Sunday, June 10, 2007
My Interview for the O Project while back I blogged about the O Project - an attempt by a British humanist, Hamish MacPherson to bring humanists and religious people together for common goals of making the world a better place. As part of this effort, Hamish is interviewing various atheists and Christians about their experiences in dialoguing with each other, and I just happened to be his first interview (via email). You can read his questions and my responses here.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 8:30 PM | Permalink |


At 6/10/2007 09:17:00 PM, Anonymous Miko

Interesting Q&A, Mike. :-)

My dialogues with atheists have certainly helped me to refine and improve my own beliefs, and I hope I've done the same for some of them as well.

I'll acknowledge that you have.

I'd like to see genuine a-theists (people who simply lack a belief in God) do more to speak out against the angry and insulting rhetoric of the anti-theists (people who think that all religion is irrational and harmful and want to eradicate it), in the same way that more progressive Christians like myself need to speak against the extremism of Christian fundamentalists.

What about atheists who think that some religion is irrational and harmful and want to eradicate it? As far as I know, I have no problems with your religious beliefs, but I nonetheless feel that I have a moral duty to help lessen the influence of the Pat Robertson types. I'm not so keen on going after the religous liberals, but the truth is that they really do provide cover to the fundamentalists sometimes. When some fundamentalist gets on TV and says that the 80% of Americans who are Christians want the U.S. to do evil deed X, we really need the support of liberals speaking up and saying "no, we don't." Sadly, those voices are too often silent.


At 6/10/2007 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Miko, I'm all for standing against harmful forms of religion. I do that on a regular basis.

But as for the idea that liberal Christians "provide cover" for the fundamentalists, that's a rather ridiculous myth started by Harris and perpetrated others who aren't really familiar with how the religious world works. In no way have liberal Christians been "providing cover". We've been arguing with the fundamentalists harder than any of you have for the past century or so. The progressive voices are out there and they have long been speaking out against bad forms of religion.

However, it's not our fault that the mainstream media prefers to focus on the extremists of the Religious Right. But just because you don't hear our voices doesn't mean we're not out there. Thankfully Jim Wallis and Sojourners are making some good progress in getting a different voice out there. The recent forum on CNN was a step in the right direction in terms of getting the media to actually recognize that other types of Christians do exist.


At 6/10/2007 11:34:00 PM, Anonymous Miko

I wasn't going to bring Harris into it, since he seems to think that the religion is the problem whereas I'm thinking more of individual actions. For example:

We've been arguing with the fundamentalists harder than any of you have for the past century or so.

That's the kind of sentiment that I think borders on the insulting. I'm not denying that you care about things like this, but we've been working hard on them as well. I like your ideas about fostering atheist-theist cooperation in social causes, but I speak from personal experience in saying that there are more than a few religious liberals who don't support that aim. I don't understand why, but there is a sentiment among some Christians that atheists should stay out of these sorts of things, which is what I (but not Harris) mean by "providing cover." I know it's tempting to pin the placement of the "us vs. them" line exclusively on the atheists, but I don't really think that's fair.


At 6/11/2007 12:24:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Sorry Miko, but I really don't know what you mean. I guess I've not encountered that attitude among liberal Christians that I know. Most that I know are more than willing to work together with any allies on shared political and social justice goals, not just other Christians.

And all I meant by my comment was that liberals and fundamentalists have been duking it out in the religious world for decades now. Anyone who has missed that fact is just not paying attention. If atheists want to join that fight too, fine, more power to ya! But don't accuse us of not being in it in the first place.


At 6/11/2007 12:19:00 PM, Anonymous Miko

But don't accuse us of not being in it in the first place.

Ah. I see what you think I'm saying now. Unfortunately, I've been using some of the terms that Dawkins, Harris, et al. have adopted recently for years, so I have a different understanding of what I mean by them than what they mean by them. Since they're published and I'm not on that subject, I suppose that I'll have to find new vocabulary. :-)

By providing cover, I'm talking about (amongst other things) a some-vs.-all kind of thing, where my statement that "some members of group X do thing Y" is refuted by someone saying "I don't do thing Y." And then conversation breaks down into "Of course you don't" and thing Y gets forgotten about in the ensuing period.

Some of this is becoming more the fault of extermist atheists who really do mean all or who fail to distinguish between true and good. Unforunately, some of the liberals on both sides are making the same mistake. If we're going to draw lines in the sand, I think that we should draw them based on shared ideologies and goals rather than on metaphysical suppositions, but many people on both sides seem to disagree with me.


At 6/11/2007 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I see what you're saying now. Thanks for clarifying. I agree that we shouldn't let the important issues get lost in discussion. In fact, "I don't do thing Y" ought to then become the springboard for a new unity of opposition to thing Y.


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