Thursday, October 1, 2009
How do Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens do it? They are criticized and maligned from all sides- even their own "kind" (fellow atheists). Sam Harris has a feed on his site that shows articles that appear from multiple sources that mentions the "new atheists" (which generally means they are targeting one of the three if not all). They are referred to quite often -and nearly always it is an attack for their criticism of religion. The far right of course sees the Atheistic trio as a threat-- and rightly! But the liberal christians- those that believe the bible is not an historical book and should not be consider as such and it's value is in the metaphor (particularly the life of Jesus) are also consistently attacking them, apparently angry that these men are ultimately fighting for reason in the public discourse. It seems to me that the liberal left should heed the criticism of the three men. They are far closer in their view of life in many cases than they are to the right. The liberal left continually defends their conservative counterparts which is interesting when one considers that fundamentalists and evangelicals typically view the left as far more dangerous and wrongheaded than the bantam population of atheists.
Ultimately, however, what is amazing is how these men continue on in spite of pressure, even from their fellow atheists, to not be so vocal in their criticism of religion. What critics fail to understand, however, is that they are fighting for the people who are subordinated and controlled by the mechanisms of religion. Women and children (and they often hit the church very hard on their indoctrination of children) are always the easy targets in the oppressive regimes of religion. They are kept in subordination so that the leaders can continue to loot and plunder the flock on the pretense that an eternal reward lies on the other side of this life.
It is appropriate to note this ongoing war between Reason and faith and the attempts to silence these warriors during banned book week. I personally find the current attempts to stifle the conversation akin to the banning of books. There is a war on ideas in this country. There are too many important issues in the course of the every day that are off limits because of the fear of stepping on someone's toes- most particularly the sizeable toes of the faithful.
As Americans we speak about free speech in an ignorant way-- as though each person's opinion or experience carries the same weight as a fact. The ALA states on their website (and I quote them because I have worked in libraries for the past six years now) "The ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment. A publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community. We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society. It is a core value of the library profession."
We need to allow ideas to flourish- we need to encourage reason and civil discourse. We need it as surely as we need the air that we breathe! So fight on Mr. Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris!