Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Schism Of Skeptics

Back in 2008 I discovered skepticism. I was, by then, an unbeliever but I hadn't really been introduced to any thoughtful considerations of atheism or real useful criticisms of religion, quack medicine and the paranormal.

Though I'm sure my growing interest in Scientology and the Latter-day Saints plus research for then latest blog on the paranormal played some part in moving me towards seriously questioning things, it was really my need for more podcast listening material for a recently extended commute that lead me to first discover the Skeptics Guide To The Universe. I loved it.

The reasoned debate was interspersed with hilarity and fun. I always looked forward to the next episode and soon supplemented the unbearably long waits (A WHOLE WEEK!) with other skeptic community podcasts. Skeptics. They seemed awesome. I started reading more science based books, and found myself reading Richard Dawkins.

I was never a paid up skeptic. I was, and am, a non-conforming atheist but I loved them skeptics. Then Elevatorgate happened. Oh Elevatorgate. There's a history of the dispute here.

This was the event, as the martyrdom of Joseph Smith was for the Latter-day Saints, that began the skeptic community on a road towards a schism.

Many religious critics of atheism (usually the insane ones) like to claim that atheism is a religion. I don't accept this description (and that's despite being someone who is open to things like Communism being considered a system of belief and perhaps even a religion of sorts) but the events that have occurred since Elevatorgate certainly given some ammunition to this claim.

Peering back into the skeptic and atheist "community" once more recently I discovered that what was some very violent disagreement over feminism had turned into a definite (and perhaps permanent) schism.

Extremely harsh words have been spoken. Bridges burnt. And there seems like no turning back.

Atheism+ has spun off from what I'd call the New Atheist tradition to pursue more political (of the left-wing variety) aims than the main body. It is the new home of Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers and Richard Carrier. Whilst they seem to have tried to brand themselves as the lovely, anti-hate version of atheism you only need to read some of the comments left on their blogs by supporters to see hate for those who disagree with them pour out. In a worrying move akin, I'm obsessed I know, to the Scieno Sitter someone has even created @the_block_bot which blocks those who are offensive and/or critical of Atheism+, women, etc automatically from your Twitter feed so you don't have to even think about it.

As an individualist, freedom lover I won't condemn it but, like all forms of censorship, it does send a shiver up my spine. This really does back up my Suppressive Persons analogy from July. Creepy stuff.

Meanwhile... the rump of the New Atheist folks who haven't been won over to Atheism+ are trying to get by but they often seem unable to respond to their rhetoric with anything more than swearing (though there are still plenty of thoughtful responses such as this out there). If it wasn't for the invective from this side I'd probably stick my flag to their mast but... I can't. Take this series of videos for example.

There are some extremely good points in there, some bullseye take downs of some of the darker, nastier clannish and cliquey type shenanigans that are occuring with Atheism+. BUT... it is a polemic and far from the reasoned, iron clad criticism I am desperate for.

Sigh. Certainly if I'd ever once described myself as a skeptic, I certainly don't now. I'd say I grow ever more sceptical by the day on a whole raft of issues but I want to cry out "NOT IN MY NAME!". Rape accusations and infantile internal politics have destroyed something that could have been beautiful. I mourn for what could have been.

But disbelief is not going to go away. We are growing stronger. Hopefully we'll also grow up soon too.

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