The Atheist Kids in North Dakota
So....the atheist kids in North Dakota. Glee had an episode about them this week--great stuff, must see it if you didn't. The show is called "Grilled Cheesus" (watch here), and in it Curt (adorable gay kid) stands up in front of his friends and says he doesn't believe in God.
I agree that the new atheists deserve credit for helping him do this. Maybe he read The God Delusion or became a fan of Pharyngula. But Curt stands up and makes a pretty obnoxious speech, alienating his friends. That's also modeled on new atheism. In the end, Curt reaches out to his friends and apologizes, though stands his ground about unbelief. What happened? Maybe after reading Dawkins and Myers, he read Chris Mooney, or Julian Baggini, or Phil Plait. Good heavens, Curt may even read this blog! I hope he still likes the new atheists--because becoming tone-sensitive doesn't mean kicking them out the door. But fortunately he learned a few things about respect.
Now about examples. I think people leave them out for an obvious reason--because the reaction to examples is furious. Chris Mooney sure did give an example of atheist excess, and look where that got him? I found out what it's like to be Chris Mooney back in July--for a few brief weeks--and it was no fun. That sort of hyper-reactivity does have a chilling effect on would be example-givers, but I've supplied some examples. Looking back into the archives--
That "A"--what does it say? Light-hearted tone-critique here.
Dawkins's manner in the video Root of All Evil. I brought it up in a conversation I had with Ophelia Benson and Mark Vernon (and others) here.
PZ Myers on interacting with creationists here.
PZ Myers talking about hurting Jesus here.
Sam Harris saying he vomited after reading the Dalai Lama here.
Jerry Coyne's incivility toward a minister who visited his blog here.
I'm not naive. You can't win in a debate like this. If you give no examples, then you've got no case, and you should shut up. (Fair enough!) If you do give examples, then you're trying to make atheists look bad, and you're making it hard for them to empower Curt. If you give a few, it's not enough. If you gives lots, then you're trying to make atheists look really bad.
But no--I insist. I know some real live atheist kids like Curt (who now love Curt even more!) and they need help not just with "coming out" but with how to interact. We do have to talk about respect and tone and tolerance, and all of that. And saying how not to behave is part of that conversation.