Atheist Chris Stedman disses atheism again

Chris Stedman, whom we’ve encountered before, has moved from job to job as a “humanist chaplain”: first at Harvard, then at Yale, and he’s now started jobs as Director of the Humanist Center of Minnesota and a Fellow at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College—an Evangelical Lutheran Church school). Author of the book Faitheist, Stedman’s avowed aim is to find common cause between atheists and believers. To do that, of course, he can’t be critical of religion, for that would erode his mission. Rather, he courts believers and the general public by criticizing vocal atheists and anti-theists, as there’s little downside to going after nonbelievers. The great asymmetry of America is that you get loved and lionized by praising religion, even as an atheist, but demonized if you praise atheism.

Back in the old days, Stedman went after atheists for anti-theism, convinced that his beloved but unrealistic concordat wouldn’t occur if we heathens didn’t shut up about the silliness, falsity, and dangers of religion. Now he’s bought into that staple of Authoritarian Leftist atheists: the trope that our “movement” (whatever that may be) is riddled with misogyny, racism, and, yes, alt-rightism of the white supremacist variety. You can read his “J’Accuse” piece at Vice by clicking on the screenshot below.

In the absence of any data showing that atheists are more conservative, more racist, and more sexist than average people in their demographic, Stedman relies on blanket assertions and anecdotes.  He picks out prominent nonbelievers, including Sam Harris, Bill Maher, and Richard Dawkins, slandering them for the usual reasons (I needn’t recount this here). Aren’t places like Vox and Salon getting tired of publishing the same article again and again?

Now it is true that some prominent atheists have behaved in odious ways (I’ve written about Lawrence Krauss before), but finding bad behavior in a handful so-called atheist “leaders”  doesn’t indict all atheists, or even New Atheists, of the same behavior. You can argue that Stedman, like me, simply wants to clean out the bad apples from his own barrel (my barrel is the Left), but I’ve never indicted the entire Left, or all its leaders (viz., Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, and so on) for behaving worse than, say, Republicans. No, Stedman wants to say that the problem of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and white supremacy is not only present in some atheists (yes, of course it is!), but is widespread among atheists. And to do that he relies on assertions without data, just making the usual unsupported claims or generalizing from anecdotes.

Some quotes:

I’m still an activist, but after nearly a decade of active participation in online atheism (a loose community of forums, blogs, YouTube channels, and fandoms of figures like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and writer Sam Harris), I mostly stepped away from the online side of atheism a few years ago. One of the biggest reasons for this was my growing concern over its failure to adequately address some of its darker currents—such as overt sexism, racism, and anti-Muslim bias.

While I can’t demand that all my fellow atheists make public declarations against right-wing and bigoted stands, let me speak for myself, so that Stedman will shut up about me: I decry sexism, racism, and anti-Muslim bigotry, while at the same time reserving opprobrium for the tenets of all religions, including Islam. And I suspect most of you, as well as people like Sam Harris, Steve Pinker, and Richard Dawkins, would join me in that statement. I’m not sure what Stedman means by atheists “adequately addressing some of its darker currents”, but those are currents not of atheism but of humanity. As I’ve said, there’s no necessary connection between atheism and egalitarianism, although I would think there should be some linkage since many atheists are humanists, and humanism prescribes empathy and equality for all.

Here are some of Stedman’s questionable assertions about how atheism promotes alt-rightism and bigotry:

As George Hawley, author of Making Sense of the Alt-Righttold NPR last year, the alt-right is not only “predominantly white millennial men” but also probably represents “a more secular population than the country overall,” meaning many of its members are “agnostics and atheists or people who are just generally indifferent to religion.” Cultural conservatives are leaving organized religion, Peter Beinart argued in the Atlantic last year, and many are making their way into the darker fringes of the right.

. . . The alt-right intentionally targets and preys on people—young white men in particular—who feel disconnected, marginalized, and misunderstood, seeking to give them a sense of identity, belonging, and purpose. It’s not surprising then that atheists, who are often marginalized in America, may be prime targets. [JAC: Have any of you white males been targeted by alt-righters?]

. . . The problem is more widespread than figures like [Richard] Spencer and [Robert] Fisher, too. While championing liberal views on some issues, many of atheism’s most prominent advocates—the majority of whom are, like me, cisgender white men—have expressed troubling sentiments that align with views held by the alt-right and faced little to no consequences.

