Saturday, August 28, 2010

And a Furor Erupts!

I’m not going to lie, this makes me pretty happy. I woke up from a nap, checked my email and found an email from Nathan Bupp, the Vice President of Communications of CFI, who I’d emailed yesterday. He asked me to correct my “public blog entry” stating that he was the CEO of CFI, which I’ve done. To explain the error, it must be said that the email contained no information as to the writer, except that it was the CEO of CFI, and the full press release on the website listed Nathan Bupp as a contact. Of course, I still have every responsibility to fact check, and to feel stupid, given that Ron Lindsay is quoted in the actual press release as the CEO. I promise I read it, more than once actually, but I was focused on the content so that I could argue against it.

Anyway, that would have been mildly exciting, given that an official of a prominent organization found my blog, but it gets better. He sent me Ron Lindsay’s preliminary remarks that are defending and clarifying the press release. Now, I don’t pretend to be that influential, so I went and checked out the CFI forums, and they are a-buzzing. People are mad. Honestly, I think it’s great, for several reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned in the previous post, when you have a free marketplace of ideas, and a lot of smart, incendiary people, when you do something stupid, people are going to be all over it. Obviously, Mr. Lindsay and the board can do whatever they like, but they know now that their base is angry with them.

Secondly, it’s a relief to know I wasn’t alone in my angry reaction to the press release. I’ve written before about the irritation I feel at people focusing too narrowly on atheism to the exclusion of social justice and humanism. It gets to the point where tribalism comes into play, the rationalists versus them, the irrational, uneducated masses. I’m far from an accomodationist, but I would have to be an idiot to think that only atheists have something to offer to this debate. Even if you just want to talk about creating a social epidemic, finding out who our allies are is a really good idea, even outside of the atheosphere. We’re not going to have any impact just sitting here and talking to each other about how great we are, though there’s a time and a place for that. And if you want to talk about error reduction, note that there are a lot of stupid atheists, which will only get truer as the movement grows, and a lot of very intelligent religious, spiritual or theistic folk who have a lot to add to the discussion.

Anyway, it appears that there is much hope for this movement. We have atheists who are worried about religious freedom not just because it’s legal, because it’s enshrined in the constitution, and because it implies freedom from religion, but also because it’s important to other people, people who are valuable and important. The atheist community also appears to understand that even if it were our ultimate goal to eradicate religion entirely (as a secular Jew who understands the possibility that religion has to be of cultural and historical but not theological significance), going about it by declaring all houses of worship “bad for humanity” is the wrong way of going about it. It’s unproductive, unlikely to work, gratuitously offensive, overly simplistic and not actually in line with our goals. We also understand that even if we’d decided that that were our goal and that were the means by which we would achieve it, targeting the Park51 Community Center rather than any other religious building anywhere, or close to Ground Zero, is cowardly, and feeds xenophobia and bigotry. So that makes me happy.

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