Straw men and Sky Fairies

November 1, 2012 at 8:47 pm (religion)

Guest Post from Pink Prosecco

I’ve never come across the term “faitheist” before but, after reading Bruce Gorton’s post on Butterflies and Wheels I suspect I am one.  This is Gorton’s definition of the term:

“A faitheist is essentially an atheist who argues for ‘politeness’ in atheist/ religious discourse, in which the polite path is essentially that atheists shut up.”

As an atheist, on the rare occasions when I find myself discussing religion with theists, politeness seems to work just fine.  They don’t tell me I’m destined for damnation, and I don’t use the term “sky fairies”.  If Gorton meant that atheists shouldn’t be polite when discussing penalties for blasphemy or the excesses of the Westboro Baptist Church maybe he should have said so.

Apparently this makes me the equivalent of an ‘Uncle Tom’ (an expression I’ve always found pretty dubious).  But being polite to theists (as opposed to theocrats) doesn’t mean you are selling out – not unless you think they should all be shunned or sent to re-education camps.

Gorton analogises:

“We want to believe that homophobia isn’t the serious problem it was in the past, so gay people who point out that isn’t the case get silenced.”

But your friendly neighbourhood theist, in my experience, corresponds, not to the homophobe in this parallel, but to the heterosexual who fully supports gay rights.

He goes on to grumble about the racism of Mormonism – even though modern Mormons seem to have left that element of their religion behind them, by and large, and then bizarrely argues that Christianity’s emphasis on forgiveness means that Jesus was an apologist for rape and child abuse.  And even an atheist like me can counter Gorton’s claim that the New Testament asserts that there is no authority except that established by God (Romans 13) by invoking Matthew 22:21.

Clearly many terrible things have been – and still are – done in the name of religion.  But why not tackle those directly rather than imply that everyone who believes in God, or gods, is suffused with all the worst readings of the nastiest bits in their respective sacred texts.

15 Comments

  1. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    Considering the way fucknuts in Amerikkka have been going on about Barack HUSSEIN Obama, it’s funny that they may be about to elect their first non-christian president.

  2. Clive said,

    Some sympathy with what you’re saying, but I think you’re missing the ‘the polite part is that atheists shut up’ part. There is, in arguments about religion, a tendency (represented by, for example, Michael Ruse) which professes its atheism but essentially says none of this is worth arguing about at all, and directs most of its ire at ‘New Atheism’.

    There is a problem when atheists make no attempt to understand what you could call the ‘sociology of religion’, and see it simply as a matter of idiotic beliefs. But I think the basic argument – is there a God, that is – is worth having pretty forthrightly.

  3. Rosie said,

    I thought that piece on B&W was fairly crude and not up to the usual standard. I suppose the writer may be coming from the far more virulent theist v atheist atmosphere in the USA. Atheists there are highly distrusted. Ed Milliband is an open atheist, but it’d be impossible for a senior politician in the USA to be anything but a believer.

    There are more reactions to the piece here:-

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/11/is-it-racism-or-trying-to-correct-for-privilege/

    Clive has summed up the issues very well. Also, reading some of the witless stuff on the religious pages of the Guardian by Giles Fraser and Andrew Whatsit makes me want to bang them on the head with Dawkins and Hitchens.

  4. Robin Carmody said,

    Agree with Pink Prosecco here.

  5. Mick O said,

    If we atheists continue to get too precious and demand respect for our “deeply held beliefs” we are on a par with the god squad. IMO being an atheist is a state of mind that says ” I am happy with my beliefs and if you disagree I don’t give a shit”. Leave the taking offence option to the pious.

