You might think that, if you have no religion, no one will bother you. After all, the rivalry is between Catholics and Protestants — surely you can simply rise above the controversy? There you would be wrong. The atheist is the enemy of all, being utterly godless and therefore outside the scope of Elizabethan morality. As Francis Bacon writes in his essay ‘On Atheism’: ‘they that deny God destroy a man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and, if he be not kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature’.
Not believing in God is like not believing in trees. Most people simply cannot conceive of a line dividing the metaphysical and the physical. To them the two are indivisibly linked. Creation cannot exist without its creator. However, from the middle of the century, certain people start to be labelled as ‘atheists’ by their enemies. Some even admit themselves to being nulla fidians, or ‘nothing believers’. Then, in 1583, Philip Stubbes writes his Anatomy of Abuses, which defines atheists as people who ‘deny there is any God’. Atheism as we know it is born.
Interesting. I went back and checked Jennifer Hecht’s book Doubt, but didn’t see any mention of Stubbes. My exhaustive scholarly research thus completed, I’m happy to take Mortimer’s word for it. Mainly, I was just glad for this passage reintroducing me to that wonderful word nullifidian, whose acquaintance I had first made over a decade ago, only for us to inexplicably lose touch with each other in recent years. Here, though, its description makes it sound like an assertive type of disbelief, similar to our conception of nihilism — “We believe in nothing, Lebowski, nothing.” But in my understanding, its modern usage indicates the mere absence of faith or religious belief. Yes, this would be the infamous “dictionary atheism”, condemned as insufficient by Peezus and his disciples and cast into the bottomless pit to be shut up with a seal placed upon it, so that it would deceive the nations no more. Perhaps, then, this term could be adopted by those wishing to differentiate themselves from the progressive atheist cult.
December 4, 2013 @ 4:53 pm
You'll probably have to add me to that list, too, Brian. I get so pissed off at the knee-jerk, pseudo-rational, me-too social justice clicktivism, I just want to drag them out and rub their faces in their sanctimonious turds, then send them to a North Korean labor camp so they see what real oppression looks like.
I'm a hit on twitter.
December 4, 2013 @ 6:31 pm
I'm content with the literal meaning: "not a theist". Let the Host defilers shake their tiny fists.
I take exception to the claim that atheism is like "not believing in trees" to believers. It is more like not believing in invisible trees, and they know it. That's why they're so defensive and insecure.
December 4, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
Damian, by the time you are 40 I expect you will be patrolling your property with a shotgun muttering about the liberals and feminists and all those progressives. Get Off My Lawn!
December 4, 2013 @ 9:58 pm
True story: at work earlier this year, a coworker, whom I'll call Lisa, is talking to a group of people about a half-remembered commercial from the 80s or thereabouts, trying to prompt them to help her recall it. She turns to one guy in his fifties, whom I'll call Jim: "Jim, you should remember this one!" She turns to me, glances me over, says "I'm not sure how old you are, maybe you don't…"
Jim, who knows my family a little bit, chortles for a moment and says, "Damian's older than he looks!"
"Oh? And how old do I look?"
He scrunches up his face for a moment, and then says "23." As far as I could tell, he was serious.
Then this past summer, another acquaintance who heard my age from someone else responded, "Wow. I would not have guessed that." She, apparently, would have placed me in my early thirties at most.
So I'm glad to see that I appear much younger online as well!
December 4, 2013 @ 10:00 pm
To be fair, Mortimer was saying that was the general perception in 1580s England.
December 4, 2013 @ 10:53 pm
LOL. I thought you were in your early 30s. But then…you did reference 20 years in the publishing/newspaper industry, so I am obviously wrong.
More seriously, as to the quesiton at hand…Sure on-line progressive piety is annoying, a lot of sturm und drang. But…and forgive me for this perhaps unfair opinion, that does not mean I am going to swing over into the opposite, even more "febrile" side, the MRAs, the loud and proud racists, etc. Damian is more sanguine about people like the Slyme Pit, and he has pointed out rational examples from the discussions. I am less sure.
Even if the two sides effectively feed off each other, NEED each other…
I am not saying I am "choosing sides". Just that I am more sympathetic to the FTB crowd than I am Reddit and the like.
December 5, 2013 @ 1:10 am
Being wary of Reddit is like…being agoraphobic, i think. I mean, it's so vast and varied, there's something for everyone there. I don't read it myself, because I just don't have time, but it's certainly not just the lowest common denominator of the Internet.