And this speculation, for which there are no data:

[Community organizer James] Croft suggested that this may be at the heart of the seeming kinship between so-called anti-theists and the alt-right. The taboo-confronting ethos of both movements, where irreverence is idealized and often weaponized, enables some of their members to style themselves as oppressed outsiders—despite often being relatively privileged straight white men. Many in the alt-right and atheist movements seem to see themselves as a group under siege, the last defenders of unfettered inquiry and absolute freedom of thought and speech, contrarians and truth-tellers who are unafraid to push back against the norms of polite, liberal society. If this is a part of why the alt-right seems to appeal to some atheists—and I suspect it is—then we must take a hard look at why that is and how to address it.

This, of course, doesn’t explain why many groups who consider themselves “oppressed outsiders” confronting societal norms and “polite, liberal society” don’t also move to the alt-right. Why is it just atheists?

Okay, Stedman here you go: I  honestly deplore Spencer and Fisher and disassociate myself from them.

Stedman goes on to name those people who have views supposedly aligning with the alt-right, and I’ve named them above. That’s just slander, pure and simple: a way to associate people like Sam Harris and Bill Maher with Nazis. Stedman also notes that several atheist organizations have explicitly declined to condemn Spencer because they didn’t want to call attention to the fact that he was an atheist (he conveniently fails to name these organizations, those he has no trouble naming miscreant atheist “leaders.”) But I’m not sure if it’s the business of organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, for instance, to issue repeated condemnations of bigots and sexists who also happen to be atheists. That’s up to them, but I don’t see groups like the FFRF doing much good by spending their time making Little Lists of Bad Atheists rather than battling the incursion of real dangers—Republicans and free-speech denialistss—to our First Amendment.

In the end, Stedman’s piece is just a long kvetch condemning atheists for not denouncing Richard Spencer for his white supremacy.  So let me start by giving us all an “I am Spartacus” moment:

I, Jerry A. Coyne, hereby condemn Richard Spencer for his injurious and odious white supremacy. 

Stedman goes on to fault us for “mocking the sincerely held beliefs of others”, i.e. making fun of religion. Well, here I’m not with him. Religion is a dangerous superstition, and whatever it takes to make it go away, including reasoned discussion, debate, and yes, mockery, are fine. After all, for centuries those have been weapons against conventional but unfounded beliefs. And I’ll add here, somewhat lightheartedly, a poll on how we feel about these issues. Since it’s anonymous, you can vote how you want, and nobody will know who you are. This poll is just for atheists, and can serve as the kind of record Stedman seems to want. PLEASE VOTE.

Well, Stedman barks, but the caravan moves on. Despite anti-theists and supposedly hateful atheist leaders, the U.S. is becoming, slowly but inexorably, more atheistic.

 

97 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I would have preferred if the first option in the pole read “Yes, I condemn them. And also, Chris Stedman is a bit of a dope.”

    I selected it anyway.

  2. Jon
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    …thanks for the poll, prof. I’ve been wanting to get on the record.
    btw, I will continue to make fun of & mock religion(s)… also, I hadn’t noticed that mockery is a primary tool of the alt-right.

    • alexander
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      “Religion is a dangerous superstition, and whatever it takes to make it go away, including reasoned discussion, debate, and yes, mockery, are fine.” Yes, I agree with JC and Jon. Dario Fo was a master in this, I will never forget him ridiculing the Pope and his Popemobile, “kicking in his ass” in front of a frozen audience in an auditorium at the Yale Law School.

      • Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Christopher Hitchens was a master of mocking religion. Remember his “eulogy” on the death of Jerry Falwell?

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Hitchens actually reserved his most (in)famous remark on Falwell for Sean Hannity- the matchbox quip.

          • Filippo
            Posted April 4, 2018 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

            “You took up my time with your long, rather unlettered question.”

  3. BobTerrace
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    My addition proclamation: Chris Stedman is no Greg Epstein. I even have doubts that he is a humanist any longer.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      There are some who want to make secular humanist a subcategory of humanist, with the broader term including folks like Julian Huxley, who was broadly sympathetic to some forms of religion.

      Thus, it is probably fair to argue that Chris is not a secular humanist, but by the older broader definition, he may still be a (generic) humanist.

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Too many critics of atheism make blanket statements based on nothing but bias and lack of evidence. Chris Stedman, anyway.

    I guess we should just condemn critics of atheism as bozos who make meaningless claims without evidence. If we’re going to pull a Stedman, anyhow.

    This is particularly despicable misrepresentation:

    Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most famous atheist in the world, has mocked women for speaking out about experiences of sexual harassment, shared a video ridiculing feminists, and railed against “SJWs” (short for “social justice warriors,” a derisive term for social justice activists).