  6. Timon for Tea said,

    I had a long set to in the comments thread of that article about whether or not Martin Luther King could be said to have been motivated by his religion. It seemed to me that if he said he was, that should be good enough for anyone, but lots of people on there want to say that MLK simply didn’t understand his own reasons, which is a bit presumptuous to say the least. It got more stranger as commenters argued themselves into positions where they had to claim that MLK was a fraud but slave traders were sincere (if misguided) humanitarians. When you find yoursef twisted into positions like those in order to protect your contentions, I think you should re-examine your initial assumptions. Why some atheists cannot admit that some good is done in the name or religion just as some (much) evil is, is beyond me. Ophelia Benson over there wants to claim that any act that is not specifically religious in nature that is performed through religious motivations must be considered entirely secular so long as the outcome is good, but not if it is wicked. Weird.

  7. Timon for Tea said,

    “Some sympathy with what you’re saying, but I think you’re missing the ‘the polite part is that atheists shut up’ part.”

    I would have more sympathy with that if there were any evidence of atheists asking other atheists to shut up or ant atheist voices being silenced. But there just isn’t.

  8. Clive said,

    I think there’s a great deal of stuff where atheists are told (including by other atheists) they’re too rude, shouldn’t offend people, and what have you. It is increasingly part of general culture that people shouldn’t say nasty things about religion because it offends people, and there’s surely a lot of self-censorship by atheists for that reason.

  9. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    Oh I dunno, believers (particularly Xians) are wont to tell me that I’ll burn in everlasting torment, so poking fun at their witch-king doesn’t seem so bad. That said Clive makes a valid point about the sociology of religion, therefore as always context is important.

    Xianity has been the cause or at least justification of genocides wherever we look – from the Cathars to the Crusades and the Wars of Religion, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia, the slaughter in Europe and the ongoing engineered poverty and mass starvation in the ‘Third World’.

    The Hitchens test is relevant here: name a moral action taken, or a moral statement uttered by a person of faith that could not be taken or uttered by a non-believer.

  10. The Judge said,

    “Clearly many terrible things have been – and still are – done in the name of religion. But why not tackle those directly rather than imply that everyone who believes in God, or gods, is suffused with all the worst readings of the nastiest bits in their respective sacred texts.”

    Because (if I may use a revolutionary metaphor here) the general mass of the religious are the sea in which the piranhas of fundamentalism swim. This is true of all established and widespread religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism.

    Unless the self-styled ‘moderate’ adherents of those religions make a very loud noise to repudiate the extremists in their midst, then they – whatever they may think they are doing – facilitate the actions and words of the extremists. As such, they should be called on their complicity. After all, this site and others like it are constantly decrying ‘mainstream’ Muslims for not denouncing the Wahhabists and Salafists loudly enough, so why not spread the love to Xtians and Judaists as well?

  11. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    Indeed, it is not atheists who should maintain a polite and embarrassed silence, it is the multifarious liars, thieves, manipulators and snakeoil sellers who should shut up and stop demanding special protection for their ‘brands’.

  12. Rosie said,

    After all, this site and others like it are constantly decrying ‘mainstream’ Muslims for not denouncing the Wahhabists and Salafists loudly enough, so why not spread the love to Xtians and Judaists as well?

    While agreeing with your general point, Your Honour, could you find a post on this site that does this? Evidence to be produced in court? I don’t think you will find one, never mind “constantly”.

  13. The Judge said,

    Rosie,

    It is not one particular post: it is part of the ideological background radiation of this site.

    (BTW, any posts forthcoming on SS’ favourite parliamentary Hasbaranik and fake socialist being defenestrated?)

  14. Jim Denham said,

    Story so far:

    Rosie (to Judge): “could you find a post on this site that does this?”

    Judge (In reply): “It is not one particular post: it is part of the ideological background radiation of this site.”

    Summary: Judge is caught out talking/writing bollocks which s/he cannot defend or justify or, indeed, cite one single, solitary example of.

    I’d call that a “defenistration.”

    Game, set and match to Rosie.

  15. Rosie said,

    Lawyer: No evidence as such, M’lud, I just sort of thought and had a bit of a feeling that this was so. . . .(looks down and shuffles feet). . .

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