We can hate harmful and unjust ideas and behaviours, without hating the people who believe those ideas or carry out those behaviours. That is an ethically nuanced position, and one that PZ Myers understands, because he sometimes articulates it himself. Indeed, it is the type of ethical nuance that you would expect from a previous Humanist of the Year awardee. Also, PZ has strongly criticised other people for being ‘haters’ of different people, and other websites for being ‘hate sites’. So he sometimes, correctly, sees ‘haters’ and ‘hate sites’ as being pejorative terms.
Despite this, on his own website, PZ Myers regularly expresses public hatred of people, not merely their ideas or behaviour. Among the many people who PZ has publicly hated, despised or detested are philosophers Alain de Botton and Harriet Baber, interfaith activist Chris Stedman, comparative religion author Karen Armstrong, pastor Lee Strobel, columnist Richard Cohen, attorney Debbie Schlussel, US President Ronald Reagan, creationists Ken Ham and Fred Phelps, broadcasters Bob Beckel and Rush Limbaugh, and authors Ben Stein, Bryan Appleyard and Dinesh D’Souza.
PZ has also publicly expressed hatred of Christians (he despises them, and he once left a theatre filled with contempt and loathing for them), Christians who are apocalypse-mongers (he despises these people, and they make him furious and fill him with an angry contempt), your average, run-of-the-mill Christian (he despises Karen Armstrong almost as much as he did Fred Phelps), named people organising a prayer initiative (Jesus Christ but he hates these slimebags, demented fuckwits every one), and crunchy theologians, who he hates on our collective behalf (we atheists despise them because they are wrong).
PZ’s public hatred of people is not a response to the recent disagreements among some mostly American bloggers and activists. Like much of his other hurtful and harmful behaviour, it pre-dates these disagreements. The targets of PZ’s hatred and smears may have changed, but his modus operandi is broadly the same, although he no longer encourages his commenters to tell people to shove rotting porcupines up their ass or to fuck themselves sideways with a rusty chainsaw. This is a pattern of behaviour by PZ, not a reaction to any particular set of circumstances.
Some examples of PZ Myers publicly hating people
Here are some examples of PZ publicly hating people, not merely their ideas or behaviours, together with links to the original material so that you can evaluate the context yourself.
To avoid misinterpretation, it is of course reasonable for PZ to publicly disagree with or even hate the ideas or behaviours of these people, but he could do this without publicly hating the person him or herself.
“I left the theater filled with contempt and loathing for Christians.” Source
“Did I ever tell you how much I despise Ronald Reagan?” Source
“Christ, but I actually hate these people… Fox News Republicans and Libertarians — every once in a while they do something that just ignites this white hot flash of rage in my brain. I can’t help it.” Source
“Religious kooks, please note: I despise you.” Source
“Oh, man, I still remember those houses that handed out Bible tracts rather than candy when I went trick-or-treating as a kid. Yes, do that, because I learned to despise those smug jerks when they shafted little kids that way.” Source
“And finally, Bob Beckel. I despise Bob Beckel.” Source
(On Richard Cohen) “But I’ve despised Cohen for years, ever since he wrote a column telling a young girl that she never needed to know algebra, because he’s so fucking stupid he’s never had to use it.” Source
“I don’t hate gods — they don’t exist. I really despise the buffoons who lie about gods to fleece their flocks, though.” Source
“I say “most” of the famous ones, because crunchy theologians are the ones who shout out their theology the loudest, and are the quickest to define themselves by their faith. We atheists despise them because they are wrong.” Source
“Jebus but I despise these people… However, there’s one kind of Christian that makes me furious and fills me with an angry contempt… These are the people for whom I reserve the term “demented fuckwits”. They are the apocalypse-mongers, the cheerleaders for Armageddon, the monsters who take great satisfaction in their patently stupid belief that the world is going to end soon in a Jebus-spooge of Biblical volume.” Source
(On Chris Stedman and Alain de Botton) “Hemant Mehta thinks Stedman and de Botton aren’t really that bad. It’s too bad none of his arguments actually address why some of us despise Stedman and de Botton, but OK.” Source