    Since when has he mocked women for speaking out about experiences of sexual harassment? The whole elevator episode? BS, Stedman, you just believe rank propaganda. Why shouldn’t people rail against the SJWs, who care as little about evidence as Stedman?

    Well, Stedman, I would bet that people like you are responsible for some going to the alt-right. Since you just spew propaganda that you’re too indolent and ignorant to analyze properly, people react against secularists like yourself and the SJWs, sometimes going too far–and often not. If you could begin to deal honestly with these issues, you might do good, rather than just preen in your moralistic ignorance.

    Glen Davidson

    • nicky
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      “SWJ’s a derisive term for social justice activists” , ‘activist’ meaning spawning inanities on a keyboard. Yes, I like that.

  5. Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I miss the old days when we were laughing at all the religious attacks on us. Those were fun at least.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    The results when I voted were 57 to 0. Maybe next time he will take a poll but I doubt it. I honestly think he is looking in the wrong place for the racist, misogyny and white supremacy. Most of those people are the card carrying religious.

  7. Historian
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    The article appears on Vice, not Vox.

    In principle, the political affiliations of atheists is an empirical question, which can be crafted by a well-crafted poll. A practical problem in conducting such a poll is that the word “atheist” can have different meaning to different people. Still, such a poll would answer many questions.

    The anecdotes provided by Stedman mean nothing. The distribution of attitudes expressed as this site probably has more meaning, although, of course, not as valid as a good poll. I would be surprised if there is a strong correlation between atheism and political affiliations. On this site, political attitudes vary greatly.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Ooops, my mistake.

    • Historian
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      “which can answered by a well-crafted poll.”

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Phil Zuckerman has been studying this topic for years and there us plenty of data. He refers to atheists as secularists, as Richard Dawkins does in his US branch, and, of course, secularists can be religious.

      Zuckerman’s data are clear. Atheists are, on average, less racist, less sexist, less anti-Semitic, more educated, less homophobic, less dogmatic etc etc than the general population. We’re even more honest! On almost all social factors, atheists come out ahead of the religious.

      The main area where we don’t, on average, do as well, is that we’re more likely to suffer from depression. I personally put that down to the ability to face reality rather than turn to a supernatural being when things are bad.

      • nicky
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Heather, that makes me feel good now! 🙂

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          If you search Phil Zuckerman on my site, you’ll find stuff about his work from before you were a regular.

      • Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        I wish I’d known that when I wrote this post. Thanks, Heather.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

          I’ve got a paper he wrote. I’ll email it to you.

  8. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Stedman’s failure to cite actual evidence for his claims is understandable. He discovered the relationship between atheism and the alt-right from a source far superior to evidence, namely Revelation. It may not be mentioned in Scripture, but most likely the Angel Gabriel came to him and dictated the information.

  9. ptheinb
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    The problem for religion is if you simply repeat their claims using anything less than a deferential and reverential voice, it comes out as mockery

    • darrelle
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Your comment may sound sarcastic to many, particularly folks like Stedman and believers themselves, but it is dead accurate in my experience.

      • nicky
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Sarcasm often is dead accurate. It is it’s life blood, methinks.

  10. scottoest
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Just once, I’d like one of these pieces to not only name names, but actually provide comprehensive evidence of the supposed “veering”.

    Like most of these pieces though, this one just rests on the usual accusations about the usual handful of atheists on the public speaking circuit.

    In the case of Harris, it’s just so beyond old at this point.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      I expect that Stedman would explain away the lack of citations by saying that the incidents he is bringing up are well known.
      Of course it is convenient to not make citations, since if he did then they could be checked and found to be b.s.

      • scottoest
        Posted April 4, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        In the case of Harris, they’d do the same thing they always do – either offer the same extremely selective quotations of things he has said, divorced from the context in which he said them; or, simply make accusations of his motives because they read the same accusations elsewhere – from Reza Aslan, Greenwald, Salon, whoever.

        Reminds me of the Ben Affleck incident with Harris on Bill Maher’s show, where it was clear that Affleck had heard things ABOUT Harris and came with an axe to grind, yet had no familiarity with Sam’s actual work.

  11. Gamall
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Voted yes with the caveat that I would certainly vote “no” under the modern SJW’s definitions of “misogyny, sexism, and racism”.

    • tomh
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Which is what?

      • Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Misogyny:
        – Rejecting the reification of the neologisms “The Patriarchy” & “Rape Culture”;
        – Presenting data disproving that one in five college women are raped;
        – Presenting data showing that the gender wage gap is driven primarily by women’s choices, not discrimination;
        – Asserting that behavior differences between men & women are evolved;

        Racism:
        – Presenting data showing that racial disparities in arrest rates correlates to commission of crimes rates;
        – Presenting data showing that racial disparities in school discipline rates correlates to commission of school infractions;
        – Observing that low numbers of PoC atheist activists correlates to low numbers of PoC atheists;

        Islamophobia:
        – Asserting that Islam differs in several fundamental way with other religions, making it incompatible with Western secular society.

        • tomh
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          “Asserting that Islam differs in several fundamental way with other religions, making it incompatible with Western secular society.”

          Well, I’m only familiar with the US, but with over 3 million Muslims living peaceably in the US, it’s hard for me to see that Islam is any more incompatible with Western secular society than any other religion. I guess that makes me a “modern SJW,” whatever that is.

          • nicky
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

            You haven’t been around very much in Islamic circles, I presume?

          • alexander
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

            There are enough examples in Europe, such as husbands trying to stop male doctors to intervene, using violence, in medical emergencies with wives and daughters during complications during child birth (resulting in the police arresting these men), parents that pick up their children after school so that they don’t mingle with unbelieving children, parents who don’t allow their children to go on school trips, discourage children to study, people that object to stores selling wine and other alcoholic drinks, restaurants that don’t provide alcoholic drinks, and don’t allow you to bring your own wine bottle (when I lived in NY this was possible),inhumane ways of slaughtering animals and illegal slaughter, male-only cafes, sequestering wives and daughters at home, forced arranged marriages, tolerance of violence against women, rampant incest, etc. One difference with the US is that in general Muslim immigrants in the US come from more educated and wealthy backgrounds, while in Europe many arrive, thoroughly brainwashed in Koranic schools, and unable to adapt to a free and liberal society.

            • alexander
              Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

              These problems are, of course, very different in each country in Europe. An interesting and very humane, and funny take on this is the film “East is East” about a Pakistani family living in the UK:

          • Taz
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            I have a question for you, and I’m not trying to be snarky, this is something I’ve thought about in relation to discussions about the idiotic “anti-sharia” laws that some state were considering. Probably the biggest argument against them was that there was no real threat – Muslims are such a small percentage of the population.

            So here’s the question: Is there a percentage of the population being Muslim that would make you uncomfortable? The USA is about 70% Christian. If it were 70% Muslim, would that be a problem?

            • alexander
              Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

              Yes. Because we live in democratic countries where ultimately the majority of people decide what is the law, this would be a problem. In the UK there have been attempts to introduce Sharia law. And, if I am right, you have Sharia courts in the UK who don’t have legitimacy in society at large, but they do (ore are viewed as thus) in certain Islamic communities.

            • tomh
              Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

              The fact that the US is 70% Christian makes me uncomfortable, and it is a huge problem.

              • alexander
                Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                The reemergence of religions is a real and worrisome problem now in Poland, Hungary, Greece and Turkey, and also in Russia, because governments exploit it to reinforce their hold on people.

              • tomh
                Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

                In the US religion exploits the government, by way of the legal system, which affects everyone, whether they know it or not.

              • Taz
                Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

                You’re deflecting. If it was 70% Muslim instead, would your discomfort be more, less, or the same?

              • tomh
                Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

                So, not jumping to answer impossible hypotheticals is deflection now. OK, my answer is, all else being equal, I wouldn’t care if the US were 70% Christian, or 70% Muslim. What the questioner really want to know, though was, what if Muslim extremists took over, overthrew the Constitution, put in Shariah law, and made the US into Iran or whatever the worst Muslim country is. Wouldn’t that be awful. Well, yes, it would. Duh. Just as bad as if Christian extremists, Dominionists, for instance, took over, overthrew the Constitution, instituted biblical law, and turned the US into an Old Testament tyranny. See, fantasy hypotheticals are easy…and useless.

              • Taz
                Posted April 4, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

                No, that’s not what the thrust of my question was at all, and I’ll thank you not to put words in my mouth.

          • Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            But does making this argument about Islam constitute an “anti-muslim bias”?

            • tomh
              Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

              Bias is in the eye of the beholder. Do you think Trump has an “anti-Muslim bias”?

              • Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

                I think trump has an anti-human bias.

              • tomh
                Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

                I guess that’s a no. As I said, in the eye of the beholder.

              • Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

                It’s not a ‘no’ — it’s a ‘don’t answer my question with a question’.

            • alexander
              Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

              No. Muslims are people, while Islam is a religion. Perhaps there is an anti-Islam bias, just like there was an anti-Christianity bias, which fortunately has resulted into the rejection by the majority of people of this religion, except Western Germany (the former DDR is irreligious).

