Atheism is the big buzz word these days. Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, and a slew of angry young progressives (in whose number I humbly count myself) are out for Blood - God's blood. They (dare I presume to say we?) have finally had enough of religion in its every manifestation. We are unabashedly willing to ask rude questions, demand some degree of intellectual rigour from professed believers and generally make ourselves into grownup parodies of That Kid In Sunday School Who Kept Asking Where God Came From.
This faction is growing, but never tires of pointing out that Atheists are repeatedly characterized as the least trusted group in America - ranking even behind gays and muslims, if you can believe it.
This trend towards controntational, assertive atheism strikes many people as rude at best - "what's wrong with live and let live?" they ask. "Fine, you don't have to believe in God, but it's none of your business whether or not I do." "Why are you so angry?" I think these are are reasonable questions that deserve to be addressed, and I think that frequently the sound bytes you get of Dawkins or Harris responding to critics don't do justice to the breadth of their position. The media loves to play this up as a real mindless debate between two camps that can't get along, and we the people are happy to oblige and look down our collective noses at each other.
Well, as a thinking, reasonable person (if I do say so myself), I think that it's perfectly possible for us to address these issues rationally. I'm going to write a series of articles here in defense of this New Atheism. I'm going to discuss their arguments, and I'm going to open the floor to (CIVILIZED!) discussion on each topic as we go along. I'm not doing this because I am anxious to see a retreading of familiar squabbles - that stuff bores me, and it should bore you. I'm doing this because I am tired of genuinely reasonable arguments being dismissed as little more than the series of vitriolic sound bytes used to present them.
So, this is my introduction. I'll post new items every whenever, when I feel that anyone interested has had their say on the last one. I was going to write one really long post, but I opted against that for several reasons. 1) Other than the 4 or 5 people who look forward to Claus's daily 30 pages of commentary, not a lot of people on newsvine are willing to read and engage with overly long texts. I'm willing to compromise unity for readership, and a serial format should help me to serve that purpose. 2) If I put everything in one coherent article, I'll have a one-stop-shop for everything and it'll be chaotic to discuss any individual points. I would like to foster conversation here, and not just among people who agree with me. Anyone who is on the other side of the the aisle in this one, I invite you to participate and I extend an open hand in friendship. I promise to be open-minded and intellectually honest, and request no less from anyone else.
So. Look for my first real post in the next few days, where I'll do my best to address perhaps the most reasonable objection to the "New Atheism:" I'm going to talk about why we don't feel like we can just live-and-let-live, why we are insisting on bringing this subject into the light, slapping it under a microscope and demanding your attention. This is perhaps the biggest thing we have to get out of the way - if you write the new atheist off as just another flavor of fundamentalist, then you're going to miss a lot of really interesting ideas.
I'd ask anyone who reads this post to please comment with issues they'd like to see discussed. Let's for once have an honest give-and-take. What do you, my readers, see as essential to this project? Do we want a Code of Honor for this series? Are certain topics off-limits? I'm looking forward to investing a fair amount of time into this, so I'm eager for your participation and cooperation. I will tag this series as "godless," so please watch that tag if you'd like to be kept abreast of any new developments. Thanks for reading.