The Age has reprinted an article by Nicholas Kristof under the above title (originally printed in the New York Times as “A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion”). Its not on The Age website, and you need to be a subscriber to the NYT to read it here, but there’s a copy of it here on a blogsite.
Here’s the guts of it:
Yet the tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is often just as intolerant — and mean. It’s contemptuous and even … a bit fundamentalist.
“These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge.”
Granted, religious figures have been involved throughout history in the worst kinds of atrocities. But as Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot show, so have atheists.
Moreover, for all the slaughters in the name of religion over the centuries, there is another side of the ledger. Every time I travel in the poorest parts of Africa, I see missionary hospitals that are the only source of assistance to desperate people. God may not help amputees sprout new limbs, but churches do galvanize their members to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics that otherwise would not exist. Religious constituencies have pushed for more action on AIDS, malaria, sex trafficking and Darfur’s genocide, and believers often give large proportions of their incomes to charities that are a lifeline to the neediest.
Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.
[Reader: At least it seems that you have at least one person out there who agrees with you. That’s nice.
Schütz: Yes, I feel better now.]