basically, his running message throughout was that she should have been kept silent, although he explicitly denied saying this. Myers said that Nugent was providing a haven for rapists and pointed out that he was hosting many people from the Slymepit, an anti-feminist hate site, in his blog comments. Ever since, Nugent had been rather fixated on him, blasting him in numerous blog posts and frequently demanding a retraction of this “smear” on Twitter.

            And although there is no proof, it is believed that Nugent’s quotes of Myers were gathered from the Slymepit as they had been very vocal enemies of his for years long preceding the incident.

            • Greg
              2015-10-07 15:24:23 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

              Publish her account of sexual assault by Michael Shermer on his blog rather.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2015-10-07 19:06:31 UTC - 19:06 | Permalink

              Oh my good fat buddha! — these sorts of goings-on are a good reminder to me why I’m not interested in being part of any “atheist community”. If we are going to take on feminist issues, let’s do it as “feminists” or “civil rights” campaigners — that is, join the larger community — and not as “atheist voices” and look like oddballs tagging along to be part of the march.

              • Greg
                2015-10-07 22:27:29 UTC - 22:27 | Permalink

                Not a favorable situation, to be sure, but plenty of people want to see the atheist community become a safe place as well.

                Besides, it’s not as if feminists are any more popular in the larger community.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-10-08 01:12:02 UTC - 01:12 | Permalink

                Agreed. In principle I prefer to work with/through political parties that promote a broad range of social justice / human rights and other issues — even though I generally won’t agree with any one party on everything.

            • AU
              2015-10-07 21:52:49 UTC - 21:52 | Permalink

              And although there is no proof, it is believed that Nugent’s quotes of Myers were gathered from the Slymepit as they had been very vocal enemies of his for years long preceding the incident.

              What relevance is where Nugent got the quotes from? The fact is PZ had said all those things Nugent accused him of.

              Now I am very anti-war, anti-Imperialism, pro-feminism, so my views are very much aligned with PZ on these topics than they are with many New Atheists such as Dawkins, Coyne or Harris, that doesn’t however change the fact that PZ is very obnoxious and vulgar.
              If Sam Harris said the things PZ has, or tore a page out of the Quran and threw it in the bin, there would be an uproar amongst most liberals, but when PZ does it, there isn’t.

              Now I don’t often agree with E Harding, in fact, I don’t think I have ever agreed with anything he has written, but I think he makes a valid point here in the first sentence:

              http://vridar.org/2015/10/05/glenn-greenwald-talks-about-the-new-atheists/#comment-73584

              PZ Myers and his “supporters” are every bit as tribal as many New Atheists.

              • Greg
                2015-10-08 00:04:49 UTC - 00:04 | Permalink

                What relevance is where Nugent got the quotes from?

                Neil asked for the scope of the debate. Central to the debate was the sense of an alliance (true or not) between Nugent and the Slymepit, Myers’ enemies. I’d think that would be a rather glaring detail to elide, the idea that someone defending a rapist has sided with known harassers and misogynists with a serious grudge against Myers.

                The fact is PZ had said all those things Nugent accused him of.

                Except that Nugent didn’t just maintain that PZ said obnoxious and vulgar things. That’s what makes this cherry-picking so dishonest. Nugent didn’t care about the context, he cared about maximizing the shock value.

                This was never about vulgarity. Nugent became visibly obsessed with him following the “smear”, churning out over 30 posts and constantly demanding a retraction on Twitter. Myers documented much of this behavior here:
                http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/11/01/the-end-of-the-micknugent-saga/

                The quotes were propaganda to argue that Myers was ruining the movement in retribution for his “smear”; he wasn’t just putting out there that Myers says vulgar stuff.

                By the way, the fact that you can quote someone essentially saying “no, YOU’RE biased!!” is neither novel nor impressive.

              • AU
                2015-10-08 12:50:39 UTC - 12:50 | Permalink

                Central to the debate was the sense of an alliance (true or not) between Nugent and the Slymepit, Myers’ enemies.

