Friday, February 16, 2007

"Religion Critic"

One more thought in response to James Lazarus--was going to wait on this, but this post has a positive proposal to advance.

At one point, Lazarus mentioned a worry that TBC would perpetuate sterotypes of atheists as "bitter, angry people who have nothing better to do than to dwell on religion and insult those who disagree with us." Now maybe we can avoid coming off as bitter, angry, and insulting, but there is an unavoidable core problem: having people think that all atheists have nothing better to do with their time than dwell on religion, criticize religion, sue over church/state violations, etc. No matter how polite we are, the atheists who get media coverage for being atheists (as opposed to getting media coverage for being an actor or writer or scientist or something) are going to be the ones who are vocally critical of religion. No easy way around it.

The problem is linguistic. Look at the situation with debunkers like James Randi. As Sam Harris pointed out, we have no special word for people who merely disbelieve in the things Randi spends most of his time attacking. Randi might be classed in print as a "debunker" or "skeptic," but even the second, milder term denotes more than passive disbelief. For this reason, no one would for a moment think that anyone who disbelieves in psychic powers must be like Randi.

So let me make a proposal: let's make an effort to get media, as often as possible, to refer to people like Richad Dawkins and Sam Harris primarily as "religion critics" rather than "atheists," websites like this one as "websites critical of religion" rather than "atheist websites," and so on. It might make life just a little bit easier on the more passive non-believers.

1 comment:

jamrock said...

I agree that atheist should be distinguished from the few individuals who choose to spend their time dwelling on and criticizing religion. For one thing not all religious critics are atheist; many are agnostics and some simply don’t hold any religious beliefs. Many atheists are calm, and understanding individuals. we should not allow the voices of a few to dictate our views of all atheist.