It will surprise no one, I am sure, to learn that I am one of the “shrill,” “strident” “New Atheists” that get such a bad rap in the public sphere these days. My Facebook feed is a nearly uninterrupted stream of thoughts and images related to non-belief, with special emphasis on the brilliant feeds from the Iranian and Filipino atheist organizations. Between my activist streak and my impolitic, arrogant honesty, I’ve made my share of enemies on the Internet, mostly old friends from previous levels of education who turned out to be religious zealots with shitty opinions…or worse, libertarians.
“Civility” ought to be a dirty word.
There’s a lot to be said in its favor. An overwhelming majority of human interactions are easier, safer, and/or more effective when both parties, explicitly or through social convention, agree to be civil. This commitment is why not every instance of people bumping into each other on trains ends in a fistfight, and it’s the baseline that undergirds conversations between unfamiliar people in any space.
Some interactions need to end in fistfights.