Back in June, I wrote three columns (”The Three Atheists,” “Atheism and Evidence” and “Is Religion Man-Made?“) about the recent vogue of atheist books, books that accuse religion of being empty of genuine substance, full of malevolent and destructive passion, and without support in evidence, reason or common sense.
The authors of these tracts are characterized by professor Jacques Berlinerblau of Georgetown University as “the soccer hooligans of reasoned discourse.” He asks (rhetorically), “Can an atheist or agnostic commentator discuss any aspect of religion for more than thirty seconds without referring to religious peoples as imbeciles, extremists, mental deficients, fascists, enemies of the public good, crypto-Nazis, conjure men, irrationalists … authoritarian despots and so forth?”
In a similar vein, Tom Krattenmaker, who studies religion in public life, wonders why, given their celebration of open-mindedness and critical thinking, secularists “so frequently leave their critical thinking at the door” when it “comes to matters of religion?” Why are they closed-minded on this one subject?
But my question for you is: why can’t the likes of Stanley Fish go three paragraphs without insulting his opponents and adding injury in the form of the worst sort of brazen ‘why are they still beating their wives’ question? Riddle me that.
I would also like to request a moratorium on critiques of liberalism that consist entirely of a flourish for effect – with accompanying air of discovery – of the familiar consideration that liberalism is inconsistent with blanket, categorical tolerance of absolutely every possible act and attitude. That is, liberalism is incompatible, in practice, with any form of illiberalism that destroys liberalism. If something is inconsistent with liberalism, it is inconsistent with liberalism. Yes. Quite. We noticed.
Also, it might not be a half-bad idea to notice that liberalism is not incompatible with religion, merely with illiberal forms of religion. Just as liberalism is incompatible with illiberal forms of secularism. Which suggests that there may be a need to revisit Fish’s title: “Liberalism and Secularism: One and the Same”.
(Also, the sentence, “in liberal thought, ‘reasonable’ is a partisan, not a normative notion,” is conspicuously confused.)