                Nonsense. Just because Slymepit might have sent Nugent a history of what PZ has said, it doesn’t imply there is any sort of alliance.

                I’d think that would be a rather glaring detail to elide, the idea that someone defending a rapist

                There is no proof he is a rapist – I’ll come to that further down.

                Nugent didn’t care about the context, he cared about maximizing the shock value.

                I agree what Nugent did was wrong – he should have provided links to the original articles so that people could see the context for themselves. I still find it vulgar, and if I had an organisation and a member was behaving the way PZ has, I would not want to associate with him either, PZ has a right to behave any way he chooses, and I have a right to disassociate with people who I think are behaving in an obnoxious manner, as does Nugent.

                Ok, coming back to the rape allegation, ironically, your tribalism is quite amazing. So that any strawmans don’t start, let me first make it clear that I agree with PZ that there is a lot of misogyny amongst New Atheists. Furhermore, I am no fan of New Atheists, which includes Nugent and Shermer. However, the attack by PZ Myers on Nugent for him defending a rapist is nonsense, and Nugent is every bit within his right to be upset at this allegation.

                There are always two sides to a story, and this is Shermer’s, and it seems a reasonable defence.

                http://michaelshermer.com/downloads/Shermer-statement.pdf

                If Nugent and Shermer are friends, and Nugent trusts Shermer, why should Nugent not treat Shermer as innocent until proven guilty? Neither PZ, nor Nugent, have evidence of what exactly happened that night – PZ believes the woman making the allegation because he trusts her completely, so it is completely hypocritical for him to suggest that Nugent cannot believe Shermer because he trusts Shermer completely. Therefore, if PZ wants to accuse Shermer of being a rapist, then he needs more than someone’s word, he needs evidence. So where is the evidence? Has this evidence ever been presented before a Court of Law? If not, why not? How about if tomorrow a woman who I trust made an allegation of rape against you – do I have a right to go around saying on my blog that you are a rapist? If Neil hosts a post of yours, because Neil believes in “innocent until proven guilty”, do I have a right to go around accusing Neil of defending a rapist?

                Now I realise that more than 90% of rape allegations are actually true, so statistically speaking, Nugent is probably guilty, however, we cannot label people as being something based simply on statistics, we need some evidence – I am sure if a woman made a false allegation of rape against you, you would not be happy if people started labelling you as a rapist simply because statistically speaking, the woman is probably telling the truth. This is why it is so important that before we label someone as something, we lay out the charges, and take them to court, so that an independent body can look at all the evidence presented before them, and then come to a conclusion. If PZ and Atheism+ are really that concerned about misogyny, then they should go to the police, report a case of rape, and take Shermer to court to get him convicted – if they are not willing to do this, then they have no right to go around calling him a rapist.

              • Greg
                2015-10-08 17:05:18 UTC - 17:05 | Permalink

                Nonsense. Just because Slymepit might have sent Nugent a history of what PZ has said, it doesn’t imply there is any sort of alliance.

                You forgot to mention the part where the Slymepitters just stumbled into Nugent’s blog comments and pitched camp.

                The fact is the debate was over a perceived instance of misogyny and silencing of sexual assault victims in the atheist movement, and then some of the worst misogynists and anti-feminists in the movement throw in their support of Nugent formally or not.

                There is no proof he is a rapist – I’ll come to that further down.

                I said the idea. It doesn’t matter that there was no proof because the debate was all about the implications of what he was saying and the impressions he left which fueled the bad blood between the two parties.

                Ok, coming back to the rape allegation, ironically, your tribalism is quite amazing.

                Which is not what we’re talking about. I’m not interested in watching you wrestle with your own baggage.

                The bottom line is, in response to Neil’s inquiry about the Michael Nugent debate, you veered into a bizarre narrative about how the vulgar PZ Myers was blurting obscenities at people until AI dissociated from him because he was so vulgar, and, by the way, he said many vulgar things, and he rips pages from Qurans, and wishes people dead and he probably kicks puppies. And that’s apparently the Michael Nugent debate.

