by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I think it needs to be said that many of us atheists part way with the louder atheists out there when it comes to Islam or other blanket condemnations of religious people.

Though I agree with 90% of what the "new athiests" say in regards to belief and doubt, the movement will never amount to anything, because they ostracize way too many like-minded individuals. Fair enough I suppose, because most atheists are happy not belonging to a group. But I have to ask myself what do Harris and Coyne wish to accomplish with their arguments? Even if they are 100% correct, what is the best case scenario from blaming moderate Muslims and for completely demonizing a people who, from my experiences in Turkey, are by and large peaceful people (or else we'd see jihadists everywhere).

There is no question that fundamentalist Islam is a problem, and addressing it pragmatically is the only solution.  Moderate Muslims are the only ones that will be effective in promoting a change, and trying to shame them seems completely impractical.

You can not fight unreason face-to-face with pure reason and expect to get the results you want. As an atheist in the South, I deal with this on a daily basis with Christianists, who, in my opinion, pose a much greater threat to our country than Islam. Inciting them has never been a practical solution to dealing with them.

The new atheists initial arguments were exciting to me, because I saw it encouraging closeted atheists to come out; however, it has devolved into a religion bashing group if the comments sections for the big websites are anything to go by.  Christianity got at least one thing right, "Though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself".  

Another reader:

Patrick Appel wrote:

It's amazing to watch staunch secularists and the far right read from the same playbook. Islam is not a nation.

My word would be "disappointing". But I would caution Mr. Appel to realize that Harris and Coyne do not speak for all of us atheists or staunch secularists (just as I'm sure Harry Reid doesn't speak for all Democrats). Frankly, I'm disgusted that a debate even continues over whether a Muslim community should be able to build a cultural center with a mosque led by an imam with a progressive interpretation of Islam. If these Muslims are not welcome in our society, then which Muslims are? I don't have to believe in their religion (or even admire it) to support, even applaud, their right to build a community center.

That it would be on the location of a condemned former Burlington Coat Factory two and a half blocks from the World Trade Center (and one block from the New York Dolls strip club) is irrelevant at worst. If Palin, Gingrich, Harris, Coyne and others wanted something else at that location, they should have purchased and developed the property themselves.

Now who is going to protest the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church at the actual WTC site? After all, don't they realize that's the site that monotheists perpetrated the greatest terrorist attack on US soil? To paraphrase Sam Harris, the claim that the events of September 11, 2001, had “nothing to do with monotheism” is an abject and destabilizing lie.

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