Atheist Fundies as Bad as Religious Ones? Nahhh
I am having a great time watching the Beyond Belief conference with all the talks, discussions, arguments and refutations. It really is interesting to see a whole bunch of very educated people talk about important topics and disagree about very fundamental ideas, and yet respect each other and speak rationally in the face of criticism.
Two of the people at the conference and who take a lot of both praise and condemnation are Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I've read both The End of Faith and The God Delusion as well as Harris' follow-up, Letter to a Christian Nation and enjoyed all three. I can certainly see how some more moderate people would think them overbearing, insulting, and somewhat dramatic, and I also thought that a good point was made with respect to Dawkins being the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, yet his book did not really attempt to get the public to understand atheism, just that you were stupid if you weren't one.
That being said, there's precious little that I disagree with in either of their writings. Both of them have been described as atheist fundamentalists on par with the religious fundies of either Christian or Muslim background. This is, I believe, quite an unfair accusation because although their non-faith positions are forthright and unapologetic, they don't go to near the lengths of religious people to attain their ultimate goals. In addition, their ultimate goals are nowhere near as misogynistic or irrationally destructive/divisive as religious ones.
I mean, seriously, what is an atheist's ultimate goal? A society where decisions are made based on rational thought and a naturalistic view of the world and universe. That's about it. What is a Muslim/Christian's ultimate goal? To have every person believe in their particular god and behave in such a way as to appease that god with our actions and laws (many of which are discriminatory and misogynistic).
If we have atheist fundamentalists, I'll stand behind Dawkins and Harris, thank you very much. There is, as has been pointed out in several talks at the conference, a lot of good done by religion. But as Harris and others have rebutted (and as I myself have written on this blog before), there is nothing good you can get from religion that you can't get from another secular source.
There's a lot of footage on that Beyond Belief site, but it's well worth checking out for an hour or so a night if you have the means.