Thursday, 14 October 2010

The fight against "aggressive atheism" - coming to a church near you

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We're used to hearing accusations of "aggressive atheism" from the tabloids, online commentators and the more vocal opponents of the so-called "New Atheism", but from the pulpit? It's anecdotal evidence of course, so not necessarily a sign of a wider trend, but nevertheless it's interesting to read this piece by Sue Blackmore, about a christening she attended last Sunday in a church in Dorset:
"A charming elderly gentleman, whom my parents had long known, proceeded to the lectern to lead us in prayer. I wish I'd paid more attention, for I cannot now remember how he led up to the fateful words asking God to help us in the fight against 'the rise of secularism and the aggressive atheists'."
 So it seems the idea is spreading – it's amazing what the publication of a few books and the odd outspoken opinion can do, isn't it? Blackmore was, naturally, a little taken aback my this, and she had a word with the gentleman afterwards:
"Coffee and tea being served in the smart new kitchen corner, I took my chance to ask him what he meant. And he meant it as a fight all right. But the really scary thing was what he thought we wicked secularists were up to – we apparently want to prevent him worshipping, destroy his faith and banish Christianity from the face of the earth. I explained that I don't want to stop him worshipping or destroy his faith."
 I'd be interested to know what you all make of the spread of this "aggressive atheism" idea. Personally I'm not always on board with what the "New Atheists" have to say, and the tone in which they say it, but presenting arguments doesn't really fit my definition of "aggression". What do you think? Should atheists be looking to dispel the idea of "aggression" by appearing as reasonable as possible? Or is the onus on the religious to stop misrepresenting what is a very reasonable argument? Perhaps you're happy to be considered "aggressive", on the grounds that it's the response religion requires?

Just throwing those questions out there, really - do share your thoughts.
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