Skeptics and the Question of Audience: Who Are We Writing To?

So far I have not been able to get the attention of many skeptics, including Richard Dawkins, and PZ Myers. Yes, I have tried, several times. Sure, they are very busy. But I just learned why I probably haven’t, which is what I had suspected. For the record I have purposely not criticized Richard Dawkins or the other New Atheists, either in my book or on this blog. In fact, I recently defended Dawkins and the other New Atheists, including Bill Maher for his movie Religulous, in a talk I did at the Society of Biblical Literature against a few scholars who thought their arguments lacked substance. You can read what I said here. I also defended Dawkins in a long series of email exchanges that took place last year between skeptic James Lazarus and me, which were copied to Jeffrey Lowder, Steve Hays, David Wood and some others. It got heated since I did not back down in my defense of Dawkins.

I appreciate so much what Dawkins has done that he deserves defending, and I do. He helped create a heightened awareness of atheism among us and rallied us together to fight ignorance and superstition with science and reason. There is now a bookshelf in the major national bookstores for atheist books, one of which is mine. Prior to this where would you go in a bookstore to find an atheist book before that? It was difficult.

But the problem why many skeptics cannot get behind my work is because I'm "soft" on Christians. They want me to blast away at them, like they do. The ridiculous needs to be ridiculed, they think. But I don't do that. My goal is not to preach to the choir. Skeptics love it when we blast Christians, just as Christians love it when preachers blast atheists. I know this. In a few cases I do. But mostly I don't; not in my book, nor here on my blog. Although, when speaking to a different audience filled with skeptics I most certainly do this, because I adapt to my audience.

These skeptics acknowledge that our community needs both approaches, mind you, and it does. We need the blasters and we need people like me who are "soft" on Christians. But although they acknowledge we need both approaches they do not endorse my work. I find this myopic, since my work is more effective in changing the minds of believers, or so many people say. The problem is that skeptics who are the blasters won't endorse skeptics who are "soft" on Christians. One person told me (via email):
...this is an example of the problem of conflicting niches: you must please the choir to sell books and get endorsements and attention (and for our ideas then to disseminate and get used by more and more skeptics in the public arena), but you must keep the Christian attention long enough that they will actually read the book (which generally requires going soft on them, as nothing else will please them).
My problem with people like PZ Myers and Dawkins isn't that they aren't right. They are. It's that they need to look beyond what they themselves would prefer to read and ask instead what would convince the believer. When they look beyond their noses and endorse that which will convince the believer, they will probably endorse my work. They acknowledge we need both approaches so why won't they publicly acknowledge my approach? Is their goal to change the religious landscape or not? If it is, they should endorse my work irrespective of whether or not I blast Christians if they think my arguments are good ones.

This then is the main criticism I have of them. They are myopic, something I wouldn't expect from people who claim to defend reason.

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