“They didn’t like atheists”

So said the humanisthousewife, in a comment here.

Anyone who has had a brush with Steiner people will agree with her. She was speaking as a former long term employee, and certainly knows them well. They feel threatened by atheists, and react badly to them.

Atheist bloggers have been killed for their views in some countries, as has been reported in the news several times this year.

Sam Harris, the author and neuroscientist has been targeted continually by critics, mostly religious people, who try to discredit him by misrepresenting his views, and labeling him a racist. Reading his blog reveals the way he has to restate his views, in reply to the grotesquely distorted opinions of which he is accused.

Harris repeatedly states that a rejection and criticism of religion is not a racist characteristic. Religion is not race. Some people have difficulty understanding that.

Ridiculously, this is a hazard of publicly criticising religion. Anthroposophy is frequently criticised as a racist belief system, perhaps that explains why Steiner people try to affix the racist label to their critics.

Sam Harris has been expressing antitheist views for years, with the most accomplished criticisms of religion; his little book, “Letter to a Christian nation” is one of my favourites. We donated a copy to our child’s school on leaving day; I only wish I could afford to donate a copy to every school library in the country, since it may go some way to counteracting the way religion is promoted in RE lessons and the compulsory religious worship that takes place daily in British schools.

I have made no secret of the fact that I regard religion in general as a malign influence. This does not stop me having friends who are religious – they were brought up with Christianity; sometimes it is hard for people to throw out beliefs they have always held, and some people rely on those beliefs. I have been pitied for my unbelief by a Christian friend, and in return I have sympathy for her.

Someone I know has recently begun to train for ordination, and that I do not find easy to understand; it is one thing to continue the habits of a lifetime, but another to dive in voluntarily.

Unsurprisingly Steiner people are pretty angry with me for criticising the way they secretly use their beliefs on unsuspecting innocent people and their children. But I have been surprised by the lengths they have gone to; threats, nasty comments, attempts to blacken names.

Some Steiner followers can’t handle criticism of any sort and instinctively lash out at critics. Some of the backlash is carefully orchestrated outside the country by people with cool heads.

Nothing is out of bounds when it comes to defending the creed of anthroposophy, it seems.

Some Steiner followers think their livelihood is potentially under threat; for example, if people start finding out about eurythmy or rhythmic massage and no-one wants to pay for it any more, their business will suffer. If everyone decides biodynamics is a ridiculous part of a nasty belief system and won’t buy the veg, those who do biodynamics for a living will suffer. If fewer parents decide to send their child to a Steiner school because they did some research on anthroposophy and don’t want their child educated by people who belief humans evolve spiritually to be aryan, the schools will lose money and close.

Some people must think this blog is influential enough to be having an effect on Steiner businesses.

The threats and accusations won’t stop Steiner critics who feel strongly about this matter. I’ll live with it.

But just so everyone knows, though I’m not in his league, in this way I consider myself in good company with Sam Harris, and long may he continue his struggle for the rational approach in preference to the religious one, where criticism is often met with flailing arms and vicious hatred.

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5 comments

  1. Jim

    As a godless leftie myself it frustrates me that people who are not religious go along with the presumption that this is a Christian country. Just to clarify, it is compulsory for schools to offer “an act of worship of a broadly Christian nature” but it is not compulsory for anyone to attend it. Yet they do, like sheep. And so the pretence is continued.
    Even 50 years ago the assembly was in two parts – the religious bit and the communications bit. The Catholics ( the only variants I think were around then ) joined for part 2. As an atheist so did I. After a bit of a kerfuffle it was just accepted.

  2. Jim

    An afterthought. Parliament has prayers before all sessions. Where a heavy turn out is expected for the session the only way to get a seat prominent enough to catch the speaker’s eye is to attend prayers in which case you are allowed to “book” a seat, leave the chamber to carry on with your day then return for the debate. If you attempt to reserve a seat and leave before prayers your booking will be discarded.

    • Helen

      Stroud District council have a prayer before meetings too! Last time I went anyone who didn’t want to pray could leave the room and about 6 of us got up and stood outside the doors whilst the prayer was said. I am sure very few of the people inside ever went to church or would pray in any other situation. I wonder how many people it would take to get up and leave before they stopped having prayers?
      Same with the school assemblies. If a large portion of parents withdrew their children from worship schools would have to stop this ritual. We are not talking about church schools,of which there are many, just ordinary schools.

  3. Nick Nakorn

    I’m not a fan of Harris at all and he has rightly had to back-track and modify his opinions in recent months. It was not just religious people who found many of his comments racist. By the way, ‘race’ can mean anything depending on the context so a religious group can not only self-identify as a ‘race’ but groups can be othered as ‘races’ too – I think the very public spat between Harris and Aslan highlights the point very well and Aslan’s religion is not in the least pertinent to his critique of Harris; many atheists agree with him. (more on my views on race acn be found here: https://nicknakorn.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/everyone-is-racist/ ). In fact, a large number of vloggers have decided not to call themselves atheists in reaction to a rise of racism, sexism and transphobia that is sweeping through the organised atheist community in the USA via links to MRA groups and atomistic libertarians. I think Harris is beginning to see he has been on the wrong side in many of these arguments; hence his new book with Maajid Nawaz.

    Having said that, it’s clear that Steiner people are pretty uncomfortable with basic rationality, let alone atheism. Many on-line discussions I’ve had over the years with Steiner people (and religious people generally) usually end with them playing the ‘deep’ card. If one claims to be deep and spiritual, one’s opinion is, apparently, automatically superior regardless of content or evidence to the contrary. Pointing to evidence is just arrogant… sigh..

  4. Helen

    Thanks Nick. Sam Harris certainly has his detractors.
    How sad that people cannot feel safe to call themselves atheist bloggers. I suppose you specify “vloggers” because they can’t protect themselves from physical attack if they are easily identified. Perfectly illustrates my point.
    As an atheist I have been “othered” by being required to leave a room to avoid prayers in the council chamber, and by receiving messages from believers encouraging me to kill myself.
    As prominent atheists point out, no-one murders or threatens others because of their atheism.

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