(Cross posted at God is for Suckers!)
Funny thing happened to me yesterday. Two days ago night I downloaded two episodes of the Point of Inquiry podcast, including a recent interview with Paul Kurtz. I listened to it as I walked between classes. A lot of it is focused on the idea of promoting positive humanistic values over merely attacking religion, which seems to me perfectly reasonable, as long as it isn't coupled with the absurd accusation that today's celebrity religion critics haven't done this at all (if you think this, you really need to re-read their books more carefully, or perhaps read them a first time).
Almost immediately after finishing listening to the podcast, in between classes, I sat down to check my Bloglines and found a post by "framing" king Matthew Nisbet, commenting on the podcast and claiming Kurtz as one of his own--i.e., as the anti-Richard Dawkins. Without admitting the validity of naked appeals to authority, I must say this would be something of a coup for Nisbet. As the founder of a bundle of important skeptical organizations, including Promethus Books and the Council for the Scientific Organization of Claims of the Paranormal, Kurtz has arguably done more for skepticism of religion in the late 20th century than anyone else, living or dead. Nisbet's presentation struck me as a little misleading, though, given that he conveniently ignores the fact that Kurtz explicitly affirmed Dawkins' view that religion is a delusion. Worse, when I read the comments, I discovered Nisbet told at least one truly indefensible lie:
Moreover, like Shermer, Wilson, and Kurtz, I strongly believe that when Dawkins et al. attack moderately religious Americans it alienates our natural allies and is a major self-inflicted wound.Kurtz has never said, and probably never will say, that the work of these religion critics is "a major self-inflicted wound." The truth is that Kurtz has dismissed the notion that they are "too outspoken".
I have this to say to Nisbet: grow a spine you miserable worm. If you're going to say the things you've said about Dawkins, have the courage to be consistent and take the next logical step of denouncing Paul Kurtz and everything he works for. Indeed, you should be denouncing Kurtz even more strongly than you denounce Dawkins. Dawkins may have put out one book dedicated to attacking religion, but most of his public work has been about explaining science to the general public, but Kurtz's number one goal has always been the promotion of a philosophy that explicitly rejects God, and he founded a publishing house for this purpose which has published more anti-religious books than Dawkins will ever write. This should be more than enough for you, since you aren't just picking a bone with Dawkins use of the word "delusion" (which Kurtz agrees with in any case) but have also insisted "The public cannot be expected to differentiate between his [Dawkins] advocacy of evolution and his atheism." Why aren't you saying the same thing about Kurtz? Your hypocrisy disgusts me.
Tags: Matthew Nisbet, Paul Kurtz