Last night I had to deal with insomnia again and I killed the time reading Monsters & Mormons, an anthology of short stories dealing with Latter-day Saint characters encountering the supernatural. I have to say, it is FUNNY. Not the best writing, but there is some really hilarious material included. A companionship of Mormon missionaries deal with a zombie outbreak by doing “baptisms for the dead” after every kill. There’s a Western that reminds me of “The Searchers” only the red men are replaced with pale men (a necromancer and his shambling horde) and the hero can transform into The Thing. In another story a Mormon bishop is tasked by the prophet to hunt down demons. It’s deliciously irreverent at some points, and the message I’ve picked up from it is: “What’s so bad about taking our strange fantastical beliefs and throwing in a few more myths while we’re at it?” I was glad to see this. Mormon culture isn’t entirely headed in the wrong direction.
In other, more serious news, I was alerted by the Honest Atheist to some controversies happening over at Freethought Blogs. I subscribe to thunderf00t’s YouTube channel, so I was aware there had been some trouble over issues of sexism (or perceived sexism). I don’t really grasp the entire situation, but I did read some posts by PZ Meyers about thunderf00t’s removal as well as some reviews he has done concerning the work of Alain de Botton. I haven’t read or heard much about PZ Meyers… a year after my deconversion I’m still trying to understand the who’s who, you know… but my first impression was not good. I read a lot of straw man arguments and exaggerated ridicule of Alain de Botton, whose book Religion for Atheists I have recently purchased and devoured. I understand some of his criticisms, but he comes off so mean about it! He wants de Botton to look like a fool.
In my opinion, Alain de Botton does not deserve such attacks. After leaving the Mormon Church, I feel a great loss of community. The support structure that I have known my entire life doesn’t work for me now. Reading de Botton’s words, I finally feel as if that sense of community and meaning could be returned to me. I wouldn’t have to swallow any unsubstantiated truth claims to do so. The future secular society that de Botton imagines, that meets in temples dedicated to skeptics and humanists, that feasts with strangers while listening to secular sermons, that joins together to help their fellow men with their everyday problems… I could benefit from that. I don’t think I’m the only one. I don’t think every atheist needs to be a part of something like that, but I would appreciate it.
Sean Faircloth of the Richard Dawkins Foundation once said, before you make public a criticism:
If it is about somebody in the secular movement – if it is about somebody on our team – let us do the evidence-based thing and contact that person directly, and then give them a chance to . . . offer evidence . . . so you might actually know before you click – before you say something negative to thousands of people. It’s really important for our movement.
Faircloth is probably the closest thing our movement has to an authorized strategist. He has a bold new vision for how we atheists can accomplish real change, not just in the U.S. but in the world. While some have objected to this suggestion of Faircloth’s, I think it’s something to pay attention to. We can’t waste so much time arguing between ourselves when we could be disproving creationists, theocrats and the religious right on their turf. What’s worse is making other distinguished atheists seem like idiots. Sure, theists have always been divided by infighting and have for thousands of years been trying to make each other look like imbeciles, but why should we? If we criticize one another, it should be because we love humanity and wouldn’t want to lead it astray.
I hope this movement I’ve fallen into can get it’s act together. Otherwise we won’t achieve much.