Alex Chituc posts at "Nonprophet Status" on the patheos website ("Hosting the Conversation on Faith"). He defends the accommodationist position and tries to lay out their position [Our 10 Commandments of Faitheism].
Here's how he explains it ...
In most debates, especially arguments over the internet, each side brings along a list of premises, premises that originally gave rise to their conclusions and often go unaddressed. Unless a counter argument addresses any of these often unstated premises, all it accomplishes is bringing in a whole new set of premises to be addressed, and nobody gets anywhere.This is a laudable objective. I fully support the concept.
Given a recent list I saw floating around twitter titled "10 commandments of faitheism," which is nothing but a list of things nobody associated with the term "faitheist" actually believes, I thought it would be a good exercise to try to list all of premises that we at NPS, at least, bring to the table. I should state upfront that, obviously, only Chris Stedman can speak for Chris Stedman, but since most people lump us at NPS in with him anyway and “faitheist” is the most convenient term on hand right now, I decided to use it.
Let's see how he interprets his opponents (I am one) and let's see whether his accomodationist premises stand up to close scrutiny. Here's Alex Chitic's "10 Premises of Faitheism."
1) God probably isn’t real.
I would never say that. Atheists don't believe in god(s) because there is no evidence that they exist and it is not reasonable to believe in something without evidence. I'm happy to say that there are no gods—gods do not exist—and I mean that in exactly the same sense as when I say that there is no Santa Clause and the tooth fairy doesn't exist.2) Attacking people is a bad way to change their mind. This has been folk wisdom for as long as people have been talking about persuasion, but it’s been backed up in recent years by a host of psychological research. All anti-theists often bring to counter this claim is a collection of anecdotes, but no one would take these seriously for any other kind of empirical claim about what is or isn’t effective. Research shows criticism is almost always unproductive, and usually leaves the instigator feeling morally superior and both parties walking away more convinced of what they originally believed.
Yes, it's true that when discussing this with philosophers I'll concede that you can't prove a negative. There's always a slight chance that Santa Claus exists so, strictly speaking, you can't affirm that Santa Claus isn't real. However, in the real world nobody says that "Santa Claus probably isn't real" unless you are trying to gently break the bad news to a five-year-old. Maybe that's how accommodationists view theists.
I prefer to treat them as adults and assume that they can handle the truth.
I don't know what this accommodationist means by "attacking people." When I look at the history of social change it always involves passionate people who speak out forcibly against the status quo. Civil right leaders criticized racists, feminists criticized sexists, and gay rights advocates spoke out against bigotry.3) More atheists won’t necessarily make the world a better place. Atheism is inherently neither good nor bad. The wealth of a nation and its secularization are pretty strongly correlated, with any outliers easily explained away. Improving the quality of life and adding stability to people’s lives in our own nations and across the globe seems like the quicker and easier way to a more secular world. Trying to deconvert believers isn’t an effective way to increase the number of atheists, and does nothing to make the world better.
What's wrong with me saying to theists that belief in gods is wrong because there's no evidence that gods exist? I don't go knocking on doors in my neighborhood handing out pamphlets and threatening believers with punishment but neither do I hold back if someone wants to debate the issue of gods.
There's a difference between not wanting to discuss the existence of gods because any kind of disagreement upsets you and trying to pretend that such discussions will never change minds. This is a false premise.
My position is that making decisions based on evidence and rational thinking is preferable to believing in myths and fairytales. I think the world will be a better place if we get rid of superstitious thinking. I think we have a better chance of improving the quality of life if we can convince people to challenge their fundamental beliefs.4) Whatever goals we do have for making the world a better place require cooperation with the religious. Gay rights were not an atheist victory. Civil rights were not an atheist victory. Women’s suffrage was not an atheist victory. Gender and sexuality equality will not be an atheist victory. We simply lack the numbers to cause meaningful change, and it’s much more pragmatic to work alongside the religious whose values we share than it is to deconvert the majority of our nation.
Belief in gods is just one of the superstitions that inhibit change for the better, but it's a big one. I actually believe that the world will be a better place when there are more atheists but it's not because atheism is inherently good. I believe that the world became better when people in Europe stopped believing in witches but that wasn't because non-belief in witches led directly to improving the quality of life. It's because abandoning that superstition was one step toward freeing minds, recognizing facts, and accepting change.
This is another false premise. It's based on a profound misunderstanding of the position of many atheists.
Alex Chituc lives in France but I think he's referring to the USA when he says "our nation."5) Religion is not a monolith. For better or worse, religions are larger than their foundational texts. Religions are individual and social phenomena lived and expressed and transmitted and transformed through diverse human beings and diverse human communities. There is not one Christianity, there are Christianities. There is not one Islam, there are Islams. Of course moderate muslims say that their Islam is the true Islam, and extremists say that their Islam is the true Islam, but that’s because they’re assuming their religion is true. Given that 1) God probably isn’t real, atheists can’t play the "no true Scotsman" card and say what a religion really is. To point out here that the Islam practiced by our neighbors is not the Islam practiced in Somalia is no gesture at all toward true Islam.
