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Letter from the rubble of a Salon article

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Quote from Sam Harris via "pull quote"

Steve Stankevicius published an article on salon.com, only for the editors to distort what he said and refuse to change it. This follows a worrying trend on a site that claims to be a serious media outlet, yet refuses to abide by some very basic rules of journalism.

BACK IN January, I had a strange week. The well-known news site, salon.com published my very first popular article under a title they chose to give it: ‘New Atheists Must Become New Vegans: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the extra burden on moral leaders’ rather than mine: 'Why the New-Atheists need to become the New-Vegans'. 

Until then, my words had been constrained to my practically invisible blog, but Salon gave me the chance to suddenly amplify my whispers into bellows. For that I am very grateful. Unfortunately, what was meant to be a personally joyous moment was slightly soured by some insincere behaviour.

Understandably, many people seemed to think the piece implied that being an atheist automatically compels one to be a vegan. Of course this is not true. Atheism is not a belief system and people arrive (or remain) at this worldview for a wide range of different reasons.

The title "atheist" is largely vacuous and applies little pressure on most topics outside of religion, including the ethics of meat eating. Rather, I simply argued that the moral reasoning and critical thinking championed by many famous public intellectuals – including the so-called "New Atheists" (apologies to those who don't like that name) – leads to veganism. In other words, they argue for ethics, morality, rationality, and scientific reasoning: all the necessary ingredients for a vegan mindset.

The likes of Harris, Dawkins, Krauss and Shermer have publicly acknowledged this, yet most seem ethically lethargic on the topic. A collective shift in consciousness is required, and these individuals could provide the much-needed torque to drive the idea over some widespread mental speed bumps.

What was intended to spark some thoughtful discussion was rerouted down a deliberately inflammatory and polarising path. Something I was wholly confident about all of a sudden made me look like a "malicious freak blogging in my underpants". Would a similar reaction have been provoked given a more honest title? I don’t know, maybe.

However, the sheer volume of responses from people who quite clearly didn't read much further than the first seventeen words compels one to formulate a certain diagnosis.

Perhaps I am being oversensitive. Maybe incidents like this are not uncommon. This is "journalism", after all. I feel a little stupid as I am well aware of how Salon has treated people including Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins in the past, and many readers have reminded me of this.

I knew my views did not align with many other writers at their establishment, but given the chance to have a piece on such an important topic read by more than the usual ten friends on Facebook, I had to jump at the chance. I am now attempting to jump back to dry land — I just hope the boat hasn’t drifted too far.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Banter on 12 January 2016.

Read Dr. Stankevicius's original (unaltered) article 'Why the New-Atheists need to become the New-Vegans' on IA here.

You can follow Dr Steve Stankevicius on his blog or on Twitter @scepticalshrink. 

RELATED: Salon's Treatment of Sam Harris is Shameful.

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