Over at The Philosopher’s Magazine, Russell Blackford has a nice essay on the necessity for atheists to publicly criticize religion:
When religion claims authority in the political sphere, it is unsurprising – and totally justifiable – that atheists and sceptics question the source of this authority. If religious organisations or their leaders claim to speak on behalf of a god, it is fair to ask whether the god concerned really makes the claims that are communicated on its behalf. Does this god even exist? Where is the evidence? And even if this being does exist, why, exactly, should its wishes be translated into socially-accepted moral norms, let alone into laws enforced by the state’s coercive power? When these questions are asked publicly, even with a degree of aggression, that’s an entirely healthy thing. . .
It doesn’t help when opponents of the New Atheism attempt a silly and unfair tu quoque! riposte – or perhaps just try to wound feelings, express spite, or incite anger – by branding forthright critics of religion as “fundamentalist atheists”. This expression should be contested vigorously whenever it appears. A fundamentalist atheist would be one who believes in the inerrancy of an atheist text – perhaps one of the New Atheist books, such as The God Delusion – even in the face of results from rational inquiry. However, I have yet to encounter such a person, and in any event such a label has nothing to do with the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and the other Horsemen. Let’s be clear that the word “fundamentalist” does not mean “forthright” or “outspoken”. To use the word so loosely involves overlooking what is wrong with fundamentalism in the first place, namely its dogmatic resistance to all the findings of science and reason (as when Young Earth Creationists insist, against all the evidence, that the Earth is only six to ten thousand years old).