I said a few posts ago, about my own atheism, “I don’t believe in unicorns either, but I’m not about to go to any meetings about it.” Well, I haven’t been going to any atheist meetings, but I have been reading the comment threads at Pharyngula, which is a pretty good internet equivalent.
My own stance on evolution and religion is hard-line: I think the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, that anyone who doesn’t accept it is just plain wrong, and that standard compromise of evolution being somehow guided by God is just a muddle-headed cop-out. I get as angry as the next atheist at attempts to get creationism/ID taught in biology lessons. And as a social liberal, I don’t have much time for Christian fundamentalism in any circumstance, and I’ve done my fair share of internet Christian-baiting.
And yet, despite my own intellectual intolerance and the fact I share all the biases of the commenters at Pharyngula, I still find the atmosphere there toxic. There’s so much energy being expended on hostility and derision, such a sense of superiority on display. Anyone who rejects evolution – or believes in God, really – must obviously be an idiot or a liar. There’s not even an attempt to empathise with anyone who values faith over reason.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting soft. Or maybe I just recognise my own worse qualities in the people there. I should probably say, to be fair, that not everyone there matches the description I’ve just given. Perhaps no-one does, really; but that’s the overall tone of the site. And I should also point out the endless provocation from the anti-evolution people. But still. I’m tempted to say that I think it’s bad strategy, that they’re alienating more people than they’re persuading, but I have no idea. What I do think is that, for want of a less spiritually loaded term, it’s just bad karma.