Over at Foreign Policy, Robert Wright repeats his usual spiel against the “new atheists,” but this time he’s turned up the invective:
1. We want to spawn a generation of venom-spewers.
But the New Atheists’ main short-term goal wasn’t to turn believers into atheists, it was to turn atheists into New Atheists — fellow fire-breathing preachers of the anti-gospel. The point was to make it not just uncool to believe, but cool to ridicule believers.
Umm. . . that isn’t my goal. I’ve had some conversations with these NA’s, and never have I sensed that their goal was to ridicule believers. Sometimes they ridicule belief, of course, but more often they’re involved in serious discourse about ideas. Given the choice between turning believers into atheists or turning atheists into New Atheists, there’s not one of us who would opt for the latter.
2. We’re hurting the acceptance of evolution.
If you’re a Midwestern American, fighting to keep Darwin in the public schools and intelligent design out, the case you make to conservative Christians is that teaching evolution won’t turn their children into atheists. So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists. These atmospherics only empower your enemies,
No evidence for this assertion, of course. I still haven’t encountered a believer who says, “You know, if Dawkins would just stop dissing God, I’d embrace evolution!” And does Wright really want us to lie here? After all, teaching evolution, like teaching other forms science — indeed, like teaching any sort of critical thinking and rationality — will help turn some children into atheists. Are we supposed to say, “No — not a chance in hell of that happening”?
3. We’re reactionaries and hurting the cause of world peace.
Dawkins, for example, has written that if there were no religion then there would be “no Israeli/Palestinian wars.” This view is wrong — the conflict started as an essentially secular argument over land — but it’s popular among parts of the U.S. and Israeli right. The reason is its suggestion that there’s no point in, say, removing Israeli settlements so long as the toxin of religion is in the air.
I don’t recall Dawkins saying anything about settlements; that’s Wright’s ridiculous mischaracterization.
4. We’re intolerant and uncivil.
All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected. At the same time, as some New Atheists have now shown, you don’t have to believe in God to exhibit intolerance and incivility.
Yeah, right. Clearly it is the atheists who are responsible for making the faithful intolerant — we haven’t respected them enough! That, of course, is why the Catholic church prefers death by AIDS to the use of condoms, and why it frowns on homosexuals and women priests. Catholics wouldn’t do that if the atheists hadn’t backed them into a corner!
And that’s why Islam keeps suppressing women, preventing them from getting a decent education (and dousing them with acid if they try), swathing them in burqas, bumping them off in honor killings, and making them second class citizens (a woman’s testimony counts only half as much as a man’s in a sharia court). Clearly, Muslims do this only because they feel threatened. It would all stop if we’d just give them a little more respect!
Shame on Wright for implying that Islam’s brutally oppressing half of its adherents stems from a lack of respect for Muslims, and for laying at the door of atheism the blame for acid-dousings, suicide bombings, persecution of gays, and the spread of AIDS. These phenomena are, pure and simple, the products of religious scripture and dogma. In what world can a man like Wright be seen as a serious thinker?
— A world in which the Templeton Foundation laps up this brand of piffle like a cat after cream. And so I proffer a prediction: Wright will win the Templeton Prize within two years.