I received an e-mail invitation the other day to attend a forthcoming seminar on the danger of radical Islam to our society. It came from some Christian church organization and I have no idea how I got on its mailing list. In the message portion the organizers pointed out that radical Islam was an even greater danger to western civilization than “secular atheism”.
Hmmm. Should I be pleased that I am ranked second only to the likes of Osama bin Laden as a threat to western civilization?
A short while later a headline in an on-line conservative newspaper caught my eye. The writer was expanding on the theme that we are being targeted by a conspiracy of liberal leftists, Islamists and atheists. I read the piece and the writer was quite clear in connecting the dots between the intellectual leftists and the Islamists.
This is not new. Other writers have pointed out how the intellectual leftists, who despise capitalism and the power establishments in the west, sought common cause with the Russian communist regime of Stalin. They became, in Lenin’s apt phrase, a legion of “useful idiots” for communist propaganda. With the disgrace of the Stalinist regime and the exposure of its crimes against humanity the left became muted.
Until the Islamists came along and gave them heart: “Now here’s a bunch of guys we can support because they hate all the same things we hate.”
But other than using McCarthy-style “naming” the writer made no attempt to show how atheists fit into this. I suppose the unarticulated code is that they are evil people and would somehow be behind other evil people. Lost on the writer is the fact that Islam calls for the death penalty for atheists.
There was a national poll carried out some time ago in the United States. I think it was by the Pew Research organization. People were asked who they trusted and who they would be prepared to vote into the office of the President. Atheists came dead last. Parents said they would rather see their children marry a person of another faith than an atheist.
It reminded me of an apocryphal story. A religious mother is berating her young son who has come home from college but is not attending church. He finally admits to her that he no longer believes in God. After catching her breath, his mother says she can accept that as long as he doesn’t become an atheist.
And people ask, “Why are these New Atheists, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris so strident?” Gee, I wonder.
Dawkins says that atheists are in the position that homosexuals were 25 years ago and that they should learn some lessons from the “coming out” and “demand for respect” that has advanced the gay community’s stature. Harris says that is a good idea, but he doesn’t think the Atheist Pride Parade will be nearly as colourful as the Gay Pride Parade.
I wish some of these religious people would wake up and realize that our present western civilization would not be as liberal and free as they now enjoy it if atheist thinkers had not had a seminal role in the creation of our modern society.
The list of names of secular humanists and atheists who have contributed something on the path to reason over superstition and magical thinking is a long and honourable one. It includes: the Budda, Confucius, Lucretius, Omar Khayyam, Copernicus, Montaigne, David Hume, Harriet Martineau, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, John Dewey, Albert Schweitzer, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, Camus, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins and many, many others.