The recent kerfuffle at UCL prompted by overly sensitive religious sentiment has caused a number of folk to say that atheists are bullies, often comparing them to religious fundamentalists. At RichardDawkins.NET there was a rather incoherent poster called Griswold Grim who made the 'bullying' claim, but he never substantiated it, beyond railing against ridicule.
I witnessed a Twitter spat (which I want to call Twat, but had better not) between P.Z. Myers and a statistician called Andrew Dalby. P.Z. had posted a video depicting dreadful intimidation of Irshad Manji by Muslim fundamentalists, pointing out the deep distinction between militant theists and militant atheists. Incredibly, blind to the evidence of his own eyes, Dalby tweeted this:
someone who thinks he's found a way to be superior to both atheists and theists. P.Z. called his lack of critical assessment stupid, to which he replied:
...which made me giggle. Never a good thing to proclaim one's own genius, I find. Or perhaps that's just me, since my inability to 'out intellectual' and 'out science' people has been proved regularly! He followed up with this gem:
I wasn't sure what had upset Dalby so much about P.Z.'s post, but it became clear in his follow up tweets:
The bit that Dalby does not like appears to be this:
...there might be much to admire in her [Manji's] work, as she’s another theist who has taken a step away from the dogma and tribalism of fundamentalism, but she hasn’t yet had the courage or intellectual integrity to take another step and free herself of the folly of faith.
So the accusation of a lack of courage and intellectual integrity is beyond the Pale, Dalby thinks, and it's wrong to tell people what to believe and that they are inferior or wrong. You will notice that he is pragmatically self-refuting here, since, among other things, he is telling P.Z. it's wrong to tell people they're wrong. Of course it's not, and we would not have morality if it were, since our morals not only guide us in our behaviour but we also feel they have a prescriptive effect on others, as Dalby demonstrates. It then becomes clear how this muddle headed thinking arises:
Oh dear; radical scepticism rears its ugly head and we're heading for the barren plains of relativism, where no-one is right and no-one is wrong. Because he's not sure what's true, nothing is true. This would be a strange philosophy if anyone lived by it, but of course no-one does.
To which, of course, he has no answer, other than 'thinking is always bad for us'! It's lucky we're not all lecturers in statistics at Oxford University, else none of us would think. The ultimate source of his anger is clear, I think, from this tweet:
But finally, the outrageous equating of good faith criticism from atheists with genuinely extreme religious bullying has to be called out for the bogus comparison it is. When these sorts of befuddled accusations stop, then it might be that we're getting somewhere in reducing religious privilege.