Bad news for PZ Myers

John Brockman, who is, amongst other things, the agent of both Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett, explains his religious views:

I would never say I’m an atheist. But I mean – it’s the word. I don’t believe: I’m sure there’s no God. I’m sure there’s no afterlife. But don’t call me an atheist. It’s like a losers’ club. Well, it is: it’s like – when I hear the word atheist, I think of some crummy motel where they’re having a function and these people have nowhere else to go. That’s what it means in America.

From an upcoming Guardian profile.

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7 Responses to Bad news for PZ Myers

  1. Brockman has it just right. For similar reasons, I’d never call myself a humanist.

  2. PZ Myers says:

    Well, I won’t ever invite him to any of my functions, then.

  3. acb says:

    And they have such wonderful motels in Minnesota!

    The interesting point is that the situation is so completely reversed in this country. To be a public Christian, and especially an evangelical Christian, is to brand yourself as an unfashionable loser — awkward and exuding unattractive need — very much as the American atheist is supposed to be. Those of us fortunate to be educated at evangelical public schools would add “smug treacherous arselicker” to the above description. In any case, there are no positives; and Tony Blair is satirised by Private Eye most woundingly for his public school Christian tendencies.

    The mechanism of social exclusion as a consequence of theological opinion is exactly the same in both societies. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t matter what the stigmatised opinion is: just that there should be one. It seems to me that any interesting scientific theory of religion has to take into account the fact that there are two mechanisms here, and, though one may never be found without the other, they operate independently.

    PZ, if you’re ever over here, I’ll take you to a “fashionable gastropub,”: full of Cambridge atheists.

  4. H. E. Baber says:

    It isn’t so much non-belief as such that most Americans identify with losers as self-conscious, crusading skepticism.

    I used to be involved with a local branch of CSICOP, which wasn’t primarily concerned with debunking religious claims (though most members would have called themselves “atheists”) as with debunking pseudo-science, quackery and popular superstition. The group managed to get a representative on a talk show to square off with a local astrologer. The talk show host spun the conversation so that the CSICOP rep came off as a crank and a loser, while deferring to the immaculately groomed, media savvy astrologer, who came off as a sensible guy, expounding the technicalities of casting horoscopes.

    There are far fewer committed Fundamentalists in the US than most people think, but far, far more Americans who buy into mellow relativism and believe that Scientific Creationism/Intelligent Design should be featured in high school biology classes along with theory of evolution for the same reasons that they think there’s “something to” ESP, alternative medicine, psychic predictions and self-help literature. As to what Americans do believe here’s the latest Gallup Poll.

    BTW there’s a nice article in the NYTimes magazine on the American religion in Surprise, Arizona–a working class exurb where the Radiant Church of Surprise preaches a message that merges seamlessly with pop psychology in a facility designed to suggest a shopping mall, replete with banks of video game machines and free Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

  5. acb says:

    Thanks for the NYT tip. I have it printed out though I have so far shrunk from reading it. In general, I think the American media industry is the greatest device ever made for finding out what people want to hear and telling them it. Why should we be surprised that the product is mostly lies?

  6. Given that public exhibitions of religion are considered shameful in the UK, which is no more than the case, what exactly does Richard “All-Dawk” Dawkins think the point of his endless bishop-baiting might be? Does anyone (except him and Ophelia Benson) actually get off on it?

  7. dave heasman says:

    “Given that public exhibitions of religion are considered shameful in the UK” is where it falls over. Des in the Godless mire of Brizzle is a long way from Brentwood, centre of Peniel-tithing, or Sunderland, where God is in the biology lessons.
    Better All-Dawk than All-Falwell, I think.

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