Opinion: Atheists respond to Charlotte Allen


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You couldn’t say we didn’t see this coming: Charlotte Allen’s May 17 Op-Ed article on her dislike of outspoken atheists (think Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, pictured to the right in that order) has gone viral, sitting at No. 4 on list of most e-mailed stories as of 2:45 p.m. today.

As expected, there has been plenty of atheist blowback in the blogosphere. The most pointed criticism comes from Hemant Mehta, proprietor of Friendly Atheist. He writes:


Here’s why I can’t stand Jews. They’re boring. They keep complaining about being oppressed. They keep talking about the same damn things all the time -- Holocaust this and Israel that. They always claim they’re victims. They only constitute a small percentage of Americans -- probably because they can’t win over any converts. They still complain about how state Constitutions bar them from holding office -- really, only six of them do -- even though the Supreme Court has said those provisions are unenforceable. They want affirmative action for their kind -- one representative from the “pity-poor-me” school of Jews even said they need “safe spaces” at colleges! They assume everyone who doesn’t agree with them is “beyond stupid.” They never want to take on the serious arguments that theologians have made in favor of the Christian god. Some Jews think Jesus never even existed. So what do they know? They’re not rational. They’re just angry. Angry because they think the world is unfair to them. Angry that someone forced them to go to church as a child. Some Jews are so angry, they sued the government to prevent a Christian prayer from being spoken at President Obama’s inauguration. The gall! Now… if I actually believed that, I’d be called every name in the book. And rightfully so. Those are ignorant, bigoted, hateful remarks. They’re also wildly stereotypical and extremely inaccurate. When Charlotte Allen says the exact same things about atheists, however, she gets published in the Los Angeles Times.

Biology professor PZ Myers, whose adroit defenses of science against attacks by creationist-types have made me a somewhat regular reader of his blog Pharyngula, bore a good share of Allen’s anger. Allen wrote:

Then there’s P.Z. Myers, biology professor at the University of Minnesota’s Morris campus, whose blog, Pharyngula, is supposedly about Myers’ field, evolutionary biology, but is actually about his fanatical propensity to label religious believers as ‘idiots,’ ‘morons,’ ‘loony’ or ‘imbecilic’ in nearly every post. The university deactivated its link to Myers’ blog in July after he posted a photo of a consecrated host from a Mass that he had pierced with a rusty nail and thrown into the garbage (‘I hope Jesus’ tetanus shots are up to date’) in an effort to prove that Catholicism is bunk -- or something.

Myers’ response, which he filed under his blog category ‘Kooks’:

Her opening is clear. She thinks we’re ‘crashing bores’. A hint for Ms. Allen: never start an essay by declaring your subject to be boring. Either your readers will stop at that point, or they’ll read on and discover that despite your claim, you seem to be concerned enough to write on at excessive length about something that is supposedly boring. ... Then there is an incoherent middle where she just flames on about how mean atheists are (I call them all horrible names, you see), never seeming to notice that all she is doing is spouting angry vitriol about atheists. Gripe, gripe, gripe. The only time she even tries to state what the position of theists might be is in her closing paragraph, and again, she’s oblivious to the problem with her position. ... There simply isn’t anything to engage in Allen’s howl of outrage. I’m a little surprised that something so shallow and empty could get published in the LA Times at all, especially with Charlotte Allen’s track record. My only previous encounter with her was an astonishing rant in the Washington Post, in which she flatly claimed that women were dumber than men. Seriously. While claiming there was no difference in average intelligence.

Look for more response in the form of letters to the editor and possibly a Blowback in the coming days. We’re also interested in what you have to say, so feel free to join the discussion by leaving a comment below.


Updated Tuesday at 5:22 am: The original misspelled Hemant Mehta’s last name and incorrectly said Myers had filed his response to Allen under the category ‘Gooks,’ not ‘Kooks.’ Thanks to readers for pointing out these errors, and apologies to Mehta and Myers.

Sam Harris photo credit: Glenn Koenig / L.A. Times
Richard Dawkins photo credit: Dirk Waem / AFP/Getty Images