The atheists are, more than other interest groups, joyous cannibals and regurgitators of their own ideas. They thrive online, where like adolescent boys they rehash their rhetorical victories to their own delight.Maybe she's not attacking atheism itself, since she quickly suggests as appealing alternative to the "three horseman" (poor Dan Dennett loses his horse in this rendering). She likes Jennifer Hecht, author of Doubt: A History.
Hecht is as much of an atheist as Hitchens and Harris, she says, but she approaches questions about the usefulness of religion with an appreciation of what she calls "paradox and mystery and cosmic crunch." "The more I learn, the more complicated things get, the more sympathy I have with religion," she told me one recent morning by phone. "I don't think it's so bad if religion survives, if it's getting together once a week and singing a song in a beautiful building, to commemorate life's most important moments."I actually positively liked at least 2-3 of the horsemen, when they first came flying out of the gate. Their high energy was a refreshing change from the stealth and secrecy surrounding non-belief in super-religious America. Over time, I've become less and less a fan. That has less to do with the horsemen themselves (I'm reading Dawkins's new book and loving it) than with those internet atheists who act like adolescent boys. Yes indeed they do.
What I originally thought new atheists were demanding was a right to be "out" -- to take the position that there's no God and state reasons for that view, without being stigmatized for it. What has developed is much more than that. At least the internet atheists think coming out means coming out and saying that religion is horribly stupid. I fail to understand why these folks don't see any conflict between demanding religion bashing rights for themselves, yet wanting an end to atheist bashing.
Well, anyway. To be an atheist does not mean being a member of any angry mob. I think Lisa Miller does a favor to non-believers in America by pointing out the Jennifer Hechts among them. To be an atheist does not have to mean having no "sympathy" with religion or wanting to see it disappear. It can mean lots of different things. I'd like to hear the calmer, more amicable voices more often.
Speaking of atheist voices, there's a new book out today: 50 Voices of Disbelief, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Shuklenk. Hopefully they've selected a nice wide spectrum of voices. I look forward to having a look.