by Jeremy Young | 10/18/2007 05:06:00 AM
Like others in the history blogosphere, we at ProgressiveHistorians mourn the untimely death of digital history pioneer Roy Rosenzweig, the man who almost single-handedly made what we do here the subject of scholarly discussion and debate. I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rosenzweig, a fact that will always be a source of sadness for me. Here's to you, Roy, wherever you are.

When Gil Troy and I agree on something, it's a shock -- particularly when that something is Al Gore.

Two links from Ralph Luker's post here have me hopping mad. Re: Christopher Hitchens, is a drunken bloviating twit who physically threatens a priest really the best leader we atheists can find? What happened to people like Robert Ingersoll, Clarence Darrow, and the late Stephen Jay Gould, brilliant thinkers who could out-argue Presidential candidates and leading creationists? In a time when atheism is on the rise both in the US and worldwide, does it really have no better spokesmen than Hitchens and the slightly-more-respectable Richard Dawkins? We call so frequently for religions like Islam and Christianity to repudiate their fundamentalists -- atheists should likewise publicly reject our malevolent windbags and find people to champion who truly speak for us. I'm also somewhat miffed by the actions of one side in the continuing Duke-Johnson controversy chronicled in that post, which I'll write about this weekend if I can find the time.

Finally, a technical question: are readers who view the site in IE6 seeing a giant white space below the banner at the top of the page? I know that's not the case in IE7 or Firefox, but I used an IE6 computer the other day and I saw it that way.

What's on your mind?



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Blogger Ahistoricality on 10/18/2007 1:57 PM:

If we're doing the open thread thing, I'm going to note the Project Censored List of underreported stories, which I have, as tradition dictates, paired with WorldNutDaily's "We're so Right we don't even use our Left Brain" list of stuff they think we should be hyperventilating about. As in the past, I've heard most of the right-wing talking points.... imagine that?

On Hitchens, I think it's very important to remember that the media-anointed talking head is not the "leader" or even the "spokesperson" but "the most media/scandal/tempest-friendly." Hitchens doesn't deserve any different treatment than Paul Krugman or Ann Coulter: agree with him when he's worth it, disagree when he's wrong, disavow when he's freaky. Let the media outlets know that he doesn't speak for you, and they'll keep using him, because he gets a reaction; ignore him when you can, and he'll eventually get even louder to get your attention. Yes, it's a catch-22, why?


Anonymous Ralph Luker on 10/18/2007 2:56 PM:

"... atheism is on the rise both in the US and worldwide ..." When does that illusion die? And when does it occur to a-ists that being expert in that which does not exist has limited usefulness?


Blogger Jeremy Young on 10/18/2007 5:36 PM:

Ahist, what I'm talking about is that atheists should treat their crackpots the way we want to see Christians and Muslims treat theirs -- ostracize and denounce them at every turn. In my mind, Hitchens is an atheist fundamentalist, so I treat him the way I hope my conservative Christian or Muslim friends would thread their fundamentalist religious leaders -- even when he's right, he should be ostracized.

Ralph, your criticism piqued my interest, so I went statistic-hunting and ended up with this fine and comprehensive article by Phil Zuckerman (published in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, 2006). The relevant quotes:

"Is worldwide atheism growing or in decline? This is difficult to answer. On the one hand, there are more atheists in the world today than ever before. Additionally, the nations with some of the highest degrees of organic atheism (such as Great Britain, France, and Scandinavia) have been experiencing a steady increase of atheism over the past century, an increase which shows no indication of abating (Bruce, 2001). On the other hand, worldwide atheism overall may be in decline. This is due to the simple demographic fact that highly religious nations have the highest birthrates in the world and highly irreligious nations have the lowest birthrates in the world. As Norris and Inglehart (2004:25) observe, due to basic demographic trends, “the world as a whole now has more people with traditional religious views than ever before – and they constitute a growing proportion of the world’s population.”

"Thus, the picture is complicated, making predictions of the growth or overall decline of atheism difficult to make. What is clear – as stated above -- is that in certain selected societies, non-belief in God is definitely growing. ...

"According to CUNY’s 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, 14% of Americans claim “no religion” in terms of self-identification, up from 8% in 1990."

So according to Zuckerman's review, I'm right that US atheism is growing, and it's a push on worldwide atheism.

As for whether being an articulate voice for atheism is the same thing as "being expert in that which does not exist," I guess you and I will just have to agree to disagree.


Anonymous Ralph Luker on 10/18/2007 6:05 PM:

I suppose that if I were an "a-ist," I too would make the imperial gesture of claiming that all agnostics are in my camp. Nonetheless, it *is* an imperial gesture. Moreover, it's almost certain that some theists have no specific religious identification. There's *no* proof here that "a-ism" is growing, either in the United States or in the world. To think that it is, at this point, is more largely a function of an assumption that, with "progress", it must necessarily be so.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 10/18/2007 6:16 PM:

Good point -- you're right, I didn't draw the distinction between atheism and agnosticism and non-organized-religionism. Not meant as an "imperial gesture" on my part, just an oversight.

Given how hard it was to find that article, though, I'm not sure that the same kind of studies that would enumerate "hard" atheists are out there. As Zuckerman states in his article, it's a hard thing to quantify, period.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 10/19/2007 9:14 PM:

If this works, and redirects here, then I've successfully replaced that execrable "recent comments" widget with a much better one from Storago. Yay!


Blogger Jeremy Young on 10/19/2007 9:20 PM:

trying again...


Blogger Jeremy Young on 10/19/2007 9:23 PM:



Blogger slavdude on 10/24/2007 5:13 PM:

Yeah, it's been a while since I was here--back in the old SoapBlox days. I'd like to continue my diary. How can I do that?


Blogger Jeremy Young on 10/24/2007 6:07 PM:

Long time no see! Unfortunately, we're not supporting user diaries any more, so it won't be possible for you to continue it here. (Your old piece is archived here -- click "Open Folders" and it's alphabetical by author's name.)

Sorry! You're welcome to continue it elsewhere, and I'll be happy to provide a link to your piece.