"BY CHRISTOPHER ORLETEpstein, even if he is coming from the wrong side of the debate, sees quite clearly that the fundamentalist atheists are not adding much to the debate, and suggests that, in fact, they are making it difficult for his side of the spectrum.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
A recent Associated Press story, headlined 'Atheists Split on How Not to Believe,' has set fingers tapping throughout the blogosphere. The gist of the story as I read it is that there are soft atheists and fundamentalist atheists, and the softies are concerned that the fundies are becoming too outspoken, too uppity, indeed that they are giving unbelievers a bad name--a good trick that, like trying to give a bad name to an oil slick.
As usual, the impetus for this new development was 9/11, and the death and destruction caused by religious fanatics, after which some atheist intellectuals decided there was complicity in silence, thus they would be silent no more.
The spokesman for the soft atheists has been Greg Epstein, a 'humanist chaplain' at Harvard University. The Rev. Mr. Epstein is encouraging the fundamentalists or 'New Atheists' to pipe down, and warns that their outspokenness is keeping fence-sitters from coming over to the side of the humanists, a dubious allegation, at best. Though I can't prove it, it seems to me that passionate advocacy attracts converts as often as it drives them away."
I wish I could believe that the strident voices from the hard-core atheists would be heard for what they are -- the voice of intolerance -- but experience in hearing racists and sexists and all kinds of ethnic intolerance in the course of my life leads me to suspect that dealing with the intolerance of the fundamentalist atheists will be no less painful. Words CAN hurt, especially when they are tinged with scorn and hatred.
I suppose the best thing we can do is not descend to their level, and to consider the words of Paul in Romans 12:17-18:
Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.