        • tomh
          Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          “Presenting data showing that racial disparities in school discipline rates correlates to commission of school infractions;”

          NYT 4/4/18: Government Watchdog Finds Racial Bias in School Discipline

          “Black students continue to be disciplined at school more often and more harshly than their white peers, often for similar infractions, according to a new report by Congress’s nonpartisan watchdog agency.”

  12. Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I initially hesitated, because people have told me that I am a racist / white supremacist myself. Being a non-American, I knew nothing about Richard Spencer except what I had red on this site – namely, that some leftists think he should be punched. I read his Wikipedia page and found that I disagree with most of the views described there, so I voted “Yes”.

  13. Derek Freyberg
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Stedman:
    ‘As George Hawley, author of Making Sense of the Alt-Right, told NPR last year, the alt-right is not only “predominantly white millennial men” … ‘

    The alt-right is predominantly white millenial men? – somebody better tell Steve Bannon and his confreres. There may be many millenials among the alt-right, I don’t know, but the leaders of that movement are hardly millenial. And I think the same is by-and-large true of the alt-right movements in Europe as well. Marine Le Pen in France is 49; the odious Nigel Farage in England is 54; though Austria’s new chancellor Sebastian Kurz(who’s certainly a populist, but I don’t know if you’d consider him alt-right) is only 31, but even that’s not millenial.

  14. glen1davidson
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    A lot of his anecdotes of the evil of “some atheists” are simply that they provide opportunities to certain people to speak. Stedman whines that Harris would actually “host” Charles Murray, and Maher actually had Yiannopoulos on his show (“sympathetic interview, whatever that’s supposed to mean).

    No, we can’t discuss things with some people, because this dullard Stedman believes that it’s wrong. Is it any wonder that people run from such authoritarians, sometimes too far?

    Keep on making the left look bad, Stedman. That’s your contribution to the alt-right.

    Glen Davidson

    • AC Harper
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 2:36 am | Permalink

      Indeed. I didn’t vote in the poll because I regarded it as too divisive (for me). Am I in the wishy-washy middle?

      No. I’m against unjustified beliefs of all stripes because they polarise debate. I have some beliefs that the progressive left would demonise and some that the alt-right would demonise. I’d call myself an unpolitically aligned atheist – but I’m quite indifferent to the idea of god itself. Concerned about some of the behaviours of believers (and non-believers) though.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Has Stedman ever gone after Ayn Rand?

    Evangelical Christians who decry Richard Dawkins are still happy cozying up to Rand whose values are actually far more anti-Christian than Dawkins.

    Stedman’s desire for common cause can be achieved by simply being selective in choosing one’s battles or backburning one’s criticisms of religion, but the silly assault on the community of atheist activists is really not a good idea, mainly because it is so sweeping.

    My chief reason for disliking two assaults on atheism by two liberal religious types (Chris Hedges and Terry Eagleton) is the grotesque overgeneralizations they make, homogenizing all atheists into one mold. You would never know that atheists actually disagree over any issues like free will, accomodationism, the status of “spirituality”, Buddhism, the existence of Jesus, etc. by reading the screeds of Hedges and Eagleton.

    Stedman is making the same mistake.

    (Although not a terrific book, the chief virtue of Frank Schaeffer’s “Patience with God” is that he has parsed the writing of the Gnu atheists very very carefully, far more so than any other religious critic.)

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      ” …two assaults on atheism by two liberal religious types (Chris Hedges and Terry Eagleton)…” Let’s be careful with labels. Neither of these gentlemen should be called a “liberal”. Terry Eagleton describes himself as a kind of Marxist, but his assaults on Dawkins and Hitchens seem to reflect a second (Catholic) childhood. Chris Hedges is a favorite on the Truthout mode of the pop-Left, and he specializes in loud moral preening—perhaps reflecting an invisible letter t he detects on the end of his first name.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Fair cop.
        People on the Left broadly construed- liberal is a narrower category.
        If talking about religion rather than politics, they might still perhaps be in the “liberal” category as those labels are looser there.

    • nicky
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Why is Ayn Rand such a big thing in the US? I must confess I never even heard about her before about 10 years ago (at least 30 years after her death) when the Pinkah (?) wrote somewhere that Mr Greenspan was an acolyte. In Europe and Africa she is/was virtually non-existent.
      I gather she ended on a social pension she so vehemently opposed? Is that so?

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        She did indeed collect social security. She rationalized is as restitution for the money previously stolen from her paychecks.

