What are we trying to do?

PZ Myers and Chris Mooney go head to head in a discussion on accommodationism in a Point of Inquiry podcast. It is an interesting discussion, and there are good points made from each side. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), Myers admits that both the “soft and fluffy” attitude of the accommodationists and the more hard edged attitude of the four horsemen, are needed.

But needed for what, though? Myers does a reasonable job of trying to define what he’s about, and why he takes the attitude he does, although he could be clearer. Mooney (and, to a greater extent, the moderator of the discussion, Jennifer Michael Hecht, who participates rather than moderates), does very little to describe what, exactly, he is trying to do. Overall, the discussion is a little disappointing because these sorts of basics are not properly laid down.

It is important to know what you want, and to find a productive way of doing it. Frustratingly, Myers and Mooney do not properly establish (in this discussion, at least) what it is, exactly, they want from their various atheist activities. Do they want to deconvert people? Do they want to have a more balanced dialog in which religion is not given a privileged, unassailable, position? Are they more interested in the proper promotion of science than in the eradication of religious superstition? Until it is clear what the answers to these questions are, there is little point in directly comparing methodologies.

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