Are the New Atheists Intolerant?

by Robert Wright

Conveniently, one reader’s email helps answer another reader’s question. First reader:

I really don't understand the use of terms like "Militant" and especially "Intolerant" to describe the public personas of the New Atheists. Since when has it become a bad thing to be vocally and unequivocally critical of an Idea in an intellectual debate?

Second reader:

An interesting wrinkle in the anti-theism campaign is their hard line on Francis Collins, recently nominated to be head of NIH. I recap some of the critiques here. The question in my mind is whether anti-theism means barring anyone with open religious leanings from prominent science posts. If so, I’d say the movement has entered a new and potentially worrisome phase.

I agree. At least, it’s worrisome when people oppose the Collins nomination just because Collins is religiousnot because there’s some specific policy position that he holds on religious grounds. (And even then, would the religion matter so long as he didn’t invoke it in arguing for the policy? That’s a tougher question…)