                In the interest of making sure Neil was properly informed, I actually answered his question by providing the item under debate and the circumstances. If it bothers you so much for someone else to fill in the gaps, maybe you should make sure all the bases are covered instead of just the particular one you want to see pushed. Maybe then you won’t feel the need to give it the air of impartiality by repeatedly emphasizing how totes pro-feminism you are.

                There are always two sides to a story

                You don’t say?

                I agree what Nugent did was wrong

                I still find it vulgar

                Don’t worry, you’ve already made your priorities here abundantly clear.

              • Greg
                2015-10-08 17:09:39 UTC - 17:09 | Permalink

                Nonsense. Just because Slymepit might have sent Nugent a history of what PZ has said, it doesn’t imply there is any sort of alliance.

                You forgot to mention the part where the Slymepitters just stumbled into Nugent’s blog comments and pitched camp.

                The fact is the debate was over a perceived instance of misogyny and silencing of sexual assault victims in the atheist movement, and then some of the worst misogynists and anti-feminists in the movement throw in their support of Nugent formally or not.

                There is no proof he is a rapist – I’ll come to that further down.

                I said the idea. It doesn’t matter that there was no proof because the debate was all about the implications of what he was saying and the impressions he left which fueled the bad blood between the two parties.

                Ok, coming back to the rape allegation, ironically, your tribalism is quite amazing.

                Which is not what we’re talking about. I’m not interested in watching you wrestle with your own baggage.

                The bottom line is, in response to Neil’s inquiry about the Michael Nugent debate, you veered into a bizarre narrative about how the vulgar PZ Myers was blurting obscenities at people until AI dissociated from him because he was so vulgar, and, by the way, he said many vulgar things, and he rips pages from Qurans, and wishes people dead and he probably kicks puppies. And that’s apparently the Michael Nugent debate.

                In the interest of making sure Neil was properly informed, I actually answered his question by providing the item under debate and the circumstances. If it bothers you so much for someone else to fill in the gaps, maybe you should make sure all the bases are covered instead of just the particular one you want to see pushed. Maybe then you won’t feel the need to give it the air of impartiality by repeatedly emphasizing how totes pro-feminism you are.

                There are always two sides to a story

                You don’t say?

                I agree what Nugent did was wrong

                I still find it vulgar

                Don’t worry, you’ve already made your priorities here abundantly clear.

              • AU
                2015-10-08 20:51:40 UTC - 20:51 | Permalink

                You forgot to mention the part where the Slymepitters just stumbled into Nugent’s blog comments and pitched camp.

                That still doesn’t mean there is some sort of alliance, it could simply be that as the Slymepitters hate PZ, and as Nugent was having a very vocal disagreement with PZ, they decided to post at Nugent’s blog – if I am having a debate with the Pope and I am criticising him, I am sure there will be all sorts of individuals who hate the Pope, such as New Atheists, who will come to my blog and use it as a platform to criticise the Pope, it doesn’t imply I have some sort of alliance with them.

                The fact is the debate was over a perceived instance of misogyny and silencing of sexual assault victims in the atheist movement

                No it wasn’t, the debate was over whether it is right for someone to make an allegation against someone, naming them in public in doing so, without actually taking them to court. If the woman who accused Shermer of rape went to the police, reported the crime, then I do not think anyone would have a problem with what she did, I know I wouldn’t – it is perfectly normal to name people who are alleged to have committed a crime.
                However, she did not do this – she made an allegation, named him, and left it at that. This is immoral – we should not tolerate people making allegations against someone in public, and not taking them to court, because if we started doing this, then the person who is accused will be the one who would have to start legal action to clear their name – now imagine you are an innocent person, an allegation has been made against you, your name has been made public, will you take the accuser to court to get your name cleared? I know I would, for me it’s the principle that people who lie should never be allowed to get away with it, however, many people will be very afraid of going to court, they know miscarriages of justice can happen, they will worry about a miscarriage of justice happening, and they might therefore be too scared to go to court to clear their name – they would then, for the rest of their life, have their name tarnished.