        • nicky
          Posted April 4, 2018 at 1:44 am | Permalink

          So they all saw eye to eye, just replace ‘stolen from’ with ‘contributed by’. 🙂

  16. Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    If Stedman wants to find common ground between atheists and religious people, he could conduct the following poll:

    Freedom to practice or not practice; to believe or not believe any religion, inasmuch as it does not impinge upon others, should be seen as a universal human and civil right. (Yes) (No)

    I’m not certain, but he *might* find enough religious people voting “yes” to make that count as common ground.

  17. Christopher
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Is calling out Islam and Muslim men for the violence perpetrated against Muslim women, children, and LGBT going to get me labeled as an anti-muslim islamophobe as it has people like Hirsi-Ali? Probably. Will calling out the attacks on free speech, free thought, free expression, and freedom of association perpetrated by the regressive leftists going to earn me the label of alt-right? Is calling out the violence in the black community or the protests that turn into rioting and looting even while I also call out obvious police violence going to get me labeled as a racist? Probably. I don’t see any point in trying to prove my worth to people like Stedman or any other glass house liberal extremists. It is every bit the old adage about wrestling a pig, which will get me labeled both anti-Muslim AND anti-Semitic just for mentioning pigs I’m sure!

    • nicky
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      To be anti-anti-semetic is racist, didn’t you know? So you are a racist, Islamophobe, and Alt-right (and Ayaan is not just a despicable Islamophobe, she is a white supremacist!). Anti-semetic is not a a label you will be branded with, if anything you should consider it a badge of honour. Nothing wrong with a bit of anti-semitism, don’t you see how these perfidous Jews are committing genocide in Palestine? So there! Not to mention how they control the Deep State! /s

      • Christopher
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, if I was ONLY anti-Semitic, I could run for a Labour seat in the House of Commons! I could buddy up with the Women’s March leaders and Louis Farrakhan! At least until they found out my ancestry includes great grandfather’s side of the family, who were ethnically Jewish but converted to Quakerism, then I’d be attacked for having the blood of Palestinians on my hands. But, on the other side of the family shrub, I’m English, Irish, and Scottish who intermarried with Cherokee, so I’m both colonialist rapist pig AND victim! How confusing all this has become! Maybe I’ll just sit home and quietly hate myself.

  18. DrBrydon
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    . . . have expressed troubling sentiments that align with views held by the alt-right.

    That seems weasely. What does it mean for views to align? Are they the same? Are they parallel and don’t touch? Sounds like Stedman may be a philatelist.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Oh, yes, and condemn.

  19. ploubere
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Steadman’s accusation seems to stem from the old and false claim in defense of religion that the Nazis were atheists, and thus atheism leads to fascism.

    Frankly, I think Steadman is just a troll in service of religion. Let’s see him refute that.

    • alexander
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Especially the Catholic Church cosied up with the Nazis.

  20. eedwardgrey69
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Its not that the alt right movement is overwhelmingly faith based and outright hostile against everything non Christian, or something…

  21. Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    The problem is, what Stedman classifies as “sexism, racism, and anti-Muslim bias” is actually rejection of radical feminist nonsense & BLM’s hyperbole, reasonable criticism on Islam, as well as opposition to hijacking atheist activism for SJW causes.

    Stedman has proven time and again that he is first & foremost a leftist activist, an atheist only incidentally and only to the extent that it does not interfere with his SJW agenda.

    Stedman is also another example — found so frequently among US humanists — of the maxim that you can take the apostate out of fundamentalism, but you can’t take the fundamentalism out of the apostate.

  22. Taz
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    It makes sense that there’s a correlation between those who question prevailing wisdom and atheists. And this is basically what Stedman is whining about – atheists who dare question the excesses of the regressive left. There’s no room for that in Stedman’s blinkered little world.

  23. nicky
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Stedman’s musings are way above my paygrade, and I do not even know the Spencer and Fisher he refers to. (I voted ‘Yes, I condemn’ because of the other features).
    To accuse Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris as Alt-right is ridiculous, the same way it is ridiculous to call Ayaan a ‘white supremacist’ (yes, she’s actually been called that!). So ridiculous it is ‘not even wrong’. Neither here nor there, and despicable.

    • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      I thought “not even wrong” was reserved for unfalsifiable, ad hoc, ill-defined notions?

      • nicky
        Posted April 4, 2018 at 3:18 am | Permalink

        Well, I guess you’re right, I tend to use it for all for things that are neither here nor there. Sloppy usage, I plead guilty.

