Two letters in The Age today took issue with Mr Kristof.
The first (Richard Aspland of Rosanna) says that the “F-word” (I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to say that word these days, so I will whisper it: “fundamentalism”) is unfairly applied to atheists just because they don’t respect what they “think is superstition”. He wonders whether “atheists are viewed as tolerant only when they keep their opinions to themselves.”
I don’t quite get his point. The other day, my Honourable Mother-in-law declared (over an increasingly heated BBQ debate) that we ought to respect one another’s opinions and leave it at that. But respecting one another’s opinions also means allowing them the opportunity to express them and to produce rational evidence in support of them. And then we get to counter them with our own unbeatable logic. That’s the way debate takes place.
The other writer (Steven Adlard of Fitzroy) says that whereas Ferdinand and Isabella inaugurated the Spanish Inqisition because they were religious, “Mao Zedong, Stalin and Pol Pot committed attrocities…because they were psychopaths”, not because they were atheists. Mmm. One wonders, therefore, why religious people and institutions were the first in line for the firing squad under these regimes. One also wonders if there might not be a connection between atheism and a lack of respect for fundamental (I mean really fundamental) human rights. Steven seems to think that the link between Stalin’s atheism and his atrocities is as tenuous as the link between his atrocities and his moustache. Hey, but wait, didn’t Hitler have a moustache…?