Frank Schaeffer throws the ‘atheist fundamentalist’ bomb

Frank Schaeffer really detests most of the New Atheists (except for Dan Dennett; he loves Dennett to pieces). He thinks they’re just like the Christian fundamentalists, and he should know, since his father was one of the most fanatical evangelicals around, and he was part of that radical Christianity himself. He starts off with a damning assertion.

The most aggressive members of the “New Atheism” movement have quite a bit in common with religious extremists like Pat Robertson and Ted Haggard.

Whoa. That’s a strong accusation. I wonder what these points of commonality are?

I read his whole long complaint, and it boils down to precisely one point of similarity, and even that doesn’t hold up: the Richard Dawkins website has an online store, where you can buy his books and a scarlet A pin and t-shirts. That’s it. It doesn’t even hold up to casual criticism: I don’t think a defining characteristic of the money-grubbing fundagelicals like Roberts and Falwell and Robertson and Hagee and so forth is that they give their fans a chance to buy their books…it’s that they harangue them for donations, expect that true believers will tithe, and promise magical healing for money or hellfire for apostates. If you’ve attended any of Dawkins’ lectures, you know that he doesn’t throw up ads and say “buy my book”, and he certainly doesn’t bluster out veiled threats if you fail to support the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

All I can say about Schaeffer’s definition of a fundamentalist is that under it, if you’ve opened a Cafe Press store, that makes you the Pope of a money-gouging cult.

There are more gripes. The God Delusion includes a few citations to web sites; Frank is shocked and appalled, and is also really upset about the kids on his lawn. You can buy videos of his interviews on his website store, and in them, he doesn’t profess to absolute certainty about the non-existence of gods; he talks with people who like him, with enthusiastic audiences. He doesn’t like religion, and he’s unconvinced by the anthropic principle. Unfortunately for Schaeffer’s premise, these don’t necessarily make him a fundamentalist.

It’s very peculiar. To get into Frank Schaeffer’s good graces, Dawkins apparently must stop selling his books (I wonder…does Schaeffer give his books away for free?), abandon the web (a point Schaeffer is making in an article on the web), take a vow of silence, and be despised by people. He should also look kindly on religion and reject scientific explanations of our origins. In other words, Dawkins must become some kind of medieval anchorite, and only then will Frank Schaeffer respect his sincerity and be his friend.

It’s a small price to pay to be pals with such a pleasant person, I’m sure.