Jan 212013

I prefer to stay out of on-line warfare. But sometimes you just have to stand up and be counted.

These are two people within the freethought communities who for some reason have been attracting unbelievably vicious on-line attacks. Not from people who might be expected to be inherently opposed to the concepts of “freethought”, but from apparent insiders.

I’m not objecting to the particulars of any disagreement. If you are on-line some people will disagree with you and criticise your position, and they have a right to do so. (I don’t claim to agree with everything these victims say). But there are many very personal attacks which are clearly intended to silence or inhibit people like Ophelia Benson and Natalie Reed, and others such as Jennifer McCreight and Rebecca Watson that I’ve posted about earlier.

Why? Is it retaliation for vicious personal attacks the other way? No! (And tit-for-tat would not be the best response anyway). Is it because their body of work is harmful to humanity in some way? Once again, no! It has been characterised as “hatred”, but that leads to the question “why hate these people?” (And another question is “how can anyone even consider writing such vicious attacks?”)

I think it is “rage against the enlightenment”.

The Enlightenment overthrew the previous order. It replaced theocracies and monarchies with democracies, and replaced revelations with evidence-based reasoning. But it also set in motion the trend towards acceptance of all sorts of people and behaviours that were once suppressed. It even led to women (women!) being able to speak their minds, and even criticise patriarchal attitudes!

This sort of unsettling of the old ways of thinking and doing things led to fundamentalism in religion. Fundamentalism is like a stake in the ground: “this is what we believe in and we will not budge from this”. But it isn’t confined to religion. It applies to any attitude of the form “this is how things have been done and we must defend this position”.

The “dimension of enlightenment” that appears to be the sticking point is “Empathy”. This involves seeing others as ends in their own right, not as means to ends, and naturally or deliberately examining things from their point of view (although not necessarily agreeing with them afterwards):

  • Summary: Attitudes and views towards other beings, human or otherwise.
  • Enlightened views: Peers. Equality. LGBT-acceptance. Pluralism. Meeting of minds. Sympathy. Compassion. Autonomy. Great apes.
  • Unenlightened views: In-group only. Belief in sub-humans. Patriarchy. Intolerance. Slavery. Property. Racism. LGBT-intolerance. Misogyny. Misandry.

Lack of empathy is both an explanation for why these attacks happen, and for the vicious nature of the attacks. This may be related to the following inquiry:

Amy Davis Roth tweet

Perhaps they are simply not intended to help skepticism or atheism. Not everyone who pursues those “isms” is enlightened in a rounded way. They may be good at evidence-based reasoning, but that is only one aspect of enlightenment. These accounts (etc) are intended to inhibit some other aspects of enlightenment.

This sort of post is unfortunately one of a set:

Jan 182013

I’ve just read a super article by Valerie Tarico about the challenges that the Internet (and especially the Web) poses for religion: Religion may not survive the Internet. It reminded me of an article (that Valerie Tarico won’t have seen or known about) that I wrote on my website some time ago: Religions in future. One of my themes was similar. Global communication undermines a number of the methods that religions rely on to sustain the ignorance and delusions of their existing and (more importantly) their future followers. Here are some quotes from my article (there is a lot more . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Dec 202012

See this report published on December 18, 2012: The Global Religious Landscape A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Summary Every religion is a minority religion. Whatever a person’s religious beliefs, most religious people in the world have beliefs that contradict that person’s beliefs. Christianity in its entirety is a minority religion, with about 32% of the world’s whole population, and about 38% of the world’s religious population. (And, of course, there are many incompatible beliefs within Christian denominations, with Roman Catholics about 50% . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Nov 242012

1. The bizarre voting system of the Church of England has confirmed: 26 seats in the House of Lords are to remain reserved for men! This is in a (supposedly) modern democracy. You couldn’t make it up! 2. The Pope has published a book confirming that Catholics must believe in the Trinity and the virgin birth and the resurrection. This is something Christianity did make up! I love these ongoing demonstrations of the stupidity of Christianity and the need for secularism.

Nov 162012

Christianity, or at least the Roman Catholic Church’s version of it, has just killed a woman in the Republic of Ireland. Some religious people would like to run similar risks with women in the UK and the US. (What is it about your fear of women controlling their own bodies?) This shows what many of us already knew: People who claim to be “pro-life” are typically not. They are “anti-choice“! Objections to assisted suicide in the UK are mostly driven by religious groups. There is no enlightened excuse for opposing the safe and modest proposals of Dignity in Dying. People . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Oct 142012

These are comments on quoted extracts from: The Telegraph: Muslims protest ‘age of mockery’ as thousands descend on Google HQ A protest by 10,000 Muslims outside the offices of Google in London today is just the first in an orchestrated attempt to force the company to remove an anti-Islamic film from website YouTube in Britain. Organiser Masoud Alam said: “Our next protest will be at the offices of Google and YouTube across the world. We are looking to ban this film.” They are not trying to “ban this film”. It already exists, and has probably been copied many times. They . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Oct 102012

My reaction to the shooting by the Taliban of Malala Yousafza, the 14 year old “education for girls” activist in Pakistan, was “what the fuck?” This wasn’t a child casually caught in the cross-fire. This was a targeted assassination attempt because of what she represented and what she was trying to achieve. Enlightened people don’t need to be told that “education for girls” is high priority globally in the 21st Century. (Along with its partner, “equality for women”). But it is worth expanding on this to show why it is “high priority” as well as simply “right”. The argument from morality . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Oct 062012

I have said a number of times: “Islam, identified by the Koran and Hadith, is incompatible with Universal Human Rights and incompatible with the 21st Century” It is worth showing more evidence for this claim. Islam and Universal Human Rights – freedom of expression I’ll use quotes from a recent (5th October) article from a Pakistan newspaper: “Leaders of religious parties at an All Parties Conference (APC) have demanded of the rulers of the Muslim countries to move a resolution in the United Nations (UN) for an international legislation against the blasphemers…. “A communiqué issued on the occasion … demanded . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Oct 052012
Tropicana Pineapple Juice called Mohammed. Is it blasphemy?

People who feel “upset and distress” about something like this really need to take personal control of their emotional state! University atheist society ordered out of freshers’ fair for displaying ‘blasphemous’ pineapple called Mohammed Reading University Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society There are about 7 billion people in the world. 1000s of gods are worshipped. 1000s of religions are practised. 1000s of contradictory ideologies are espoused. In a world of global communications, it is probably impossible to say or show anything significant that someone somewhere won’t get upset about. It is obviously impossible to prevent those words and images being . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]

Sep 172012

The violence claimed to be a response to a dodgy film about Muhammad, and political comments accompanying the violence, reveal a mountain of incomprehension: While many of us speak in post-Enlightenment language, others speak in pre-Enlightenment language. While many of us favour a post-Enlightenment world, others favour a pre-Enlightenment world. While many of us think the word “Enlightened” is a compliment, others think it is an insult. Among the political comments: Even during the protests, some stone throwers stressed that the clash was not Muslim against Christian. Instead, they suggested that the traditionalism of people of both faiths in the region conflicted . . . . . . . . . . [Read complete post]