  24. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I am entirely sick of being gas-lighted by the Ctrl-Left. Describing New Atheists as defenders of the alt-right for d*g’s sakes! Leaving out the teeeeny little detail that it is mainly over the right for the damn alt-right to have free speech! Or, coincidentally, being on the same page by saying that Islam (not Muslims) is a great source of evil and human suffering in the world.

    • Rich Sanderson
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Yup.

      It is the same when we criticise some of the regressive antics going on in academia.

      The Ctrl-Left gaslight us, and insist we are imagining it, or criticise us because it “enables” the alt-right, who love to bash academua anyways.

  25. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s more like the atheists are being hacked by the alt-right. I went to lunch with one such person who attended the Milwaukee Mythicists conference last year. He was there, with a bunch of Trump supporters, specifically to see Sargon of akkad. When I questioned him on topics of atheism, he knew absolutely nothing.
    I also think people like Jordan Peterson are also alt-righters pretending to be anti-left. Just look who their followers are.

    • nicky
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      You lose me there: “alt-righters pretending to be anti-left”. Are Alt righters secretly pro-‘left’? Could you elucidate?

    • GBJames
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      “Just look who their followers are.”

      Guilt by association?

      I assume you are some kind of alt-right person since you were hanging around with them at Milwaukee Mythicists conference.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Jordan Peterson is not alt-right. Deducing his socio-political views from the fact that alt-righters constitute a sub-set of his total fan base is a crappy methodology.

  26. Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t take seriously someone who pierced his earlobes with Lifesaver™ mints.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Is ear gauging an example of cultural appropriation?

  27. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    It is unfortunate to need to do so, but it would be useful if Dawkins, Harris, Pinker, and others were to get together and issue a joint statement condemning the alt-right. State their positions on the topics in question and spend some space in the statement letting the world know that these accusers are liars liars with pants on fire.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Futile, in that it won’t persuade the accusers, and unnecessary as none but the accusers actually believe it.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Steve Pinker does a good job of attacking alt-rightism and Trumpism in Enlightenment Now. Sadly, not many people I know have read that book. (They always say, “It’s too long!”) But his liberal and progressive values permeate that book, and you couldn’t read it and call him an alt-righter.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      These are o course important points. But it is not about persuading the accusers. It would be about bypassing them.

    • Rich Sanderson
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      I heard Pinker condemning the Alt-Right only the other day.

      I’ve also heard Harris criticising them on plenty of occasions.

      The idea that they have to issue some sort of formal statement smacks of kafta-trapping.

  28. BJ
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    As with when a handful of useful idiots tried to start “Atheism Plus,” Stedman’s real beef — his real idea of “veering dangerously toward the Alt-Right” — is not fully and unreservedly agreeing with him politically. Richard Dawkins has disagreed with SJWs? “Alt-Right!” And, when Stedman says that Dawkins has mocked survivors of sexual harassment, I assume he’s talking about when Dawkins mocked the idea that Rebecca Watson had been sexually assaulted because someone asked her if she wanted to have coffee with him.

    It’s people like Stedman, not Dawkins, who give atheists a bad name. But Stedman isn’t an atheist, he’s an ideologue.

  29. Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Two things: First, He is totally wrong when he looks at Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Neither of them has to monitor Richard Spencer and comment on him, and thereby making this guy seem legitimate. If they did, he’d be the first to complain about legitimizing this odious individual.

    Everyone who isn’t crazy knows that neither of them has anything to do with this. Stedham has lost his mind on this one, and is also dishonest because Sam Harris — in fact — often argues against Trump, and even made a podcast recently on (and against) White Power. Listeners of his podcast know that Sam’s anti-Trump views are a kind of running gag already, because they spontaneously pop up in various contexts, given an opportunity (which is great). Failing to mention any of that is just vile and dishonest, but typical for the Woke.

    Second, he’s right about the Alt Right (aka Identitarian Movement, aka New Right, aka Neo Fascism Rebranded) seeping into the atheist-skeptics corner.

    There’s enough evidence that shows this. If you were following the YouTube and Twitter scene you could see how it progressed from Pro-Sanders to Anti-Clinton to Pro-Trump, for example.

    Or another way: it began with “anti-SJW” and then, slowly, it was declared as the “Culture War” against “The Left”. Pundits like Milo Yiannopolous and Lauren Southern started relatively moderate compared to what they became. Carl Benjamin was a somewhat moderate left-liberal at first.

    Yiannopolous began with the tech section (I believe) at Breitbart and exploited the fact that most other outlets were lying on GamerGate (reason I suspect, nerd writers often came via Tumblr, the woke capital). Lauren Southern reported on the campus movement when the media was still in denial. Carl Benjamin, speaker e.g. at Mythicist Milwaukee, started also as someone who reported weekly on SJW shenanigans.

