I get it that some people do not like the New Atheists. But surely when you’re writing things like this:
And this is why I think the New Atheists are a disaster, a danger to the wellbeing of America comparable to the Tea Party.
you have simply placed yourself outside the community of people who care about civil discourse or calm argumentation.
That quote comes from Michael Ruse. Really ponder it for a moment. Marvel at its sheer obliviousness, its absurdity, its complete trivialization of important issues. Let’s place the NA’s and the Tea Party side by side shall we?
The Tea Party, which is mostly synonymous with the Republican Party, has been very successful at electing extremely right-wing politicians to Congress, governorships and state legislatures. These politicians are dutifully carrying out their primary missions of redistributing wealth upwards, destroying the public schools, and basically trying to undo anything that benefits poor and middle class people at the expense of the rich. It is no exaggeration to say they are destroying lives in the process. Occasionally they take time out from this project to demonize gays or Muslims or illegal immigrants. That’s why they are a threat to American well-being.
Against this we have the NA’s, who wrote a few books and maintain a few blogs. If you would care to take a browse through You Tube you will also find them engaging in very civil conversations with a variety of worthy adversaries.
This is the equivalency being put forth by Ruse.
When I first saw Ruse’s post I was inclined to ignore it. It seemed like an obvious manifestation of the ploy so familiar from right-wing talk radio, where you say the most incendiary thing you can think of just so you can boast of how put upon you are when people reply. Surely no one would take such hyperbole seriously. Even if you think the NA’s are insufficiently respectful of philosophy or theology, there is simply no planet on which that is remotely comparable to what the tea party has been up to.
So you can imagine my disappointment that so many people have glommed on to this. Jacques Berlinerblau upped the rhetorical ante with a screed of his own. I’d reply, but somehow I’m not worried that anyone persuadable will read his essay and come away thinking that he’s the voice of reason in this discussion. (He chides Christopher Hitchens for being insufficiently knowledgeable about seventeenth-century French atheism. I’m not making that up.) Several other bloggers have jumped on the bandwagon as well, including, most disappointingly, Josh Rosenau, who I usually count on to be a calming influence on these discussions even when I disagree with him.
I think I will not be accepting lectures about civility or seriousness from these people. For a more sensible take, I recommend David Barash’s brief essay.