4/10/13

Atheist Rights

English: Sam Harris
English: Sam Harris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The recent attacks on Sam Harris have given me pause.  I recommend you follow the links and catch up if you haven't been following this flap.  Nathan Lean's hit piece may be read here, and Glenn Greenwald's unscrupulous misrepresentation may be read here.  Sam Harris' response may be read here.

But the essence is just this:  Harris has been misquoted and misrepresented in a deliberate attempt at defamation, for no other reason than speaking the truth with clarity and precision.

What strikes me about the attacks is that they are unscrupulous and dishonest, but it was this post by Lean that made it clear to me that those who attack the so-called new atheists on ridiculous trumped up and baseless grounds have absolutely no interest in helping the Muslims who are poor victims of "Islamaphobia" (what a ridiculous term).  This is all about defaming the vociferous and brutally honest new atheists. Sam Harris, the face of new atheism, has endured the brunt of those attacks.

Harris is a man I deeply admire because he is an academic in the best sense.  He takes academic honesty, academic integrity, seriously.  In every word he writes, it is clear to me that he lives those values.  Those values are at the core of his identity.  He reminds me of Socrates, who was no respecter of persons, and, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, without the protections afforded by academic freedom, and in the United States the freedom of speech, Socrates always drinks the hemlock.

We might as well have a debate about the existence of Santa.  Anyone with a normally-developed brain knows the emperor wears no clothes.  Harris recognizes this, which is why his writing doesn't address the validity of god-belief, but the horrible ways people behave in the name of religion.  I myself have tired of arguing about god with stupid and desperate and emotionally stunted people.  It is settled.  God-belief is ridiculous, and few people really have it.  Religion is all about the trappings, the community, the powerful memes that exploit our human herd instincts.  Nothing more.  For those reasons people defend stupid ideas and do horrendous things.

I am tired of people who can't be honest with themselves.  That is not my problem.

It is the horrendous things that I want to make the central point of this piece, and from here I can make it rather briefly.  My argument is just this:  All around us, we find hatred.  Our arguments are mispresented and misquoted.  We are defamed.  We are libeled.  We are the subject of unmitigated hatred because we tell the truth.

Atheist activists who waste time debunking creationism, for instance, are wasting their time by picking the low-hanging fruit.  Nothing is to be gained by arguing with stupid people about things that have already been settled.

How many of you have received death threats for being an out atheist?
How many of you have lost friends and family?
How many of you have suffered from bigotry and discrimination?  

Atheist activism has to start focusing on our rights to basic human dignity, to respect, and to acceptance.  We have to start fighting against libel, against hatred, against bigotry.   Our cause, I'm convinced, has to make human rights its focus. 

I believe that sooner or later, as the fundamentalists become more and more irrelevant, and therefore more dangerous, we are going to see an escalation of violence committed against atheists.  Christianity is, at it's core, a violent religion with exceedingly stupid, desperate, and emotionally stunted adherents, and combine that with the dishonest charlatans, the unscrupulous commentators, who gladly lead the herd to do ridiculous things, and I foresee a real disaster on the horizon.  We have to fight for our dignity.  We have to focus our energy fighting for our basic rights to exist, and to speak the truth, to an irrational world. 

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