theologian tries to feminize atheism. badly.
Professor of theology Stephen Prothero doesn’t think much of atheists and in a past column, he said they are heading the way of the freak show. So imagine his surprise to find that those obnoxious atheists he found so grating are filling lecture halls and hover at the top of bestseller lists. Oh well, the world isn’t perfect but he’s willing to make the best of it which is why he has a suggestion for the atheist movement. Forget all the angry white guys making fun of religious follies and embrace the calm, friendly, nice ladies who’s only request is to be accepted by American society without having to ascribe to religious dogmas. Basically, Prothero seems to say, atheism should get a more appealing, less threatening image.
There, isn’t that so much nicer than the typical testosterone supercharged firebrand atheism we typically see out there? If only we gave atheism a makeover, those who don’t believe in the supernatural theistic creator of theistic holy books wouldn’t be shunned or denigrated for their views by sleazy televangelists or the faithful for who religion is a tool for wielding their supposed moral superiority, right? And while we’re at it, how about we drop the whole part about making fun of believers’ follies and being angry about the verbal abuse they get or a campaign to dismantle science education for the sake of proselytizing. Yes, the new atheism should be just a plea for acceptance from someone nice and quiet. Even the scholarly Dawkins is too much of a troublemaker, much less polemicists like Harris and Hitchens. Now Julia Sweeney, there’s an atheist for you!
Though wait, doesn’t Sweeney make fun of religious inconsistencies and double standards? And what about the other gentle atheist, Susan Jacoby? Didn’t she tear into fundamentalists for doing their best to undermine biology and astronomy classes in schools across the country in much the same way Dawkins and Harris did in their books, articles and speeches? So what exactly is Prothero advocating except a change from XY to XX chromosomes on the stage? And why does a middle aged white man with high resolution, print-ready photos on his website in case anyone wants to do a story about him, suddenly want to see a gender swap among the prominent voices of atheism, listing well known, attractive ladies in his age range as his preference? Is it just me or could he use a call from Dr. Freud? While advocating for a softer, more feminine approach to atheism, what he really ended up saying is to keep doing the same things atheists have always done but get someone who’ll get his attention, preferably with a nice figure and a former religious upbringing.
But here’s the funny part in all this. After basically telling atheists to charge their ways in a condescending and aesthetically self-serving manner, Prothero is going to wonder why the godless are still so damn rude about being targets of proselytizing and still embrace those he calls angry white male polemicists. He’s oblivious to the fact that what he’s doing is the equivalent of an atheist telling believers to get some new faces in public, as well as abandon their beliefs in evangelism and pick someone good looking and to his personal tastes if they want to stay on his good side. You know, the one in his press-ready promotional photos. This might be going out on a limb, but something tells me that a theologian eagerly praising Robert Wright’s quasi-Lamarckian platitudes wouldn’t be thrilled to find an article like that forwarded to his inbox…