But the way we talk about intersectionality doesn’t quite work for atheists. Just by saying I’m an atheist, I’m telling you that I think your theistic beliefs are wrong. By telling you I’m a “new” atheist, I’m telling you that I think you’re wrong and you should stop being wrong. To speak of intersectionality is to look for allies. But we are not allies, we are opposed. [emphasis added]At least a few people found it shocking: I ended up arguing with one commenter, and my coblogger disagreed with it on her personal blog. I had intended to shock, but it was still surprising to see people being shocked by something that to me is so basic.
It is possible to believe in something, and not really believe in it--brains are physical objects and we don't have complete control in them. But I really do believe that there is no supernatural, and that supernaturalists are factually wrong. Thus I am an atheist. It is possible to be an atheist and not believe that others should believe in atheism--and "should" is just equivalent to saying that it's morally/ethically correct. But I really do believe that supernaturalists should stop believing in the supernatural. Thus I am a new atheist.
You might not be an atheist, or you might not be a new atheist.* If so, you are wrong, and should stop being wrong. If you are a new atheist, you are still wrong (about something else) and should stop being wrong.
*I am simplifying because being a "new atheist" also requires living in the 21st century, having some contact with atheist communities, and liking the label enough to adopt it. But here I am using "new atheist" in the reductive sense of an atheist who believes that others should be atheists.
You believe that I am wrong about some things too, and I believe that you should believe that I should stop being wrong.
In short, I believe that beliefs are subject to morality. People "should" believe what is factually correct. I don't think it's an absolute principle, but I would say that this is generally true at least. When I argue on the internet I don't know what your particular circumstances are, but on average I would say that my readers are better off with correct beliefs.
Correct beliefs lead to better decisions. Even if incorrect beliefs incidentally lead to good decisions, "incidentally" implies that they are unreliable about it. Christians who believe that gay sex is okay because of their particular Biblical interpretation are incidentally correct.* That's not good enough, because now I can't rely on them to be ace-friendly, for instance.
*I think these people usually aren't using the Bible as a moral basis, but rather their moral intuitions informed by cultural norms. But this is also only incidentally correct. The same moral basis applied fifty years ago would not have been gay-friendly, and in fact was not.
This is true of belief-forming mechanisms as well. A better belief-forming mechanism leads to better beliefs, leads to better decisions. Even if a belief-forming mechanism incidentally leads to a correct belief, "incidentally" implies that it is unreliable. Skeptics who exclusively use mockery to attack Creationists are incidentally correct. That's not good enough, because now I can't rely on them to, you know, have any correct beliefs outside of skepticism.
Believing in god is a belief, but perhaps more importantly, a belief-forming mechanism. The god-belief itself may not do a whole lot, but it may cause you to have more respect for religious authorities, cause you to believe in prayer, altmed, moral theology, or even just the naturalistic fallacy. If you don't believe in those things, you are incidentally correct. Good for you, but not good enough.
Above all else, I want to be correct. Wanting you to be correct is just an application of the golden rule. And most of all, I want you to want me to be correct. I don't want you to be an asshole about it, and I want you to do your due diligence if you're going to persuade me of something. But it's important to me, because you may be in a better position to persuade me than I am.
(There will be a part 2 to this post.)