    Yiannopolous then graduated from the tech section to politics, went full Trump and anti-feminism and was briefly the darling of conservatives, before he fell over his remarks on pedophilia. The end stage is InfoWars, where he now sells snakeoil.

    Lauren Southern found a home at Rebel Media, which moved New Right over time. She then joined the actual Identitarian Movement, which is the european counterpart to the Alt Right proper. That’s really Neo Fascism Rebranded.

    Carl Benjamin slowly moved far far right wing, even though his apologists are always in denial, and apparently can’t google. If they did, they’d find him giving a friendly platform to Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor (actual White Supremacists), Luke Rudkowski etc and introduced them to a wider and receptive audience, since he also warmed them up with his usual far right narratives. He doesn’t always agree with them, and commenters widely believe they pwned him, but he wasn’t exactly trying to discourage viewers from them. He also endorsed and Front National and encouraged viewers to campaign for Le Pen.

    The Alt Right influence is clearly there, and these are just some examples, not the full picture.

    I am also on the Left, and don’t consider postmodernists or woke as left. They are as Chomsky put it, “so-called very left”.

    • BJ
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      You laid out perfectly how people end up being drawn to the extreme right in exactly the way Pinker described. Whenever media and thought leaders on the left lie about things that are easily researched, many people find out about it. When people find out they’re being lied to, they start to resent it, and they also move away from those who are lying to them and toward those who are telling the truth on those specific issues/stories. Once people have started resenting those to whom they used to listen, and have gravitated toward those they think are truth-tellers, they start to trust their new sources on other issues and alleviate their resentment by switching sides. Slowly, someone who was once left becomes part of the right, and sometimes even the extreme right.

      In Gamergate, I watched many left-wing people discover that liberal media outlets and thought leaders were systematically lying to them about something, and from that experience they began to distrust everything from that side, its spokespeople, and its media. They started to listen to the people who were telling the truth about that one story, and I watched people like Milo Yiannopolous and Carl Benjamin very slowly convert people by starting with moderate positions and then increasing the extremity of their views and positions over time, taking their new converts with them. What all of these converts never bothered to do was research both sides in their totality, or they would notice they both lie, but just about different things. All “sides” lie; all political groups have certain issues and stories about which they won’t tell the truth; all ideologies try to supplant your rational thought with what they want you to believe. Unfortunately, most people can’t help but choose a side, group, and ideology because most don’t feel comfortable saying, “I’ll think for myself on every issue, research every story I think is significant, and not allow anyone to do my thinking or draw conclusions for me.”

  30. Carl Powers
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Religion: they can’t all be right, but they could all be wrong. (I’m in the “all wrong” corner.)

  31. Rich Sanderson
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Even PZ Myers thought Stedman was an idiot, and Stedman talks the same sort of regressive trash that PZ talks.

  32. Hunt
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    I voted, and yes, it was to condemn them. Only caveat I have is that the word “misogyny” has been so ridiculously overextended these days as to include holding a door open for a women. Sadly, I’m not joking. If “misogyny” was put back in its place as bona fide hatred of women, I would be in total agreement.

  33. rtarbinar
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    To your question about being “targeted” as a white male by the alt-right. It’s akin to being “targeted” as a straight male by images of scantily clad women trying to get me to buy product X. It immediately lowers my opinion of product X simply because of the ham-handed attempt to appeal to my sexuality instead of my intellect (i.e., by convincing me that product X is actually worth buying). I would’ve said “baser instincts,” but I don’t consider a healthy sexual appetite in any way “base.” There’s nothing healthy these days about racial identity politics, however (be it white, black, or purple), so those tactics strike me as even more odious. In short, i recoil from any attempt to circumvent my intellect, so even if i am being targeted, it falls wide of the mark.

  34. Alexander
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I read online that Dan Arel has once again decided to freak out about Dr Coyne in favor of considering any semblance of narrative critique of his ‘comrades of war’: https://twitter.com/danarel/status/981552695944273921

    • alexander
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      This is not me, alexander. I have been posting here for years. Perhaps you should use a different name for your posts, to avoid confusion.

  35. Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Didn’t see this when you posted it. Not familiar with Stedman. Hey, look at this,I thought. Crooked Media, I like them. Wow, atheism and far-right wingnuts, two of my favorite subjects. My wow turned to sputtering rage. What a truly awful interview. https://crooked.com/podcast/atheism-alt-right-chris-stedman-diana-butler-bass/


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