Sunday, January 28, 2007

Atheist Intolerance

"You can also tell that atheism is in trouble because it is becoming increasingly intolerant. In the past, atheists (or secular humanists or freethinkers) were often condescendingly tolerant of their less-enlightened fellow citizens. While they disdained religion, they treated their religious neighbors as good-hearted, if misguided.
But now key activists are urging a less civil approach. At a recent forum sponsored by the Science Network at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, the tone of intolerance reached such a peak that anthropologist Melvin J. Konner commented: "The viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"
This newly aggressive mood (Dawkins calls religious education "brainwashing" and "child abuse") is in danger of undermining civil society."

This excerpt from a Christianity Today article is indicative of a lot of mainstream Christian thinking about the "new" atheists represented by such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. From the point of view of moderate Christians this seems to be a fairly accurate statement of affairs. Atheists and agnostics abandoning their traditional tolerance of religion and demanding it be abolished or removed from society.

However they have missed a key ingredient in all of the discussions. The growth and abuse of power of a Fundamentalist Religious Right which has been sweeping all before it. The removal of basic science from schools and replacing it with religion, Christianising organisations like the Boy Scouts and generally creating a climate in the U.S where atheists have become the least trusted group in the country. Liberal/mainstream Christians have on the whole remained silent against this onslaught. It should come as no surprise then that non-believers have decided to come out in their own defence. What does come as a surprise is the number of people who seem to agree with them.

Who is buying the books (The God Delusion and The End of Faith) were both best sellers way beyond the success they could have achieved with only the non-believing community. These writers have tapped into a larger audience who perhaps also, it could be argued find concerns with religion. An audience that much of the liberal press does not seem to know about.

The intolerance being complained about is not in my opinion intolerance at all. No writer is trying to legislate religion or to ban it. What they are saying is the days of privilege for religion is over. Like all ideas religious ideas are open to public criticism and condemnation. Religion has no place in enforced public life. Religion is a private matter and needs to stay that way. Can I go to church as I choose, educate my child in a Christian school and read the bible? The answer is yes none of these rights are under attack (from atheists at least, I can't vouch for the fundamentalist Christians). What is under attack is the right of Christians to introduce their religion into public schools, to replace science education with religious indoctrination, to force public policy into Christian molds and to mandate religious programs for children, prisoners and the disadvantaged.

Surely to say that all ideas will be held to the same standards and that personal bias has no place in public life is a return to the virtues upon which democracy was founded.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


There can be no peace between God's chosen people and those that reject Him. Repent and receive salvation.
The Bible, God's Holy Word doesn't say anything about democracy. Have you noticed demo..n and demo..cracy. Only a letter away! Your atheistic "tolerance" is the cloak of the devil and his demonic legions. We would be better governed if we returned to annoited kings. We could have a few Dukes to help them.
Paul sets out clearly what needs to be done. Galatians 5 12

8:20 PM  

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