The best thing about the Slymepit, to me, is the healthy dynamic among the members. They really are primarily committed to free, open discussion. Sure, there's people there I think are boring or obnoxious. And there are plenty of vehement arguments about anything and everything. But once they argue back and forth for a while, they more or less shake hands and forget about it. No one holds grudges, they don't form into cliques and snipe at each other. You're free to argue whatever viewpoint you want, and your argument stands or falls on its own merits. No one will dogpile or shun you. They describe it as a pub-like atmosphere, and that seems accurate to me. If you don't see it for yourself, you really, truly don't have any idea just how grossly the usual suspects have misrepresented them.
By comparison, FTB (and of course, not every single blog there is like that, just the main, drama-mongering ones) has nurtured the most sickly, diseased sort of dynamic among the comments. Seriously, they're like the living embodiment of everything Nietzsche wrote about the psychology of resentment. There's the neurotic wallowing in their own misery (real or imagined), there's the tribal groupthink, there's the gratuitous hostility, and there's the cliquishness. It's like a dysfunctional relationship writ large, spread out among an entire group. And I was disgusted by all of that long before I'd fully grokked just what a ridiculous, dishonest shitstain PZ is.
I said before, and I'll say it again now: the post-Elevatorgate situation is analogous to politics post-9/11. The Bush administration used a very real terrorist attack, and the very real threat of Islamic terrorism in general, to advance both a foreign and domestic agenda that had nothing whatsoever to do with fighting terrorism. And, of course, they responded to any criticism by invoking the "You're either with us or with the terrorists!" notion.
Similarly, of course sexists and misogynists exist, and many of them act like assholes online. But the progressive atheists have blown their supposed presence and "threat" up to comically absurd proportions in order to excuse all manner of ideological and behavioral excess on their own part. To be honest, Brian – and I hope this isn't too offensive to you – in this analogy, you strike me as a hawkish Democrat circa 2003. You suspect the FTBers are at least partly full of shit, but you're willing to give them a pass because you're scared of the misogynist boogeyman they've created (or you're scared of being accused of being a misogynist supporter, sympathizer, or fellow traveller).
December 5, 2013 @ 3:33 pm
I thought Brian just meant that his opinions/politics align more with FTB folks', which is a separate issue from their methods and temperaments. We agree that misogyny, racism, xenophobia, religious bigotry, etc., are wrong; obviously, that's not a given in some circles. I don't know about Slyme Pit, but reddit doesn't really have consensus building in its nature: It's a popularity contest with a diverse crowd. I've found some very intelligent, interesting things there, and I've seen a lot of stupid, boring shit there, too.
December 5, 2013 @ 11:18 pm
In my defense, I don't remember being a Hawkish Democrat circa 2003.
Nowdays, of course, my virulent misotheism has spread to anti-patriotism, so…
But, I don;t even have a blog. So arguing politics is merely an amusement. (Not that I am really arguing politics HERE) Just like arguing religion with a virulent Catholic acquaintance of mine. I send him deathspell Omega lyrics just to get him riled up. 🙂
But noel nails it quite well. I think you do underestimate the virulence of antiprogressivism in some of the circles you mention.
At the same time, I understand what you are saying in your "two examples" paragaph. To be honest, I have not really read PZ in a couple of years, so…my awareness of the accusations is pretty limited. So…I guess I have no opinion. I still liked some of Ophelia's stuff, but the Offense Wars, as I said elsewhere, got tiresome.
December 5, 2013 @ 10:12 pm
Well, let's take two hypotheticals. Let's say we have some sad sack of a guy who's hurt and angry after a bitter divorce. One way he attempts to make himself feel better is to hang out on forums with other sad sacks where he can grouse about no-good sluts and gold-digging bitches to people who have been there. As far as politics, let's just go ahead and lay it on thick and make him a libertarian, at least as far as he can be bothered to vote at all.
Then we have a guy who grudgingly votes for Democrats, but spends most of his time spouting puerile leftist slogans and cliches. In an attempt to compensate for his personal shortcomings and feelings of guilt, he becomes a crusading zealot for various leftist causes he barely understands. Besides demonstrating a consistent lack of intellectual integrity, he also uses his blog as a platform to publicly accuse people of serious felonies such as rape based on what a friend of a friend told him once.
Which one of these guys' beliefs and actions are more politically significant? Which one is causing more harm? Which of these two people am I supposed to consider a "threat" to my vision of the good life? What would it even mean to consider one of them as being "on my side"?
My point being: vague political considerations, such as the fact that the zealot might vote for the same candidates I do, aren't necessarily worth anything. I don't know what it would even mean to separate the FTBers opinions and politics from their methods and temperaments, and I don't see why it should matter.
December 6, 2013 @ 1:11 am
I think you do underestimate the virulence of antiprogressivism in some of the circles you mention.
