Something needs to be done about Greg Epstein. He is seriously damaging the reputation of humanism, be it “religious” or “secular”. Last month he got his arse chewed about off for referring to outspoken atheists as fundamentalist atheists while promoting some shindig he was/is involved with. So what does he do in the wake?
He gives an interview in the Washington Post where he again states that outspoken atheists are fundamentalists:
“At times they’ve made statements that sound really problematic, and when Sam Harris says science must destroy religion, to me that sounds dangerously close to fundamentalism,” Epstein said in an interview after the meeting. “What we need now is a voice that says, ‘That is not all there is to atheism.’ “
To make matters worse, he’s now being joined by other humanist leaders such as Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association:
“Atheists are somewhat focused on the one issue of atheism, not looking at how to move forward,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the Washington-based American Humanist Association. While he appreciates the way the new atheists have raised the profile of nonbelievers, he said humanists differ by their willingness to collaborate with religious leaders on various issues. “Working with religion,” he said, “is not what [atheists] are about.”
There’s so much wrong with that statement that I’m half convinced I should bluntly state that it was taken out of context. The AHA is (to my knowledge) a secular humanist organization. Most of it’s members are atheists. Stating that all atheists are focused upon atheism and uninterested in “working with religion” is practically nonsense.
Of course, there’s something else that seems to be going on. Nearly every one of these men and a few others have complained about how atheists are not promoting humanism by name. We’re not saying ‘there’s an alternative to Christianity and it’s called Humanism”. That’s pretty frigging absurd. We might as well start saying Baptists are wrong for promoting Baptism instead of Catholicism. Yes, there may be a connection between atheism and humanism – but it’s not mandatory that all atheists be humanists.
Last but not least is the continued usage of words they know are going to piss people off. For example, in my last dispute with my aunt I said something that really pissed her off. I believe it was something about the “damned” Bible. It was a slip of the tongue on my part, I apologized for it and did not use the phrase again. It’s what you do when you’re not trying to start a fight or want to avoid one.
Yet Epstein is still using fundamentalist to describe atheists who aren’t as friendly towards religion as he is. It’s almost funny when you consider that he appears to want to be seen as a bridge builder of sorts. I wasn’t aware that building bridges involved the repeated use of dynamite.
It just boggles the mind to see this kind of behaviour coming from people who ought to know better.