There are two false ideas in this paragraph. First, it's wrong to assume that everyone is an American when defending accomodationism and attacking "militant atheism." There are many countries where you don't need to make concessions to deeply religious people in order to effect social change. You need to do this in the USA since politicians are overwhelmingly religious and there's a stigma attached to nonbelievers. If Alex Chituc wants to calls this "10 Premises for American Faitheists" then that's fine by me.
The second false idea falls under the category of red herring. There are many battles and I've never had a problem working with believers on any number of issues. I've even worked with people who voted for the Conservatives and with vegans. Alex and his accommodationst friends seem to think that atheists should never have friends who believe in gods. That's silly.
This is a stupid premise based on a ridiculous view of the personality of most atheists. It is completely at variance with the facts and with what atheists have been saying to accommodationists for two decades.
Non sequitur. Most atheists know this. This is another stupid premise based on a gross misunderstanding.6) Given the hard-to-define-ness of a religion, it isn’t clear how much religious belief causes anything. Scientists, however, are very good at parsing out causal relationships. Causal relations are empirical claims about the world. If you think religion causes behavior, find a psychological or sociological study to support it. Correlation is not causation, and armchair theorizing on empirical matters is a waste of time. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence, and saying that the data isn’t there because of overly politically correct scientists puts you on par with those who deny climate-change or the effectiveness of psychiatry and traditional medicines because the scientists were paid-off.
Besides, what does this have to do with accommodationsm? Do accommodationists defend religions or do they defend belief in gods. If it's religions that they want to accommodate then is it all religions or just some of them?
This is so confusing that I don't know where to begin.7) Dogmatism is bad, whether religious or secular. Atheists, as human beings, are just as prone to tribalism and bias. An understanding of science does not make you less prone to fallacious reasoning than anyone else.
I'm opposed to belief in gods because gods don't exist and I think it's wrong to believe in things without evidence. Lots of believers form groups that do very good things. I support those groups but that doesn't mean that their gods exist. Similarly, lots of believers form groups that do very bad things and I'm opposed to those groups. I don't understand the accommodationist position. Premise #6 makes no sense to me.
I agree with this. It is not a premise of accommodationists—at least not one that distinguishes them from other atheists.8) Minorities and marginalized groups are not props. The suffering of religious people aren’t opportunities to score cheap rhetorical points against religion. You shouldn’t exploit slavery or domestic violence to one-up believers. Deconverted religious fundamentalists are not poster children up until they say something nice about the religious communities they left.
Am I missing something?
Oh dear. This is becoming increasingly bizarre.9) The problem atheists face in the West is a PR problem. Far too often, atheist awareness-raising is done through confrontation. We need to move beyond insensitive billboards and jumping on every opportunity to score points against religion. If our goal is to end atheist stigmatization, our first step should be to stop embodying negative atheist stereotypes.
I think Alex Chituc believes that most atheists run around ranting against all forms of bad behavior as long as they are perpetrated by people who believe in gods. But he lives in France where most of the people who behave badly are nonbelievers and the people who criticize them are also nonbelievers.
I don't get it. Maybe he's upset by the fact that some of us will occasionally point out the hypocrisy of the devoutly religious?
There is no PR problem in most Western industrialized nations. Nonbelievers make up a substantial—and growing—minority of the population. It's a majority in some countries.10) "Faitheist" is a term for a strawman. When people criticize "faitheists," they aren’t criticizing anybody. It’s at best a strawman, and at worst a simple ad hominem, on the same level of maturity and intellectual honesty as a bully who changes a child’s last name to include the word "fart" in it. Coyning the term "accommodatheist" is no better.
There's a problem in the USA. Some atheists think that the problem has to be addressed in the same way that racism, sexism, homophobia, abortion, guns, and capital punishment were/are addressed. It involves a bit of confrontation and, like all social change, the people on the front lines of change weren't always viewed in a positive light. That didn't stop them. Thank God!
The accommodationst position seems to be that you can affect social change by keeping a low profile and not ruffling any feathers. I agree that this is a valid accommodationist premise. Good luck with it.
I've been arguing against the accommodationist position since about 1990. Accommodationists have been defending their views for just as long although we didn't start using the word "accommodationist" until about 2007. If Alex Chituc wants to use another term to describe his position then let's hear it. I'm happy to point out the inconsistencies of his views no matter what he calls them.It's always seemed to me that the accommodationist position is based on treating religious beliefs as privileged views that need special protection from criticism.
It's probably not a good idea to post the "10 Premises of Faitheism" if #10 is a childish rant against using the word "faitheist."
And it's definitely not a good idea to do that if most of your "premises" contain strawman, ad hominem, descriptions of the views of your opponents.