Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Titanomachy

Adam Lee:

Where do we go from here? I honestly don't know. I don't think Richard Dawkins should be blacklisted or any such thing. I do know that I'm probably less likely to buy his books or to watch his speeches than I was before, and I'm certainly less likely to recommend them to people who aren't familiar with atheism. I'd like to see him enlightened, but I think it serves little purpose to attack him. Our time would be more constructively served by finding and promoting people who are better suited to be the public face of the atheist movement.

We're not going to blacklist him, we're just going to quarantine him behind a wall of silence and speak of him, if we absolutely must, only in the past tense, like parents who tell strangers that their rebellious black sheep of a son actually died fighting nobly on a far-off battlefield. Ahahaha. It's almost like Dawkins' strict adherence to science and atheism blinded him to the oblique truth to be found in, oh, the irony, mythology. Honestly, you can't script this kind of entertainment.

You know, though, if there were one principle that you would think atheists and rationalists might be uniquely suited to defend, it would be the imperative to discuss ideas on their own merits in specific contexts, to refuse to countenance the underhandedness of ad hominem dismissals of an argument. If Dawkins is indeed a sexist dickhead, that would present a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that, unlike the conventional, irrational attitude which treats heretical opinions as contagions which will infect anyone foolish enough to engage with them, we are calm and composed enough to separate the grain from the chaff in his writings, rather than cast it all aside in the vain search for ideological purity. "Here's a good book about atheism by Richard Dawkins. Yeah, he's got some stupid opinions about feminism, but that's irrelevant in this context. Just read the arguments he makes here." What's so hard about that?

Nothing—unless you're trying to build a brand. And as any marketers and advertisers are happy to tell you, perceptions and slick PR are what matter, not truth. No doubt, the A-plussers are telling themselves that unlike every other would-be revolutionary group that has sought power and influence, they'll never compromise their principles in the process. It may be a moot point, of course—time will tell if they come out of their ideological purification rituals intact, or if they end up, like in Monty Python, as a bunch of competing Popular Fronts of atheism consisting of one or two members apiece. But if they're that eager to jettison Dawkins for inconveniencing their rebranding efforts, you can expect many more such sacrificial measures, should they actually achieve their goal of becoming a viable force in American society.