What I call dogmatophobia is the liberal fear of being judgmental of the beliefs of others. Because everyone has a right to her opinion and no one has a monopoly on the truth, there is a tendency to think that any kind of assertion of a truth, other than of the blandest factual kind (“Paris is the capital of France”), is intolerant and morally imperialistic. Hence, people who assiduously avoid factory-farmed meat will go out of their way not to condemn ritual animal slaughter that causes needless suffering. People who would not tolerate even the sniff of sexism in their workplace bend over backwards to allow religious traditions their “right” to systemically discriminate against women.
It is, of course, true that an excessive desire for certainty is deeply problematic. But pretty much every reasonable person agrees with this, and most are not agnostic. Accepting that the world is full of uncertainty and ambiguity does not and should not stop people from being pretty sure about a lot of things. To criticise people who express a firm belief as suffering from a lust for certainty is therefore to see the speck in another’s eye while missing the plank in one’s own: an excessive lust for uncertainty that makes any conviction appear misplaced.
Ok – but then what is it that is so terrible about “the new atheists”? In what way are “the new atheists” like religious fundamentalists?
Well I guess I see why, but that’s not to say I understand it:
Unfortunately, the middle ground in the God debate is occupied by too many people who screw up their eyes to create the illusion of a mist when the view is really clear. And this is not just wrong: it’s dangerous, because if we make too much of our inability to be certain, we make ourselves incapable of clear and unequivocal condemnation of just those extreme dogmatists whom agnostics and moderate but committed believers fear. The main problem with young-Earth creationists who assert that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, for instance, is not that they are certain, but that they are wrong. It’s the matter of the belief that is pernicious, not just the manner of its holding.
Nope; I don’t understand it at all. Apparently the middle ground in the God debate is the good and right ground, so it seems fair to conclude that “the new atheists” are bad because we don’t occupy the middle ground. But what is the middle ground, exactly? It’s against extreme dogmatism, but how exactly does the extreme dogmatism of “the new atheists” differ from expressing a firm belief?
Let’s go over it again. Religious fundamentalists and “the new atheists” are extreme; the right thing to be is a moderate who occupies the middle ground in the God debate and condemns those extreme dogmatists whom agnostics and moderate but committed believers fear. However, that moderate should also have and express firm beliefs.
Ok, I get it. Moderates have firm beliefs and we new atheists are extreme dogmatists. It’s one of those irregular verbs. You’re stubborn; I have a firm will. You’re bad-tempered; I’m passionate. You’re dogmatic, I have firm beliefs. You get the idea.