September 4th, 2007


"The Nation" article on the 'New Atheists'

[Cross-posted from chalice_circle]

Apparently I missed it when it first came out in late June, but this article by Ronald Aronson in The Nation caught my eye this evening:
The great success of the New Atheists is to have reached [non-believing Americans], both speaking to and for them. These writers are devoted, with sledgehammer force and angry urgency, to "breaking the spell" cast by the religious ascendancy, to overcoming a situation in which every other area of life can be critically analyzed while admittedly irrational religious faith is made central to American life but exempted from serious discussion.
I'm with PZ Myers: I think Aronson stretches a little bit to find something in the works of Sam Harris, Daniel Dennettt, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens to criticize, but in the main it's a very good piece.

I find the poll data Aronson quotes especially interesting:
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Look Out: Rieux Delivers a Sermon

Here's the text of the sermon I delivered on July 9, 2006, from the pulpit of my UU church. A few names and identifying details have been changed to protect the innocent. (And me.) My excuse for the 14-month delay is that I've just gotten around to turning this into a hypertext-ready post (as you'll see, there is a link or three in there). I thought some folks here might find it interesting....

May 19, 1991, was the first time I ever got up in front of a religious congregation to regale them with my ideas. The occasion that Sunday was my confirmation at my mainline Protestant church, a fairly liberal congregation in the suburbs. During the service, I stood in front of the church and told the assembled multitudes that I believed in "God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth" and in "Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord," who was crucified and was resurrected for our sins.

That was a long time ago.

Actually, as a ninth grader who had been dreading confirmation day for months, I was already pretty sure I didn't believe most of those things. Basically, I was very confused and unsure about theological matters, but I knew there wasn't much room for my doubts in the expectations of my very faithfully Protestant family. I despaired at finding a community that welcomed my skepticism.

Later on in high school, after plenty of reading and thinking, I realized that I didn't believe that a God existed--that I was an atheist. In college, that life was actually kind of exciting; I got to do a lot of reading about the history of religious dissent and doubt--a history thousands of years old, with plenty of heroes like Socrates and Margaret Sanger, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Robert Ingersoll, Salman Rushdie, and many more.

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What do you think?

[Cross-posted to chalice_circle]