Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Frederick Clarkson Warns Against Atheist Kool-Aid --
Over at Talk To Action, Frederick Clarkson writes:

As Sam Harris wrote in his recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, by his formulation, extreme, moderate and liberal religious believers, whatever their differences are "every bit as delusional." This kind of rhetoric removes all possibility of rational conversation. Religious people get it that Harris, or anyone who thinks like him, consider them "delusional" so why would they ever see such people as trustworthy allies? By the same token, why would atheists, who considers themselves "rational," cooperate with people they consider "delusional?" Harris et al, are in the business, wittingly or unwittingly, of sewing distrust and wreaking havoc among people who ought to be allies. As I previously noted, if they did not exist, the religious right would have to invent them.

People who seek allies and coalition partners need to be able to come to the table, or indeed, to the blogosphere, with sufficient respect and tolerance of one another to earn a place at the table. This is true in any political movement or party, and is most certainly true of any and all coalitions stitched together to address the religious right.

It may be early to say, but it seems likely that the practitioners of smug, anti-religious, borderline eliminationist rhetoric -- will find themselves with fewer and fewer people who will consider them trustworthy political partners: And that, from where I sit, would be a shame. We all need each other to be strong in the face of the theocratic political movements of our time, and we need greater capacity for communication and understanding, not distrust and division.

Of course, the Religious Right has never had to invent a secularist straw man because these people have always existed, even before the (departed but not lamented) atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair. I feel no need to "come to the table" with people of the ilk of Sam Harris. I don't trust them and don't respect them, for the reasons that Clarkson describes.

Some people say that Democrats shouldn't reach out to evangelicals or other social conservatives who might agree with a progressive economic agenda. Atheists in the style of Harris have nowhere else to go. We can, and should, take their votes for granted and not worry about alienating them.
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