From a surprising source, The Economist, comes this essay on the stupidity of the term “fundamentalist atheist” (the same goes for “militant atheists” and the like). Short excerpts:
First and most salient, as Oxford’s Tim Garton Ash writes, “there are no al-Darwinia brigades making bombs in secret laboratories in north Oxford.” Yes, sigh, many atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennet are just as convinced that there is no God as Osama bin Laden is convinced that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger. On one hand you have faith that makes people fly planes into buildings, genitally mutilate young girls, murder abortion doctors (in church), stone adultresses, outlaw certain forms of consensual sex or even just make it impossible to buy beer on Sunday in some states. On the other hand there is the atheist “faith” that makes people write smug op-eds, put ads on buses (see photo), file frivolous lawsuits against nativity scenes on public property, and the like. Show me what harm in the world a prominent atheist intellectual has done. . .
(If you’re thinking of Stalin and Mao here, read the essay first.)
Atheists can be smug and annoying. So can Christians and Jews, Yankee fans and Red Sox fans. The claims of religious writers and atheist writers should be debated on their merits. But let’s can the “fundamentalist atheist” meme. The fundamentalist mindset is defined as one that cannot be changed by evidence. As Sam Harris, another atheist, has said, God could easily prove all the world’s atheists wrong. (Mr Harris’s challenge: “I have just written a 30-digit number on a scrap of paper and hidden it in my office. If God tells you [or any of our readers] what this number is, I will be appropriately astounded and will publicize the results of this experiment to the limit of my abilities… Hint to the Creator: I’m thinking of an even number, and it’s not 927459757074561008328610835528”.)
For more on this, see Anthony Grayling’s nice piece, “Can an atheist be a fundamentalist?”