Jacques Berlinerblau writes in the column “Georgetown/On Faith” on the Washington Post-Newsweek website:
Query: Can an atheist or agnostic commentator discuss any aspect of religion for more than thirty seconds without referring to religious people as imbeciles, extremists, mental deficients, fascists, enemies of the common good, crypto-Nazis, conjure men, irrationalists, pedophiles, bearers of false consciousness, authoritarian despots, and so forth? Is that possible?
Nonbelievers of late have been churning out loud, unsubtle, anti-religious manifestos. The world would be a better place, they all seem to suggest, if religion and all of its associated personnel were simply to disappear. In this regards the new nonbelievers seem stuck in the ‘90s—and by this I mean the 1890s. This calls attention to one glaring problem with atheism and agnosticism today: it lacks new ideas. The movement abounds in polemicists, but has not produced a thinker of real substance since perhaps the days of Jean-Paul Sartre.
When I read something like that it’s easy for me to simply dismiss it as it almost always comes from some Christian fundamentalist with no clue about atheism or secularism.
In this case Berlinerblau is one of us – a nonbeliever. He is on the advisory panel of the Secular Web run by the Internet Infidels and he wrote the book “The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously” (Cambridge:2005).
All beliefs have insider dissenters who for one reason or another would rather their comrades not be so “uppity”. It seems that people like Berlinerblau want nonbelievers to be meek and silent like a servant in a colonial household in the early part of the 20th century.
While I agree with Berlinerblau that there are some extreme views within the nonbeliever community, I think he paints with a too large a brush. Most of us don’t call believers imbeciles, pedophiles etc… (on a daily basis) and we don’t lump everyone into one large group as Berlinerblau appears to do to nonbelievers. Most nonbelievers will agree that the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair had far worse things to say about religion and even other nonbelievers that anything coming out of the books by Dawkins and Harris et al… and she got all the press she wanted.
However the nonbeliever commentaries that I have seen and read have dealt with specific views and specific actions of believers that might seem to be stupid or irrational. See practically any post of this blog for examples of that.
Yes, I did call Dennis Prager a turd but as Ann Coulter would say – I was just expressing an invective….
I have met some atheists and other nonbelievers who I didn’t personally like because they were buttheads socially, but doesn’t it seem every movement has buttheads leading the charge that opens the doors for the rest of us?
Now if we start seeing extremists on the other side being put in their place by more moderate voices, I might sign on to Berlinerblau’s ideas. It just seems that nonbelievers are the ones being asked to tone our criticism down or that we need to be silent so as not to offend those who might agree with us on church state separation.
It isn’t my job to make believers who agree with us on church and state issues to feel better about themselves and their silly beliefs especially as they remain silent when people like James Dobson or Pat Robertson have free reign for their stupid comments in the name of their religion.
I say lets see some compromise from their side.