Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Evangelizing New Atheists Will Lose More Centrists Than They Gain

The current crop of evangelizing atheists – most notably Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon), and Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation) – want to convince agnostics that tolerating religion is wrong. The time has come, they argue, to drive the delusion out.

They will probably convince some lukewarm atheists and agnostics to become militant atheists. But I think that, in the main, their project will backfire. It will fail not because believers will reject them – they will do that anyway. Rather, the new atheists will fail because there is a limited market for intolerance in the West these days, and there is almost no market for atheism anywhere else.

The center in our society is mostly composed of religious believers. Still, most of them are also willing to tolerate atheism and give full civil liberties to atheists. The center will draw the line, though, at any view that would require them to become intolerant. And they will lose patience with extremists who insist that, of all things, if they aren't extremists, they aren't rational.


Anonymous said...

It is interesting that you posted this. My husband just had an experience with an evangelical atheist over the weekend... I'm going to forward him this post and see if he can tell you about it.

Brett said...

Yeah, Gruntled. I recently sent a letter to the editor of our local paper about some Jesus dolls that have been given to the Marine Reserve for their Toys for Tots program. (My beef with these dolls is that they minimize Christ.) Anyway, the letter was published but got no response except for a crazy letter from a guy who called on me to produce proof of God or go to jail for fraud. His letter is pretty interesting--very evangelical in an atheist sort of way. I've reprinted it on my blog.