December 6, 2013 @ 4:31 pm
There are people who believe misogyny is okay. That is worse than seeing it where it doesn't exist. There are people who want me to lose my job because I am gay. That wouldn't be the FTB people.
Grousing and making false accusations are not political statements so I think your example is mostly immaterial. PZ is correct that religion is often an enemy of freedom, whatever else one might think about him. He and I (and you, I would think) are "on the same side" of most sociopolitical issues.
December 7, 2013 @ 12:17 am
It seems like you're partially arguing against some kind of "Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same" point of view, which, to be clear, I'm not expressing. If that is what you're doing, please don't, because that's immaterial. Obviously, when you go to vote for President, you have no realistic alternative to "Democrat or Republican". On this level, though, there are obviously numerous alternatives to "PZ or Fred Phelps". PZ's views on gay rights and the harmful effects of religion are shared by millions of people who aren't stupid, obnoxious zealots, so I see no reason to give him credit for achieving the bare minimum.
There are people who believe misogyny is okay.
Sure, I suppose that's true. Right away, though, we've got the problem of: what do you mean by "misogyny"? To me, it's an empty tribal signifier. I see examples every day throughout the twitosphere where it routinely gets used to describe instances of, say, someone perceived as being rude and argumentative toward an individual who happens to be a woman, whether they insult her femininity or not. I've seen it invoked to explain why there aren't more female crossword puzzle editors at major newspapers. Pitchfork publishes a best-of album list spanning 15 years, and idiots at Slate and the Atlantic Wire decide that "misogyny" must be the reason why there aren't more female artists in it. You may think this is all silliness, but in practice, this is how the term often gets used. Ideologues have discovered a hammer called misogyny, and they've been running around swinging it wildly at anything that even vaguely resembles a nail.
Then, there's the Slymepit example. The Slymepit was started by a woman, angry over the backstabbbing treatment she got from PZ and others on the Scienceblogs network. Dozens of women are members there, a couple of whom are even rape victims. But to listen to FTB describe it, it's ground zero for misogyny — the place where dudebros get together to share lists of potential victims and trade tricks and tips on how to more effectively rape women. When you take away all the a priori tribal loyalties, what it looks like to me is: you have a privileged white male like PZ invalidating the "lived experience" of dozens of women, "mansplaining" to them how they're doing feminism wrong, and telling them that since they don't agree with his definition of it, they're either motivated by self-loathing or they're just too stupid to know what's in their own best interest. (Even the Jesus and Mo author mocked him for his astounding hypocrisy.)
If the rickety scaffolding supporting the facile misogynist/feminist dichotomy hasn't collapsed by now under all this heavy irony, I'm not sure what else to say.
That is worse than seeing it where it doesn't exist.
Again, there's many shades of grey there; we don't have to choose one or the other. Even so, we're not talking about someone who harmlessly jumps at shadows but at least sheepishly accepts being corrected. We're talking largely about ideological zealots who subscribe to the utterly toxic public shaming/callout culture ethos, where it's better to humiliate and falsely accuse nine innocent people than let one guilty one get away, and in PZ's case, take it to the point of committing libel (and likely getting away with it).
December 7, 2013 @ 12:18 am
Grousing and making false accusations are not political statements so I think your example is mostly immaterial.
Well, that was sorta the point. That was supposed to be an example of how a political frame wouldn't be useful. Many times, that is the case. At the same time, those examples may not be political statements per se, but they very much do "code" in political ways — I feel confident that most people would have no hesitation in labeling the MRAish guy a reactionary right-winger, because after all, he "hates women", right? Who else hates women? Religious fundamentalists and insecure privileged men, right? Q to tha E to tha muthfauckin' D. And PZ, though his actions and rhetoric make him more of an authoritarian radical, would be considered a progressive, because he's being a raging scumbag on behalf of feminism, isn't he?
The entire environment that's been created by people like PZ — the neurotic victimhood, the hostile tribalism, the groupthink, the authoritarian preference for strongly regulated (censored) discussion, the banning of dissenters — is not something that any liberal should side with. What I'm saying is, nothing good or worth keeping is going to grow out of that soil. I don't care if they manage to press the right button in the voting booth. Lab rats can do that much. Making room or excuses for people who think and behave like that for the sake of short-term benefits will be to the long-term detriment of progressivism.
December 7, 2013 @ 2:32 pm
No, I get that you're saying PZ and ilk are not your friends just because you share the same opinions about some things. It's just that, most people think those issues are very important , and our common broad brush positions on equal rights and atheism, for xampl, put us in the same boat in those people's eyes. Of course that doesn't mean you should defend them. I'm always suspicious of groups of people thinking alike – even if they agree with me!