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Dave, I don't want to debate you on the apparent contradictions you've found here. However, if your reasoning about atheists is sound, in order to convince people, I would expect that you'd want to be doubly careful to present your readers a complete picture by providing a sidebar link to an alternate perspective. I know of a certain atheist blog (mine) that is concerned with building bridges of respect and understanding across the belief spectrum of the cultural Mormon community. It may prove to be an interesting counterpoint to your series about atheists.

Dave, you point out an important contradiction. Thanks for the write-up and links.

"while many Christians bend over backwards to depict authentic Islam as a religion of peace."

I have to strongly disagree with this from my experience. Although this is true for a vocal minority of Christians (of the liberal kind), it is *not* true for a larger vocal group of Christians who very strongly believe Islam is a den of evil murderers. Of course, these are the same ones that don't have anything good to say about Mormons either, but they are not insignificant.

I think the true story that a small amount of people have noticed is Atheists are starting to become as vocal and "militant" as the Christians. where the Christians might see anyone who doesn't subscribe to their theology (the Faith Only, and in Trinitarian Jesus group) as evil and dangerous, the Atheists see anyone who is religious as dangerous. At the least, anyone who talks about religion outside of a church house.

A related article is this one from Wired a few months ago.
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html

My biggest problem with this new type of aggressive atheism, and I think the most valid criticism of it, is its assertive dogmatism and condescending perspective. This new atheism does little to promote dialog and communication.

"Funny how secularists can paint Islam as a violent and evil religion, while many Christians bend over backwards to depict authentic Islam as a religion of peace."

Oh c'mon. Talk about painting with a broad brush. Whereas as "many" Christians bend over backwards, it is just Secularists who are so critical. How many secularists? Many, most, some, a few, all? I would certainly grant a few, some or many secularists are like this, since these word can mean most anything, I would object to most or all. Of course the exact same thing can be said for the Christians who are so kind and generous.

Okay, Jeff G, "some" secularists -- I wasn't suggesting each and every one of the five hundred million nonbelievers take that view. In particular, I'm referring to the noisy ones that are the subject of the linked essay. Harris' books are on the NYT bestseller lists -- so it's not like he is backing some sort of fringe view. "Religion as fanaticism" is on its way to becoming the mainstream secularist view.

The noisy secularists certainly don't shrink from depicting "believers" or "religion" as identifying one undifferentiated class of people.

When the 500 million nonbelievers start sending out 2.5 million missionaries to proselyte their cause (this is the ratio in one 12m member organization, not all of Christianity), then I will worry that they are becoming too "aggressive".

Criticizing the fanaticism in religion is not a new phenomenon. Voltaire and Thomas Paine were doing the same thing centuries ago.

bill, if proselyting is equivalent to fanaticism, then Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens are fanatics ... right? They're certainly proselyting for their point of view about belief and religion. Or is that the sort of label one only applies to people one doesn't like?

Dave, I actually took my point to be a little deeper than mere nit-picking.

First of all, once one recognizes that it is only some secularists that act that way, there really isn't a very interesting contradiction to point out. One can point out any number of apparent contradiction between some X's and some Y's for any given groups of X's and Y's.

Second, and a little more biting, your failure to make the proper qualifications is the exact criticism which you are bringing against the secularists. Just like them, you are using some secularists as a pass to attack all secularists, just as some secularists use some religionists as a pass to attack all religionists.

Well if we're going to get picky over the wording of my 12-line post, I will point out that I used the term (in my second-to-the-last sentence) "those same secularists," which quite plainly implies a subset of the group "all secularists." So Jeff, if you're going to take me to task for not putting an explicit "some" as a qualifier to "secularists" in the prior sentence, I'll reply that the later reference acted as a qualifier. It makes it clear it was not a blanket indictment of all secularists.

And despite my rhetoric, it ought to be clear that I have a good deal of sympathy (or at least interest) with secularist arguments -- that's why I link to the articles in the first place, because the topic is worth discussing.

The most interesting and salient fact is that now the secularists are no longer content to be polite and sit on the sidelines. The religionists have over stepped the line with a bomb strapped to their waists. No one, not the secularists and certainly not the moderate theists, can idly sit by and say, "those are the fanatics, they don't represent what I believe."
The true believers of every religious persuasion are promoting this religious fanaticism. The idiotic muslim bombers are no different from the christian, rightwing, wingnuts who are doing what they can to bring about the "armageddon".
Those of us who believe in a rational, naturalistic explanation for our existence, unfettered by a monotheistic/abrahamic violent god are horrified that you, (I don't mean you personally, Dave) theists are about to cause the destruction of mankind.
If the moderates don't step up, there is going to be a nuclear holocaust in the next ten years. Or, am I just being a pessimist?

Dave,

Yes, anticlericalism can be a form of fanaticism, but it's not one I'm really very worried about.

The "evangelical" President of the United States of America seems to be giving this very image of authentic Islam as peaceful.

And concerning the main man of the evangelical religious right in America . . . Jerry Falwell, the point man of Christian fundamentalism. Yes, he disagreed with fundamental Mormon tenents of doctrine. But with the Moral Majority, did he nationally broadcast LDS as "evil and dangerous"?

Yet the secular media are having a hard time reporting much about this guy, Falwell. He was the all-time "intolerant fanatic". Personally, the secularists can't stand him.

The landscape is changing in America.

You are certainly correct, Todd, about the secularists not being able to stand Falwell. ... Not one of my favorite people.

[Edited.]

Readers might be interested in the following AP story posted at Yahoo News today:

Angry atheists are hot authors

That's a cruel edit, Dave. You have to admit it was a funny comment and Hitchens threw it in there as they were going to black, in revenge for the last time he was on the program and Hannity shouted at the last second, "There is a God".
I'm politicking to try to get Ann Coulter to have the dastardly fellow on her program.

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