                Therefore, I agree with Nugent here – what PZ did was irresponsible, and indefensible. If you name Shermer as a rapist, take him to court to get him convicted, if you’re not going to take him to court, then do not name him.

                I said the idea. It doesn’t matter that there was no proof because the debate was all about the implications of what he was saying and the impressions he left which fueled the bad blood between the two parties.

                You are doing exactly what Sam Harris and his fans do, say something, and then say they didn’t actually say that.

                Your post is clear, you called him a rapist. You said “the idea that someone defending a rapist”, you did NOT say “the idea that someone defending an alleged rapist.

                You do realise, don’t you, that there is something called “innocent until proven guilty”? Nugent is perfectly within his right to not believe that Shermer is a rapist, and to continue treating him as innocent. PZ seems to have a problem with this, what PZ is basically saying amounts to “I trust Alison Smith, if Alison Smith says Michael Shermer raped her, then that means Michael Shermer raped her, and if you continue hosting Michael Shermer on your blog, then you are supporting a rapist” – which is nonsense. Just because PZ trusts Alison Smith, why should anyone else? If Nugent trusts Shermer, why should he stop trusting him and start trusting Alison Smith? What gives PZ the right to be the judge, the jury and the executioner?

                One of the best ways to find out whether or not you are tribal is to reverse the roles, and if you find that if the circumstances remaining the same but only the roles changing causes you to change your opinion, then you are probably displaying tribalism.
                So let’s reverse the roles – say a woman came to Michael Nugent and said PZ had raped her. Say she was a good friend of Nugent, and Nugent had every reason to believe her. Do you think it is right for Nugent to write on his blog that PZ Myers is a rapist? Furthermore, do you believe that if someone who currently hosts PZ’s articles at their blog continues to do (because they are friends with PZ and believe he is innocent), they should be accused of, as you put it, “providing a haven for rapists”?

                The bottom line is, in response to Neil’s inquiry about the Michael Nugent debate, you veered into a bizarre narrative about how the vulgar PZ Myers was blurting obscenities at people until AI dissociated from him because he was so vulgar, and, by the way, he said many vulgar things, and he rips pages from Qurans, and wishes people dead and he probably kicks puppies. And that’s apparently the Michael Nugent debate.

                In case you missed it, there has been a lot of discussion on here lately about tribalism amongst antitheists – my post was simply to highlight that the PZ camp are as tribal as anybody else.

                Maybe then you won’t feel the need to give it the air of impartiality by repeatedly emphasizing how totes pro-feminism you are.

                I repeat it because I have debated tribal individuals like you enough times to know that when you are unable to rebut the arguments logically, you will try to obfuscate, and when that doesn’t work, you will resort to ad hominem.

              • Greg
                2015-10-08 21:38:35 UTC - 21:38 | Permalink

                Nowhere in this display of weapons-grade projection do you grapple with a single thing I’ve said.

                Right or wrong, agree or not, people formed their conclusions and conducted themselves accordingly. As much as you’d like to suck me into your personal grievances with Myers and Atheism+, the actual merits of these past conclusions are irrelevant to what actually happened and the beliefs the actors acted upon.

                And that includes the idea that Shermer had committed sexual assault (Read: not alleged, people had the idea that he actually did). Hem and haw, stomp and shout, people believed Alison Smith and acted accordingly. Them’s the facts. Debating the merits of that now won’t change what happened. If you want to reenact history and relive that debate, find someone who is interested.

                I’ve fulfilled my purpose of providing the full scope of the Michael Nugent debate, the one thing I signed up for here. You’re welcome to have the last word.

              • AU
                2015-10-08 22:50:58 UTC - 22:50 | Permalink

                Nowhere in this display of weapons-grade projection do you grapple with a single thing I’ve said.

                This is again very common when you debate Harris fans – Harris says things, you challenge it, and they come back with “oh, Harris didn’t actually say that, you just haven’t understood anything he said”.

                It is clear that you were defending PZ, and you were saying Nugent was wrong to defend Shermer. Yes or no?

