Pathological Accommodationism

Sigh. Another day, another dumbass bashing the Gnus:

It’s accommodationism day in the neighborhood…I guess it’s a Christmas thing. Baby Jesus is born, Tim Minchin got his (requested) song dropped from a tv show, Julian tries to square a circle, and to make it all complete, Chris Stedman writes yet another “mean atheists are doing it wrong and I am doing it right” article for the Huffington Post. I had been ignoring Stedman for months, but he does make it difficult.

Chris Stedman has a distressing habit of mistaking outspoken criticism for cruelty, it seems. And a terrible blind spot.

However: effective criticism of religious dogmatism accounts for the diverse spectrum of religious expression. It is balanced, it is rooted in compassion, and it responds to what people actually believe and practice, not just the most extreme forms of religious thought.

Um, Chris? Those “extreme forms of religious thought” are wildly fucking popular amongst religious believers. We’re not talking a tiny minority. We’re talking about enough people to make the Middle East a hell on earth for women. Is it an inconsequential minority of believers who murder gays and people accused of witchcraft in Africa? What about the bible-believing Christians in this country who have enough political power now to launch a full-out assault on women’s reproductive rights? I could go on. I shouldn’t have to.

And for as much as you whine about people who don’t understand what you’ve supposedly actually said, you show a remarkable lack of reading comprehension yourself.

What Stedman cites as objectionable are (except for Stefanelli’s, which is in the middle of a post that cites relevant passages from the Koran, making it rather bizarre that Stedman would level that particular criticism at it) offhand remarks in blog posts about things like threatening the lives of cartoonists who have depicted Mohammed or condoning forced child marriage and rape. The actions being condemned are, in fact, spurred by specific beliefs with their basis in the Koran, even if the bloggers don’t stop to cite chapter and verse.


Stedman has read the blog posts he cites, right? He knows that people are dying, that others are in hiding or pretending to be someone they’re not so they don’t die, that children are being mutilated and raped, that they’re being groomed for martyrdom instead of educated and employed–and that the authority conferred by Islam plays a huge part in making these intractable problems? He knows that most if not all of those things, plus a few special others, happen in places where Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism plays the role of the heavy instead?

Ophelia and Stephanie paddled the man thoroughly (I thought I’d noticed the Smack-o-Matic missing from my wall earlier), and I haven’t got much to add. It’s just that Stedman and his ilk have a remarkable habit of ignoring reality in favor of their own kumbaya fantasy. It annoys.

Yes, there are liberal believers out there. There are lots of religious folks who are moderate. And we can even work together, without compromising our principles, when the situation calls for it. Religious folk who don’t want creationism taught in schools, or the frothing fundies to have control over every uterus in the land, won’t back down from the good fight just because they find themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with those icky Gnus.

Moderate religious believers are even smart. Much smarter than Stedman gives them credit for. Most of the moderates I know accept that we Gnu atheists are going to say things they dislike intensely about their beliefs. They also know what we’re aiming at when we launch a broadside. Those quotes that gave Stedman the vapors are understood as being targeted at a particular, unfortunately large, subset of religious belief that troubles them, too. And aside from a few fainting violets, they don’t seem to need coddling. They don’t require us to pause during every post excoriating the latest fundamentalist outrage, pat them on the head, and say, “But not you, pookie-kins. I know you’d never throw acid in a schoolgirl’s face just because she’s getting an education and you think your god disapproves.”

They get that we have a different view of religion. They understand that atheists are going to criticize religious belief – all religious belief, not just the super-nasty stuff. But they also understand that we see them as human beings, and while we may think their religious beliefs are silly, we quite like them as people. And it’s a two-way street. Believers think we’re pretty silly for not believing. Fair enough.

Chris Stedman, for all his “outreach,” can’t seem to credit believers with having a functioning brain and the ability to handle a vigorous critique. How is infantalizing them supposed to help us all get along?

Pathological Accommodationism

9 thoughts on “Pathological Accommodationism

  1. 1

    Sometimes I feel like going easy on them. Then I read something like this condescending asshole’s “Death Of An Atheist”. Or even worse, the comments that follow. And I get so pissed off that my fingers collide on the keyboard. Especially when some idiot asks; “If you don’t believe in God, what are you so angry about?”

  2. 2

    I haven’t yet thrown a punch in Stedman’s direction in this latest pile-on, but I dearly want to. It’s not because I’m going easy on him, but because something else always catches my attention and forces me to TCB more proximately. If I store up enough rage, I might have something to write about him and others of his ilk very soon. I thank you for throwing those punches where I can’t, Dana. And Ophelia, and Stephanie, and PZ, and JT, et cetera. :)

  3. 3

    I’m sorry, but if you put in your freaking blog that your goal is to spread critical thinking to make the world a better place, and you also write in the same freaking piece about supporting and celebrating “different creeds,” then you are an ignorant fucktard, as delusional as any fundie snake oil salesman.

    Are some religious people less dangerous than others? Of course. Are some creeds less dangerous than others? Yes. Can individuals do good while operating under the delusion that the supernatural is a real, proven thing? Yes.

    But while some unknown number of religionists can engage in critical thinking about things other than their religion, the fact of the matter is that critical thinking rejects beliefs that have no supporting evidence, and religions have no supporting evidence.

  4. F

    The problem with Stedman is that he is an attention-seeking self-aggrandizing twit. All else follows from this, in the niche he has chosen.

  5. 9

    I meet maybe once a month with 3 friends at Johnnie McCracken’s Celtic Pub in downtown Marietta to talk about lots of things, but mostly religion (if you’re ever there, try the Young’s Double Chocolate Stout – they have it on tap). Two of us are deeply committed Christians, one is a hard core athiest, and one is sort of alergic to spiritual brands of any kind.

    Its difficult to generalize, but what we always come away with is a profound feeling of mutual respect, and a comforting sense that what motivates us are things we all have in common, despite our (presumably) cataclysmic differences on religion.

    To me, the most frustrating thing about what passes for the national dialogue on religion these days is how it has been co-opted by a vocal minority on both sides which deals with really naive, two dimensional charicatures and makes no genuine effort to build bridges.

    To the common man, religion is, like science, nothing more than an effort to organize reality and make some sense of it – and the danger is not the aspect of being wrong, but the refusal to keep an open mind. This analogy goes deeper than one might suspect. The great physicist, David Bohm, noted that once the core principles of Newtonian physics had been overturned by relativity, it was the scientists who had to change, not reality.

    I suppose what it boils down to is that finding connections and common ground won’t sell half the newspapers as uncovering and amplifying our differences. Pity, that.

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