“Sorry, no. I’m quite aware of the distinction between crazy fundy evangelicals and your average, run-of-the-mill Christian who believes in silly fantasy stories. I despise Karen Armstrong almost as much as I do Fred Phelps, but for different things.” Source
(On named people organising a prayer initiative) “Jesus Christ, but I hate these slimebags… Prayer will never, ever change the world. Prayer is an excuse to lie about doing nothing and pretend you are making a difference… Demented fuckwits, every one. You know, none of these cretins are fundamentalists, they probably smile a lot, and what they all propose is absolutely harmless, in the sense that it doesn’t do anything, anything at all…but they are the killers, the mind-rot, the lazy brained lotus eaters who will watch civilization crumble away while chanting that we’re becoming closer and closer to Mother Nature.” Source
“One more reason to despise Ben Stein.” Source
“Jebus, but I’ve come to despise Republicans.” Source
“Republicans. Christians. Why do I despise them both?” Source
“Without hesitation, I can tell you who the most contemptible, repulsive creationist I know is: he tops even Ray Comfort and Ken Ham in the pantheon of creationist liars for Jesus. It’s the otherwise negligible Sal Cordova…” Source
“Harriet Baber is a philosopher, and I say that with the most sneeringly disparaging tone I can muster. I don’t normally dislike philosophy, but there are a lot of philosophers I detest, and Baber exemplifies why.” Source
“I think I despise anti-environmentalists as much as I do anti-evolutionists.” Source
“I detest these people” (the neo-conservative elite) Source
“But then, this morning, I read a review of the book by Bryan Appleyard. You have to understand something here. I utterly detest Bryan Appleyard.” Source
“Contemptible ghoul” (Debbie Schlussel) Source
“Another contemptible ghoul” (Ken Ham) Source
“Still more contemptible ghouls” (The entire shrieking, howling, raving mob of religious lunatics at Westboro Baptist Church) Source
“Dinesh D’Souza is a contemptible ghoul” Source
“The latest contemptible ghoul” (Rush Limbaugh) Source
“Add Lee Strobel to your list of contemptible ghouls” Source
Part of a wider pattern of behaviour by PZ Myers
PZ’s public hatred of people is part of a wider pattern of his behaviour that is hurtful and unjust to individuals, and harmful to the atheist movement and to promoting an ethical, secular society based on compassion and reason.
As well as his hatred of individuals noted here, PZ has unjustly smeared other individuals by uncharitably misrepresenting their behaviour. He has also said that the scum has risen to the top of the atheist movement, that if you don’t agree with Atheism Plus you are an Asshole Atheist, and that the skeptic movement has attracted way too many thuggish jerks, especially in the leadership.
You can read details of these other smears and misrepresentations at these links, along with examples of his violent imagery involving knives and anal abuse with porcupines, his use of ableist language despite saying that he opposes it, and his encouragement of his commenters to be abusive to other people, all the while judging others about sexism and social justice by standards that he does not seem to apply to himself.
- The hurtful and harmful smears of PZ Myers, “The Happy Atheist”
- “Do your belly dance.” “Get off my stage. I’ve got work to do.” What if PZ Myers judged others’ sexism as he judges himself?
- Chronology of misrepresentations and smears in the atheist movement by PZ Myers and others
The targets of PZ’s hatred and smears may have changed over time, but he has been behaving like this long before the recent disagreements among some mostly American bloggers and activists. This is a pattern of behaviour, not a response to any particular set of circumstances. The harm that it causes is a combination of the impact of each individual smear on its target, and their cumulative impact on our discourse and our community.
I and others in the atheist movement have repeatedly asked PZ, both privately and now publicly, to reconsider and change his harmful behaviour, and to apologise to those he has hurt. I still hope that he does so. Perhaps the new year would be a good time for a new start. If he does not, and if we are to successfully promote an ethical, secular society based on compassion and reason, we need to actively dissociate our work from this ongoing harm.