                I asked you two questions, which you didn’t answer, so let me ask you again:
                Say a woman came to Michael Nugent and said PZ had raped her. Say she was a good friend of Nugent, and Nugent had every reason to believe her. Do you think it is right for Nugent to write on his blog that PZ Myers is a rapist? Furthermore, do you believe that if someone who currently hosts PZ’s articles at their blog continues to do (because they are friends with PZ and believe he is innocent), they should be accused of, as you put it, “providing a haven for rapists”?

                Don’t try and obfuscate, a simple yes or no would suffice.

                Right or wrong, agree or not, people formed their conclusions and conducted themselves accordingly. As much as you’d like to suck me into your personal grievances with Myers and Atheism+, the actual merits of these past conclusions are irrelevant to what actually happened and the beliefs the actors acted upon.

                And so the ad hominem begins. I don’t have any grievances with PZ, nor Atheism+, for the simple reason that I agree with most of their views. I do however have a problem with tribalism, and so when I see people being tribal, I will speak out against it, even if it means speaking out against a tribe that I prefer more than the other tribe.

                And so your apologism begins. Suddenly, people from your tribe are not held accountable for any wrong conclusions they might have formed – if they conducted themselves accordingly to the conclusions they formed, that’s all that matters. By your logic, if a racist goes around spewing hate against black people, we should not hold that person accountable for any damage that might occur to a black person because of this individual, because “right or wrong, agree or not, he formed his conclusion on blacks and conducted himself accordingly”.

                Of course, the reason you don’t want to discuss why people formed wrong conclusions (such as accusing Nugent of being someone who is an apologist for rapists) is because you want to absolve PZ of any blame for being the judge, the jury and the executioner.

                And that includes the idea that Shermer had committed sexual assault (Read: not alleged, people had the idea that he actually did). Hem and haw, stomp and shout, people believed Alison Smith and acted accordingly. Them’s the facts. Debating the merits of that now won’t change what happened. If you want to reenact history and relive that debate, find someone who is interested.

                This is absolutely amazing – your whole argument is that people believed Alison Smith was telling the truth, and therefore they believed Shermer raped her, and therefore, anyone who doesn’t believe Alison Smith should be accused as someone who supports rapists. This is complete nonsense, this is about as fascist as one can get – “you either believe what I believe (e.g. Alison Smith is telling the truth), and if you do not believe what I believe (e.g. that Alison Smith is telling the truth), I will label you all sorts of things (e.g. someone who is supporting a rapist)”.

                I’ve fulfilled my purpose of providing the full scope of the Michael Nugent debate, the one thing I signed up for here. You’re welcome to have the last word.

                Last word? This is another tactic used by New Atheists (and other fundamentalists and tribalists) when they know they are wrong and that they cannot rebut an argument, instead of admitting they were wrong, they will simply say “you can have the last word” – I actually had this done to me last month by a poster on Heather’s blog who did not know the meaning of theodicy, and when I exposed this, he eventually came back with that “you can have the last word, I won’t be replying to you anymore” business.

            • MosesZD
              2015-10-16 19:56:34 UTC - 19:56 | Permalink

              Every single quote Nugent put up was linked directly to a PZ Myers blog post or video. The reason being is that Nugent, being in Ireland, has to be very careful vis slander & libel.

              He can’t act like Myers and make crap up. Which Myers does, btw.

              • AU
                2015-10-16 21:25:28 UTC - 21:25 | Permalink

                I am pretty sure that isn’t true – I clearly remember that the post which hyperlinked every PZ Myers statement was created to bring context because Nugent had originally just posted a list of things which PZ Myers has said without providing context.

                And you are wrong to suggest Nugent could be done for slander and libel for not providing hyperlinks to quotes of what Myers said, that’s just ridiculous.

  • Lowen Gartner
    2015-10-06 22:15:54 UTC - 22:15 | Permalink

    What are the “illiberal” ideas he/they have that Harris/Dawkins wouldn’t agree with. Is it free speech vs. protection from being insulted?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-10-07 09:29:54 UTC - 09:29 | Permalink

      I don’t know — if this is a claim by PZ Myers I can only suggest an attempt be made to ask him. My own objections to Harris/Dawkins are not specifically on “liberal” or “illiberal” views but something broader — will be covering this in another post soon.

