Monday, 17 May 2010

Clear or Shrill?

Atheism is facing a minor dilemma: should it speak out loud against religion, or should it adopt some sort of an apologetic/accommodating attitude as it tries to find its place in the world?
Indeed, I have often been accused on this pages for being too much of the former; indeed, I take pride in adopting the confrontational attitude as I see a need to identify the truth and as I don't see a need to be around the bush.
Interestingly enough, my colleague Richard Dawkins has been plagued by similar accusations. Here is Dawkins' reply when asked about his views on the matter of the preferred approach; if anything, you're guaranteed a laugh:


Wicked Little Critta said...

Good clip. And I agree with Dawkins on this one, you definitely need both kinds of atheists. In fact, I think we need more of the apologetic kind, especially to work on those who are religious.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I have a problem with what you're saying but it's because I have a problem with the apologetic attitude. There is this thing called truth, so being apologetic about telling the truth doesn't make sense to me (and unlike religious "truth", we do talk about scientific truths - as in, our arguments are evidence based).
My other problem is that despite seemingly everyone around me calling Dawkins "strident" I am yet to detect any sign of such qualities. I think the guy is the most clearly spoken person I have ever encountered, and I really can't say I detect shrillness in what he says. Sure, truth may hurt; but can you honestly claim that stating the truth makes you strident?

Wicked Little Critta said...

When I used the word "apologetic" I didn't mean "I'm sorry that I believe you're wrong." I probably should have used a different word. But I meant the kind that humbly and politely defends his/her position, the kind that is first concerned with respecting the person and secondly concerned with making a point. I think I used "apologetic" because "apologetics" is also defending ones beliefs.

It's funny, from my Christian background I always thought of Dawkins as a rude, abusive and aggressive person. Then once I actually saw and heard him I was shocked that the opposite is true. But I think that being clear with Christians (for example) isn't enough. Because they're not arguing from reason but from the starting point of the Bible. So an attempt to rationally explain and use common sense falls flat because you aren't looking at the world through the same lens.

For example, that comment you posted on the previous blog entry by a Christian is upsetting at best. But (being from the same religious background) I'm sad to say that not only can I see how a person would think those things, but I know some that share similar views. And calling them ignorant @ssholes will only serve to widen the gap. Even calmly having a discussion about when life begins scientifically won't get very far, because that ideology isn't based in science.

Sometimes, one must be sneaky and tread lightly to have an impact...

Moshe Reuveni said...

I don't think we're in disagreement. My "personal" problem is that I still fail to see why Dawkins is not considered one of those "apologetic" atheists given the fact he doesn't call religious people "idiots" but rather settles for pointing out what they do believe in. My point is that I am of the opinion he is labelled "strident" just because this label provides an easy way to ignore what he's saying. As in, "he may be rational, but I don't listen to obtuse people so why should I listen to Dawkins".
I am also still to see an effective apologetic atheist; those I do encounter offer positions that are pretty pathetic.