Via Alan Jacobs at the American Scene, PZ Meyers wants attention. He really, really does.
I don't believe in God, I guess, in any conventional terms, and I'm non-religious. But Jeezy Chreezy, the public face of atheism turns my stomach. It is an unrelenting, never ending foray into self-aggrandizement, debasement of one's opponents, and ridicule of things one doesn't believe in. If someone was a political commentator, and operated the way Meyers, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens did, would anyone listen to them? No. As much as the success of the Ann Coulters of the world suggests otherwise, we largely understand that a basic level of decorum, mutual respect, and the assumption of good faith should under gird our national dialogue. Indeed, without these assumptions, the dialogue is not worth having.
But then there is atheism, where it is apparently the case that you can always come closer to righteousness by expressing still-greater contempt for those with which you don't agree. Now, this is all very strange; though growing, the atheist minority is stilled dwarfed in this country and in this world by the religious. And how can you possibly change people's minds if you're constantly ridiculing them? Doesn't make much sense.
But I suspect that it makes perfect sense. It makes sense because the goal of the new atheism has never been to convert. It has never been to include. It has never been to change minds. The ridicule is the goal; the contempt is the end; the sheer fun of sanctimony, self-righteousness and loathing are the purpose. Go to Youtube and look for all the young atheists proudly telling their webcams that Jesus is a lie and religion is a fantasy and God is a disease and on and on.... Do they really want to convince anyone? No. What they want is to feel that they are better than others. They want to insult for the joy of insulting. They want a sense of superiority, one I imagine is often denied in their lives, and by ridiculing something others find sacred, they find their method. This is classic adversary philosophy: I think this thing is true because in its being true it debases you and elevates me.
The new atheism has made its challenge, then. And here is my answer. I don't believe in God, in any meaningful way. I am not a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Jew, or whatever else you will. In questions of public policy I feel religion has no place, and rational discourse has to rule. I don't want religious artifacts in the public square, I don't want creationism taught in public schools, and I don't want any religion privileged in any way by government. I am, in most every way that matters, a natural ally of atheism.
But atheism has expelled me. It has expelled me because it has in its heart contempt and loathing and fear of the other. So I reject it. I don't reject all atheists; many atheist are uninterested in ridiculing the religious-- they simply want to be left in peace, and not have religion forced on them or on the law. That, to me, is a principled atheism, and one I am happy to coexist with. But this new atheism, this anti-theism, has only contempt at its heart, and I reject it as thoroughly as it has rejected me.