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Angry Atheists
It's about time. From a Jerry Adler Newsweek piece:

Atheists "are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public," according to a study by Penny Edgell, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota. In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, Americans said they believed in God by a margin of 92 to 6—only 2 percent answered "don't know"—and only 37 percent said they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for president. (That's down from 49 percent in a 1999 Gallup poll—which also found that more Americans would vote for a homosexual than an atheist.) "The End of Faith" struggled to find a publisher, and even after Norton agreed to bring it out in 2004, Harris says there were editors who refused to come to meetings with him. But after winning the PEN/Martha Albrand award for nonfiction, the book sold 270,000 copies. Harris's scathing "Letter to a Christian Nation" will be published this month with a press run of 150,000. Someone is listening, even if he is mostly preaching, one might say, to the unconverted.

This year also saw the publication in February of "Breaking the Spell," by the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, which asks how and why religions became ubiquitous in human society. The obvious answer—"Because they're true"—is foreclosed, Dennett says, by the fact that they are by and large mutually incompatible. Even to study "religion as a natural phenomenon," the subtitle of Dennett's book, is to deprive it of much of its mystery and power. And next month the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ("The Selfish Gene") weighs in with "The God Delusion," a book that extends an argument he advanced in the days after 9/11. After hearing once too often that "[t]o blame the attacks on Islam is like blaming Christianity for the fighting in Northern Ireland," Dawkins responded: Precisely. "It's time to get angry," he wrote, "and not only with Islam."

Dawkins and Harris are not writing polite demurrals to the time-honored beliefs of billions; they are not issuing pleas for tolerance or moderation, but bone-rattling attacks on what they regard as a pernicious and outdated superstition. (In the spirit of scientific evenhandedness, both would call themselves agnostic, although as Dawkins says, he's agnostic about God the same way he's agnostic about the existence of fairies.) They ask: where do people get their idea of God? From the Bible or the Qur'an. "Tell a devout Christian ... that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible," Harris writes, "and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever."

Posted by aalkon at September 21, 2006 5:04 AM

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Comments

Richard Dawkins is so awesome. I have such a crush on him. You can just see in his eyes that he must be dynamite in bed!

Posted by: Melissa at September 21, 2006 6:27 AM

That's amazing. And yet attending religious services on a weekly basis - no matter what the religion - is down around 30%. Which basically means we have a nation too lazy to think for themselves or to give an hour of their time every Saturday/Sunday for the self-professed beliefs.

Posted by: kevin_m at September 21, 2006 7:20 AM

I don't think most average Americans take their religious beliefs all that seriously. Ayn Rand made a great point when she asked what is the point of a belief system that only works if you don't take it seriously?

Posted by: Pirate Jo at September 21, 2006 9:40 AM

I find it disturbing that they only have line drawings of the authors. It is that dangerous in the States to be an atheist, that they can't have pictures of their faces published? What would be the Christian term for a fatwah? Are these the new Salman Rushdies?

Posted by: Canada at September 21, 2006 10:55 AM

Hmm, well, all I can say is, no atheist ever burned down a black church, or spray-painted swastikas on synagogues, or bombed abortion clinics, or dragged gay guys out into the woods and beat them to death...or called me a "Satanic Jew who's going to burn in Hell for all eternity because I haven't accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior."

And funny, I can't think of any atheists who ever hijacked a plane and flew it into a skyscraper.

Posted by: cadavra at September 21, 2006 5:24 PM

Hmm, well, all I can say is, no atheist ever burned down a black church, or spray-painted swastikas on synagogues, or bombed abortion clinics, or dragged gay guys out into the woods and beat them to death...or called me a "Satanic Jew who's going to burn in Hell for all eternity because I haven't accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior."

And funny, I can't think of any atheists who ever hijacked a plane and flew it into a skyscraper.

Posted by: cadavra at September 21, 2006 5:25 PM

"What would be the Christian term for a fatwah?"

Missionary work?

Posted by: Lena at September 21, 2006 10:35 PM

"Richard Dawkins is [...] dynamite in bed!"

I guess that explains the wheelchair treadmarks all over your pussy.

Posted by: Lena at September 21, 2006 10:37 PM

PJ's right

Posted by: Crid at September 22, 2006 1:36 PM

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