Chapel Hill

Many posts have been made already on the Chapel Hill shootings, some defending atheists against the charge of being a hateful ideology and some attacking– The one thing I have noticed lacking is the observation that both sides are actually correct.

In reality the term Atheist is now seen as an ideology by many atheists but, is still seen as a simple statement of non-belief in the supernatural by many other atheists. Is it any wonder theists (and some atheists!) pounce upon the atheist as a worldview position? It did not help us make the case that atheist was only one position about gods and the supernatural when some atheists pushed the term Atheism+ either.

The analogy of language with biological systems for such terms as ‘mind virus’ and evolution of language is as true with atheism as it is with feminism. No matter what we do, language change is inevitable– I would argue the new fangled term egalitarianism will also evolve and become a term proponents argue over as well in just a few years, as Identity politics hits that movement(?). I don’t even need to mention the argument over the term Agnostic do I?

This is precisely why I judge people on their behaviours and positions rather than any labels we use. It is why those of us who begrudgingly label ourselves atheist (After all, why is the sane position the one needing a label) are careful to make clear our position. There is no charge of ‘No true Scotsman’ for the usage of ‘atheist’ possible if we have a well defined definition that does not change in response to an attack. Incidentally it is precisely for this reason many organisations write open letters reiterating their positions after any event such as this.

The Chapel Hill shooting is also a real life example of the topics of many of my prior blog posts. e.g. ‘On heroes’,  ‘Propaganda’, ‘In Living Colour’, ‘Us vs. them’, ‘I’m not a true Scotsman’, ‘Why I am still a feminist, ‘I’m not a foot soldier in your war’ and ‘How to argue on the Internet’.


I am not a foot soldier in your war

I’ll likely lose more followers in the shallow world of twitter– I already have– but I have never been one to join sides. I’ve always been a great believer in Mark Twain’s ‘Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.’ Perhaps the partisanship I see from some atheists is an import from the partisanship of U.S.politics? Perhaps it is because I am older (I do have two young grandchildren after all), and less passionate; at least I choose my battles more carefully.

At the risk of Gowdining myself, if I had not known Hitler painted in his youth, and had I as a child seen a painting of his, would I have rejected his painting as evil? I will concede they are not great paintings, but there is a ‘what if’ here .Going less extreme, what of other groups? Is everything as stated from one group evil because they are known as a hate group, or at least proclaimed by one side or another as a hate group? To someone like me, the answer is no since maybe I don’t know a group is supposed to be evil, or sometimes I don’t care. Truth is truth no matter who utters it.

I criticise ideas not people. What’s worse, I will criticise anyone regardless of the group they are in. This is hard to do in written media and impossible on twitter. (I wish more atheists would learn ‘The principle of charity’.) This puts me in the position of having friends in various groups who I admire, but the groups themselves seem to be at war. To those groups Ican only say — “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster…” (Nietzsche) Critising ideas is one thing, parody, dogged nitpicking of people without constructive criticism, is just as evil.

I continue to reserve the right to disagree with people, and sometimes vehemently. If you are an atheist, or even a theistic secularist we can agree that religion has no place in government and education, but anything else will have to be negotiated on a case by case basis. You are just going to have to accept that I might agree with you on one thing, but not another.

I am not your foot soldier in your war.