Saturday, March 31, 2007

A new fundamentalism

There’s an interesting article in the International Herald Tribune, A new fundamentalism? Some decry strident tone of fellow atheists . Reasonable atheists are starting to challenge the vicious, insulting language of the branch of atheism more correctly described as “anti-theism”, currently led by men such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. “BOSTON: Atheists are under attack these days for being too militant, for not just disbelieving in religious faith but for trying to eradicate it. And who is leveling these accusations? Other atheists, it turns out.” And none too soon, say I.

While Greg Epstein, who holds the partially endowed post of humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist E.O. Wilson decry the language of the "atheist fundamentalists", there are attempts to put a decent spin on the nasty habits of Harris and Dawkins, such as the statement in the article that “His (Dawkins) attempt to win converts is clear in "The God Delusion," when he writes of his hope that "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." I don’t see how anyone can believe that for a split second; it’s quite clearly an attempt to deflect justified anger- when, in all of human history, has anyone ever gained a convert by saying “Your God is ‘a psychotic delinquent’, your insanity is destroying the world, and teaching your faith to your children is worse than sexually molesting them.” Dawkins cannot pretend that that is the sort of rhetoric one uses to persuade people.

Sam Harris, of course, sees things differently. “Harris, author of "Letter to a Christian Nation," sees the disagreement as overblown... Harris also rejected the term "atheist fundamentalist," calling it "a silly play upon words." Sorry, Sam, but the term is fully justified. You admit to “intellectual intolerance”, saying "We do not jail people for being stupid, but we do stop listening to them after a while." Any statement about God that is stated as known fact is a religious statement, even if that statement is “He doesn’t exist”; you, Sam, are a religious fundamentalist, and a bigot to boot. There is no virtue in expressing contempt for your fellow man.

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