The New Atheist's Dilemma

A poignant piece by Katha Pollitt with this important point:

There's no question in my mind that horror at militant Islam and fear of Muslim immigration lie behind at least some of the current vogue for atheism--you don't make the bestseller list by excoriating the evils of Lutheranism or Buddhism.

…The problem is that the more scorn one feels for religious belief, the less able one is to appreciate "reformed" or "moderate" variants of the faith. After all, pro-gay Episcopalians and liberation theology Catholics still believe in Christ, the afterlife, sin; reformed Jews still find wisdom in the Old Testament. Strictly speaking, an atheist should have no truck with any of it. But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion--which also often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity--you're not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there's a mosque- or churchful of people who'll choose the old-time religion if the only other choice is nothing.

Captain Fogg dissents here, with respect to Europe. I don't share Katha's dilemma, because I don't see religion, as she does, as instrumental to politics or morality. It stands or falls on its attempt to reveal the truth about our lives. But I have to say that the evils of extreme Islam, epitomized but not exhausted by 9/11, reminded me in a way I had almost forgotten of the bloody past of my own faith, Christianity, and the dark, dark side of religious certainty. My own response has not been an embrace of atheism, however, but an attempt to recover the necessity for spiritual humility and political secularism. At the same time.