New atheism and the cult of victimhood

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    “the dominant liberal outlook of our age” Huh. That is a bit…ummm…sensationalist to call New Atheism the dominant outlook of anything.

    Using a term like culture of the victim is problematical when you are referring to people, in this case children, who were almost universally acknowledged to be actual victims. If this “culture of the victim” leads to true victims getting protection and ending abuse then the “culture of the victim” would be a straight up nifty thing to have. Yet that doesn’t seem to be how it is being using. The “culture of the victim” however is some phenomenon where “…where today individuals are invited not only to reveal every misfortune that has befallen them…”, which is certainly possible and a I would say a reasonable observation. But it’s also a bit overwrought as there is far more to victimhood, including the aforementioned acknowledging, saving and protecting actual victims.

    And FWIW “nanny statism” is a great term that is easy to use sloppily. There is a tendency among some on the right to use it simply for everything thing the gov does they don’t like without actually explaining how it applies in a particular case. It seems easier to throw out the term then to enter the debate on what is the public good and reasonable measures to take.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    “which of course is a sensible thing to do if you have been raped”

    Well, yes. Sensible. What’s the issue again?Report

    • @Jason Kuznicki, My problem is the use of these events to advance a political and anti-catholic agenda. I’m all for digging up as much of the truth of these matters as possible and bringing the bad guys to justice. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much of Sullivan’s latest hissy fit.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain,

        I guess in this context I view “culture of victimhood” as something of a smear. We would not in good taste speak of a “culture of victimhood” among the victims of land mines or terrorism. Why does it work here? If the CEO of General Electric were abusing his authority to hide and enable child molesters, we’d probably want him to lose his job too.

        (Full disclosure statement: I’m a former Catholic turned atheist, but I’ve never read Dawkins — I don’t feel the need — and I don’t care for Hitchens. I like Philip Pullman and Daniel Dennett, however. I was never sexually abused by any clergy, an I don’t personally know anyone who admits to it.)Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, I can see that. I don’t think that’s the intention of the piece but I could be wrong. It’s quite understandable to come forward as victims in these cases. I think O’Neill may have somewhat stronger views on some of these matters coming from across the pond, but I think his point was more about the way the state and the media in Ireland were treating the story, and more importantly how certain groups were using the victims to their advantage – but I certainly see how even writing about that, and using that sort of language, could be taken as somewhat of a smear.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    I don’t think the “new athiest” (I call them evangalitical atheists and boy does that ever steam their cabbage) movement is in much of any way representative of the majority of atheists or squishes (agnostics) who make up the populace. They’re noisy and noticable but small in numbers. Certainly all the thoughtful, philosophical or indifferent atheists are more pleasant to have to dinner than the “new atheists”. That said as long as the theists have loud obnoxious sects (and it’s hard to find anyone louder or shriller than a true believer) I don’t think we have any place to begrudge the atheists their own versions of the same.

    As for the Catholic Hierarchy, color me unsympathetic. You know what’d be really effective against those evil atheists and secularists looking for an opening to denigrate the Catholic Church? Not spending decades covering up child molestation! Oh and personally I’d appreciate it if, after the Padre has been caught with the preschooler, they didn’t immediately try and blame it on the gays. Julian Sanchez has a good takedown of that here if anyone is interested.
    http://www.juliansanchez.com/2010/04/13/the-curious-incident-at-the-american-spectator/Report

  4. Avatar Kaleberg says:

    There has been anti-Catholic propaganda since before Jesus met Pontius Pilate. Some of it was quite lurid, though usually the children were eaten, not sexually abused.

    Read The Little Professor’s blog for an expert view of the 19th century version. Of course, she covers fiction. Lately, we’ve been dealing with facts. The Catholic Church has long made claims to the high moral ground with atheists somewhere down at the bottom of the moral heap. If there is any playing of the victim card, it is that atheists have long resented this assertion of moral hierarchy given that there is no evil that has not been countenanced and justified by some religion or another and plenty of completely moral atheists. Think of it as the revenge of the godless, and a weak gruel it is by the standards of religious vegeance. Atheists just don’t have the proper blood lust.

    As for the sexual victimization of children, that’s not a matter of victim-hood. That’s just a matter of right and wrong, or of legal and illegal for those who don’t care about right and wrong, whether they are religious or not.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    An old quip holds that, if there were only three Catholics on earth, one of them would have to be the Pope. The Church, after all, is a structure of teaching authority. As such, even if it was dismantled, it would be back within a week. And, sure, a lot of times, when I talk with militant atheists, I feel their argument boils down to ‘society will be a lot better off when everyone thinks like me’. But the Church will still be here in ten years time, and Hitchens will likely still be a douche.

    All that said, the Church is circling the wagons when they ought to be more contrite. Fair-minded people will forgive them, but not now and not yet. And not until it’s clear that the full horror of this- that a moral pillar of our society somehow made the wrong decisions when faced with the most horrifying crime imaginable- child rape- has actually sunk in with them. It’s really not a good time for the Pope to be pointing out the mite in the eye of the secular world.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Also, for the record, I think Catholics in general need to be writing more pieces like this one:
    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/what%E2%80%99s-matter-catholic-churchReport

  7. Avatar Switters says:

    ED – “So to reiterate – the new atheists and certain entities in the media have used the sexual abuse case to pursue a political vendetta against the church, and could give a damn about the actual abuse cases, as Richard Dawkins – for one – makes extraordinarily plain.
    There is nothing wrong with the fact that these people have come out and said they were abused. It is the use of these people by enemies of the church as nothing less than political weapons that is so disconcerting. I’m reminded of A Clockwork Orange.”

    The catholic church abuses children. New atheists exploit the victims to pursue a political vendetta against the church. ED now sees the church (and particularly, the pope) as the new victims (of the unfair attacks from the new atheists). ED exploits the new victims to damage the new atheists. Is the only difference here that ED cares about the catholic church (and the pope) and the new atheists do not care about the abuse victims. Am I missing something?Report

  8. Avatar John Henry says:

    And on cue, here’s Hitchens misrepresenting the facts of a case to attack Benedict again:

    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/correcting-christopher-hitchens/

    My issue with the recent wave of coverage in the U.S. is basically that there have not been any new scandals in the U.S. So, instead, what we’ve been treated to is people like Hitchens making inaccurate factual claims (whether through laziness/malice/ignorance) based on trumped up charges taken from the lips of plaintiff’s lawyers. This kind of throw-everything-against-the-wall smearing of Benedict is not constructive or accurate, particularly given his role in addressing the crisis.

    Now, 2002 and the coverage of the U.S. bishops was a completely different story; the evidence was there in abundance, and it was very fortunate that the media worked hard on the story or the scandals would have never come to light. Granted, given that the abuse rates had already fallen by that point, and it may not have protected that many children, but it was still important for the truth to get out.

    Unfortunately, it means now that any time Hitchens or Sullivan want to play two truths and a fallacial inference, they can advance their agenda by claiming that they are despereately concerned about the abuse of children – and they don’t bother much with the facts of the current allegations (or the dramatically lower abuse rates at Catholic institutions than at comparable public institutions) because, after all, the 2002 allegations were accurate.Report

  9. Avatar Gorgias says:

    This post and the others on this subject is painfully redolent of wounded entitlement. This sort of bunker mentality against the tiny minority of “bad atheists,” painting them as if they represent some kind of massive conspiracy to discredit the church through their contact in the media can only prove our point that the church was and is still more concerned with their reputation than the wellbeing of the victims.Report

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