First it was Chris Stedman, now it’s Massimo Pigliucci. Everyone loves to sit back and carp about the New Atheists, because they’re the most prominent subset of the atheist movement, the ones getting the most press, and the ones getting the most criticism from theists…so of course the armchair philosophers have to take a whack, too. I’m not entirely sure why; Stedman should have his kinder, gentler, gooey-er faitheism to promote, and Pigliucci ought to have his philosophy-er, hoity-toity-er, rational-er atheism to peddle. I assume that some people just like to meddle — they just can’t bear the thought that someone else’s strategy, even if it is working towards a similar goal, is actually working and making progress, so they’ve got to announce their dissatisfaction and tinker. It’s only natural, I suppose, that a growing movement would find itself surrounded by not only opponents, but also obnoxious kibitzers.
Massimo Pigliucci was inspired by two recent posts, one from Greta Christina and another by Chris Stedman, to write an article on the goals of atheist activism, and unfortunately he seems to have understood neither. He seems to think they’re largely in agreement, which is a rather shocking misread; Greta wrote about two kinds of goals, but wasn’t trying to limit it at all to just those two, while Stedman was mainly oblivious to her message and was trying to argue about how bad the New Atheists are. Pigliucci similarly fails to comprehend the message, and instead, like Stedman, ignores the different goals of different subsets of the movement to, again, complain about the goddamned New Atheists.
You know, if I had assigned readings to students and they came back with such egregious failures of comprehension, I’d flunk them.
Let me make it simpler, with little words. Different groups have different goals, and that’s fine. The problems come when members of Group A with Goal A’ criticize Group B with Goal B’ for not achieving A’. A should work for A’, and B should work for B’, and A is not going to impress when they tell B to abandon their goals. Because B will tell A to go fuck off for being clueless meddling twits.
Greta was very clear about that. She even ended the article that way, with the importance of asking a simple question: “Which cause, exactly, are you talking about? Because we may not be talking about the same one.” Pigliucci did not bother to ask that question. He just assumes that his goals are everyone else’s goals, and therefore he’s justified in complaining about how we’re doing everything wrong.