For the last 1700 years, religion has had a free pass in our society, it has embedded itself deeply into every facet of social and public life, and it has grown fond of its privileges.
Then Darwin showed that we weren’t created by some all-powerful being, but rather that we are the result of billions of years of evolution from single-celled life forms. One of the most humbling facts to me has always been that we humans share 70% of our genome with sea sponges.
And as a fairly recent development, the New Atheists ask for evidence for religious beliefs and claims, question the privileges of organised religion, and point to the detrimental effects of religion on rights and freedoms everywhere on the planet.
The religious don’t like it at all. They have been struggling to come up with a counter-tactic, and they think they have found one in calling those who criticize religion and demand evidence for its extraordinary claims “shrill”, “strident” and “militant”.
Latest example, this propaganda piece by one George Pitcher, in which he decries the alleged shrillness of Richard Dawkins on the one hand, while on the other hand declaring Alain de Botton a good atheist, because he’s nice to the religious, and he “gets” transcendence.
You can tell that this is a cheap propaganda piece by this paragraph :
Now the venerable, agnostic natural historian Sir David Attenborough has confessed to Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs that there might, after all, be a God: “I don’t think an understanding and an acceptance of the four billion-year-long history of life is any way inconsistent with a belief in a supreme being.”
Not really a confession, is it, to state something as trivial as “There might be a god”. There might be fairies and hobgoblins too, but we’ve never seen any, nor do we have need for their existence to explain any natural phenomena. So for all intents and purposes, we treat gods and hobgoblins as if they don’t exist.
I also note that the author conflates his two examples that are used to carry the premise that atheists are turning away from the stridency of Richard Dawkins, with “the faithless”. Surely we don’t have to draw Mr Pitcher a Venn diagram to make it clear that “the faithless” don’t just consist of Alain de Botton and David Attenborough ?
Pitcher writes “There’s something divine in the air”. To me, it smells like the same old horseshit the religious always dish up lately when they feel their privileges threatened. They paint anyone as “shrill” and “militant” who dares to disagree with them, and who dares to challenge their millenia-old beliefs and claims. But we will keep pointing that tactic out, and we will keep asking for evidence.