USA Today had an opinion piece that gets to the heart of the push for cooperation between atheists and religious moderates.
Tom Krattenmaker starts by buttering us atheists all up… before the criticism.
Critical thinking might be to secularism what faith is to devout religious believers. Thinking rationally, questioning assumptions, embracing complexity and eschewing the black-and-white — these habits of mind are, to the champions of non-belief, a keystone of the secular worldview and a crucial part of what separates them from religious people.
So why, when it comes to matters of religion, do secularists so frequently leave their critical thinking at the door?
They are correct in criticizing those who have used religion to create suffering in the world. And those acting in the name of their faiths have indeed furnished far too many case studies. Unfortunately, the forms of religion most often in the spotlight these days lend credence to the idea that religion is a dark-ages anachronism that must be eradicated if the human race is to advance.
Yet both achieving a more constructive national dialogue and making progress on our most pressing problems depend on just the opposite happening [we shouldn’t be antagonizing allies by “sneering at their faith”]. Neither the secular nor the religious camp is going to drive the other out of business. So how’s this for an idea: Cooperate.
… couldn’t they engage with religious moderates and progressives, who tend to approach their faith in non-literal ways that do not require the suspension of rational thought, and who frequently lean in the same political direction as secularists do on the big issues of the day? Do secularists really want to antagonize these potential allies by sneering at their faith?
It’s a nice point, but Krattenmaker is missing the key element in all of the atheist literature. Even moderate Christians believe in the resurrection of Christ and that God listens to their prayers. Those ideas do require suspension of rational thought. That’s what the authors are against — believing in the supernatural, as well as all the evil that can come from that.
I think atheists can work together with those groups for precisely the reason the author mentions — we agree on so many political/social issues — but the atheist authors are rightly attacking all forms of religious belief, not just the super-conservative versions.
We would be unwise to ignore the religious moderates since they could be good allies (and vice-versa), but cooperation doesn’t mean we can’t criticize their beliefs.
Secularism’s clear thinking has much to offer a world riven by unthinking ideologies and hatreds. And even though it defines itself in opposition to religion, surely secularism is capable of understanding that religion is more — at least capable of more — than irrational indulgence in supernatural fantasies. Learning more about religion would be a good start.
I’m curious what he thinks we atheists don’t understand about religion. Most atheists I know were raised in religious homes. We lived it. We breathed it. It’s not like we’re attacking something unknown to us (unlike most religious attacks on atheism).
And what is religion capable of doing that a group of well-organized, well-funded atheists can’t?
All I can think of right now is give hope — false hope, in my opinion — but maybe I’m missing something.
One more excerpt:
As the atheist writer and religion scholar Jacques Berlinerblau recently put it, “Can an atheist or agnostic commentator discuss any aspect of religion for more than 30 seconds without referring to religious people as imbeciles, extremists, mental deficients, fascists, enemies of the common good … conjure men (or) irrationalists?”
I’m pretty sure I could do this. But if I ever needed to win money from PZ, I now know what to bet him 🙂
[tags]atheist, atheism, USA Today, religious, religion, moderate, Christian, Jesus, God, Tom Krattenmaker, secularism, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Berlinerblau, PZ Myers[/tags]