  • AU
    2015-10-07 22:08:08 UTC - 22:08 | Permalink

    I see Dawkins was on Maher’s show, and Maher said there is no such thing as Islamophobia, that it’s a silly term, and Dawkins agreed.

    http://www.salon.com/2015/10/06/why_so_many_liberals_just_cant_stand_richard_dawkins_and_bill_maher_partner/

  • Neil Godfrey
    2015-10-09 11:06:37 UTC - 11:06 | Permalink

    David Ashton wrote:

    What to do? I am not a powerful politician and can only voice personal suggestions on issues of culture clash (e.g. Israel/Palestine). What students of these problems can and must do is try to look into the evidence as thoroughly and objectively as possible (e.g. “search the scriptures”, NT, OT, Qur’an, Hadith, Talmud, &c). It still seems to me that a comparison between the Qur’an and the NT indicates that the former is more militant and less pacifist than the latter, and in post-christian Europe (if not the USA) the residual “unselfish” sentiments of the latter in “left-liberalism” make an unhealthy de facto partnership with the “aggressive” elements of the former.

    I would argue that we cannot assume that reading and comparing religious texts can help us with understanding human behaviour. For the latter we need first and foremost to interview and understand the believers themselves.

    If we do have questions and concerns about the contents of the texts themselves then to understand their influence we need to ask those who claim such texts as their own what they themselves have to say about them. The fact remains that the overwhelming majority of those who embrace the Koran do not commit violent acts and oppose those who are violent in the name of their religion. Now that is an interesting problem — both claim to believe the same Koran yet a tiny fraction of those claim to act violently in its name — I don’t see how the answer to that question can be found simply by reading and comparing texts.

    • AU
      2015-10-09 12:42:19 UTC - 12:42 | Permalink

      One thing I would say about polls is that they can sometimes be a bit misleading as human beings will often say one thing, but when faced with a situation, behave differently.

      We hear that 86% of Muslims in Egypt believe apostates should be killed, but I would guess that a considerable number of these 86% believe apostates should be killed not because they are devout Muslims who are following a Hadith that justifies the killing of apostates, after all, a lot of Egyptians are not devout and do not follow many other Hadiths in their everyday life, but because of tribalism – becoming an apostate can be seen to be leaving your tribe and joining another tribe. Furthermore, human beings will often say one thing, but when faced with it in real life, back down – so imagine the hypothetical scenario someone has become an apostate, and the 86% who said apostates should be killed were asked to kill this apostate – I am certain that of this 86%, a considerable percentage would not actually want to do it, and some would probably try and find justification in their religion as why not to kill an apostate.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2015-10-10 00:38:44 UTC - 00:38 | Permalink

        I recall Dan Jones’ reference to something Peter Neumann wrote:

        No serious academic argues that all—or even most—cognitive extremists will go on to embrace violence. The notion of a ‘unidirectional relationship’ between beliefs and terrorism may exist in the minds of some right-wing bloggers, but it has never gained traction among members of the scholarly community. None of the widely used models and theories of radicalization suggest that beliefs or ideologies are the sole influence on or explanation for why people turn to terrorism.

  • David Ashton
    2015-10-09 12:17:48 UTC - 12:17 | Permalink

    You do both.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-10-09 22:37:19 UTC - 22:37 | Permalink

      Doing both leads anthropologists to observe that an outsider’s reading of the texts and the theological declarations of religious specialists are basically irrelevant when it comes to the actual religious beliefs and behaviours of the majority of believers. (That’s from anthropologist Pascal Boyer’s “Religion Explained” and the same point has surfaced regularly in other studies I have read and hope to post on in due course.)

  • David Ashton
    2015-10-09 12:27:57 UTC - 12:27 | Permalink

    PS. See e.g. Stephen Glover’s analysis of a BBC poll of Muslims in Britain, D**ly M**l, February 26, on-line. (I read 4 other dailies regularly, by the way.)

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