Are the so-called New Atheists actually right-wing fundamentalists at heart? Our good friend Robert Wright has a great essay over at Foreign Policy called “The Anti-God Squad,” in which he points out some of the alarming ways in which the New Atheists may be continually shooting themselves in the foot in their quest for a more rational world. Here’s an excerpt:
[T]he New Atheists’ main short-term goal wasn’t to turn believers into atheists, it was to turn atheists into New Atheists — fellow fire-breathing preachers of the anti-gospel. The point was to make it not just uncool to believe, but cool to ridicule believers.
And this year doubts about that mission have taken root among the New Atheists’ key demographic: intellectuals who aren’t religious and aren’t conservative. Even on the secular left, the alarming implications of the “crusade against religion” are becoming apparent: Though the New Atheists claim to be a progressive force, they often abet fundamentalists and reactionaries, from the heartland of America to the Middle East.
If you’re a Midwestern American, fighting to keep Darwin in the public schools and intelligent design out, the case you make to conservative Christians is that teaching evolution won’t turn their children into atheists. So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists. These atmospherics only empower your enemies.
So too with foreign policy: Making “Western” synonymous with “aggressively atheist” isn’t a recipe for quelling anti-Western Islamist radicalism. . . .
All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected. At the same time, as some New Atheists have now shown, you don’t have to believe in God to exhibit intolerance and incivility.
You can read the full piece here. And about a year ago, we spoke with Georgetown University theologian John F. Haught about his brilliant and insightful counterattack to the rising tide of militant atheism, which you can download here (and preview below).