Saturday, 18 April 2009

Plonkers on parades

Courtesy of the ever excellent Ophelia Benson’s Butterflies and Wheels site (see sidebar) I was guided to a P.Z. Myers demolition of the newest witterings by Madeline Bunting and Julian Baggini.
If you haven’t been following the debates on the Guardian ‘Comment Is Free’ section, this sad pair of hacks are being wheeled out to try and convince liberals that the New Atheism (whatever that means) is just the teensy weensiest bit too strident, and Bunting in particular, rants on a lot about ‘foghorn voices’. Pot, kettle, black in her case from a frequent apologist for the worst kind of faith-based bigotry.
P.Z’s satirical piece has Bunkum and Bagpuss tutting away like two old biddies as an Atheist Pride parade goes past. Tittering at their ‘sorrowful cluckings’, he goes on to say ‘the image that keeps coming to mind is of two old prunes reassuring each other that their wizened ways are the only path to reason, all the while they sit alone, ignored. It would be amusing if it weren't also a bit sad and pathetic.’
for more.
And as befits one of the best atheist blogs in the world, even the comments section on P.Z.'s site, Pharyngula, is a source of wonder and inspiration.
I was particularly encouraged by Pareidolius, who said:

‘I love my varied group of friends and day to day life, but I also know that my sense of self-approval grew out of a youth spent in the heart of the Gay community in San Francisco. It was a revelation to find a loud, proud, accepting community that helped wipe away the years of being called a faggot and a geek in highschool. Being different was okay, hell, it was encouraged. There was love and acceptance and yes, it was noisy and obnoxious and certainly turned off the fundies and some of the old "lets just live quietly and get along" types (gay uncle Toms).
When I sometimes feel like Hitchens or Dawkins are too hard and polemic, I remember my coming-out years, and that as god-free folk, we are still awash in the hatred of magical-thinking. Awful violence is committed daily in the name of gawd. Women still get clitorectomies in the name of Allah and some kids in rural towns are in danger of being bashed by their own parents should they come out as queer. In our own way atheists are queer. Queer in every sense of the word as we are perceived by "good", polite, religious society. Maybe a few float laden parades wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.’

I have also had a busy, varied and eventful past in urban, activist communities elsewhere, and am now trying to get by in a quieter place. Sadly, the Isle of Man is still a racist, superstition-riddled backwater everywhere outside our finance sector, and that’s the worst paradox. Our public sector, our small business community, the euphemistically named ‘third sector’ which throttles all attempts at true community in favour of a Stepford alternative fit only for braindead rednecks – all dull little pools of incest and bigotry closed to gays, foreigners and other ‘subversives’.
Only in the finance sector can you, for example, be assured of BUPA coverage or retirement benefits for a gay or common law partner, or know that you will be employed or promoted based on your ability, hard work and determination, not your nationality, family links with toytown Rotarians or membership of a cretinous evangelical cult.
Even funnier, some local finance sector critics conveniently forget that the main inspiration and backing for their self-important ‘community ventures’ is right wing religious organisations who used offshore structures to contribute to the Bush, and now even Obama, campaign funds via a network of trusts set up specifically to (1) evade US regulations limiting political funding and lobbying and (2) close down professional US public services in favour of amateurish ‘faith based’ charities ultimately controlled by evangelical ‘megachurches’. If they took time out from vacuous sermonising and begging for a chance to throw away public money they might have noticed a Manx court case involving the IRS less than two years ago – the international financial community certainly did.
…and they wonder why nobody who works for a living takes them too seriously!

1 comment:

Andy Armitage said...

Atheists will always appear strident. It's like being in the semidark for centuries, only to have a light switched on. You blink. Hell, you probably cover your eyes and howl plaintively that the light is hurting them. Eventually, you open them as the vision adjusts.

Soon, the atheist (I prefer "nontheist") voice will just be another voice, alongside religion, and no will will give a flying fuck.

I'm a bit surprised at Baggini, though. And it's interesting to see Benson having a go, since they're colleagues, I believe, on the Philosophers' Magazine. I suspect it's all friendly let's-agree-to-disagree, good-natured stuff, though, and it's good to see a debate between two people who, one assumes, do have most things in common when it comes to religion, but differ on just one or two.

I'm tempted to go and reread some of the stuff I only half read on the Guardian's "CiF" column now.