Reading Julian’s latest. I can’t wait until I’ve read the whole thing to comment on this:
[Mark] Vernon’s advocacy of passionate agnosticism offers soothing camomile tea to those jittery after the triple espressos of the new atheists and religious fundamentalists. Since he is as genial in person as he is on the page, attacking him does feel rather like kicking a labrador puppy. But if we are serious about religion, being truthful must sometimes trump being nice, and intellectually, if not personally, Vernon needs a good kicking.
No it’s not the part about the puppy, although it’s true that a good friend of mine was a labrador puppy just a few months ago and it would have been a terrible thing to have kicked him.
No, it’s first of all the swipe at “the new atheists.” Julian can’t seem to write one of these without a swipe at “the new atheists.” I think that’s illiberal and wrong and that he should stop doing it. “The new atheists” are the favorite punching bag for way too many people (including non-”new” atheists!) these days, and they should knock it off. Are bishops and pundits not harsh enough about atheists already, is it really necessary for atheists to join in the mud-throwing? The equivalency is irritating, too – it’s incredibly banal, it’s false, and it’s malicious. “Aw youse guys are all just as irritating as each others.” The hell we are. Even if “the new atheists” are irritating beyond what words can say, they/we are still not like religious fundamentalists. The triple espressos thing is just a cheap shot, and I’m tired of cheap shots from people like Julian. Such people should know better.
And second, it’s the fact that by the third sentence, he says pretty much exactly what “the new atheists” say and get so much shit for saying. We are serious about religion, so we think being truthful must sometimes trump being nice…just as Julian suggests. So where, exactly, does the similarity to religious fundamentalism and the triple espresso quality come in? You tell me.