April 7, 2015

Atheist Ireland Rebukes PZ Myers

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Atheist Ireland issued a statement today announcing that they are "publicly dissociating" themselves from "the hurtful and dehumanising, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric" of PZ Myers, author of the Pharyngula blog. They explain that the last straw was a combination of Myers' recent comments in which he described Ayaan Hirsi Ali as "happily exploiting atrocities" and dismissively referred to the chair of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent, as "the Irish wanker." The statement calls upon "all ethical organisations and individuals to consider how you can help to reverse his harmful impact on both individuals and the atheist movement generally."

Most of those involved in the atheist blogosphere are aware that something like this has been coming for some time. Nugent has repeatedly and publicly taken Myers to task for the sort of thing detailed in this statement. What makes this different is that the statement of public dissociation appears to be coming from the organization rather than just Nugent (i.e., it was signed by the Executive Committee).

It will be interesting to see what - if anything - happens next. Many of Myers' supporters have been publicly accusing Nugent of having some sort of vendetta against him for some time. I imagine it would be fairly easy for Myers to adopt this interpretation of events and to dismiss Nugent as some sort of high-profile troll. And yet, Myers has surprised some of us before. I suspect he's capable of behaving decently when he wants to do so.

And what of us? Many of us have already dissociated ourselves with Myers, some by simply no longer visiting his blog and others by issuing statements of our own. Will we now consider how we might help to reverse the impact of Myers' behavior? I'm still not completely sure what that would look like, but I'm open to suggestions. At the same time, I'd hate to see us get so bogged down in unproductive rifts that we lose sight of what is truly important.

Update #1: As usual, Hemant has more on this story over at Friendly Atheist.

Update #2: We did not have to wait long to see what sort of response Atheist Ireland would get from Myers' supporters.

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