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Greta Christina: How Dare You Atheists Make Your Case! Or, The Fisking of Armstrong, 123

Why are so many believers so strongly opposed to the mere act of atheists making our case? Why is so much anti-atheist rhetoric focused, not on flaws in atheists' arguments, but on our temerity for making those arguments in the first place?

I was recently directed to this screed against the so-called "new atheism" by Karen Armstrong:
In search of an "ultimate concern": How the new atheists fail to understand what religion really means, an edited excerpt from her book The Case for God.  [...]

And I was struck, not just by how bad and tired Armstrong's arguments were, but by the degree to which they were entirely focused on trying to get atheists to shut up. I was struck -- as I am often struck lately -- by how much anti-atheist rhetoric has been focusing, not on why the case for atheism is incorrect or inconsistent or unsupported by the evidence, but on why atheists are bad people for making our case at all.

So let's take this a step at a time. [ ... read the rest ... ]

I've been taking note of this attitude lately.  Many religious people seem to take offense at the mere discovery that someone is an atheist, and even more offense and opprobation if the atheist dares to say anything about their atheism.  (Yes, I do have religious friends who do not behave this way at all - I'm not thinking of people I associate with.) 

I find it ironic that certain Christians are so happy to "dish it out" yet utterly unable to take anything in turn.  Growing up in a fundamentalist church and having read much Christian literature, I know that bashing atheism (as well as different religions or branches of Christianity) in a completely unreasonable and often virulent manner is pretty much Standard Operating Procedure.  Given that, from what I've seen, most Christians truly are ignorant of what atheism really means, while by contrast a majority of atheists (in the United States at least) were initially Christians themselves and are well versed in the scriptures and religious teachings, it seems to me that many atheists have better standing to make statements about religion than most of the religious do to make statements about atheism.  If you shouldn't criticize unless you know what you're criticizing - well, many atheists do know, from personal experience and actual study, what they are criticizing.  How many atheism-criticizing Christians can say the same thing?

So it's rather interesting and somewhat amusing to note how often religious writers lately suggest that atheist writers "tone down" and "be nicer" - rather than actually taking on their points!  Hmmm.

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September 2011

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