When Atheists Behave Like Fundamentalists

By Keith Kloor | December 31, 2012 2:22 pm

So it looks like I’m ending 2012 in a pissing match with PZ Myers.

I don’t understand why he’s making such a big issue of my quoting writers like Saul Bellow and Margaret Atwood. I haven’t suggested they are experts in science. I’m merely highlighting observations about the human condition made by literary artists—observations that speak to an important facet of this debate between science and religion.

It’s odd to be engaging in an infantile back-and-forth with someone who I broadly agree with on matters related to science and religion. Additionally, as regular readers know, I spend much of my time on this blog pushing back on pseudoscientific claims and rhetoric made in other realms, such as the GMO discourse.

The ferocity of the science is not compatible with religion claim is truly something to behold. I personally reject that the two are mutually exclusive. I’ve previously made an argument here, and I suppose that the current fracas will lead me to try and strengthen my own case.

Meanwhile, let’s make one thing clear: This whole either/or framework that PZ and his acolytes insist on is nothing less than a purity test for atheists. How so? Just look, to cite the most obvious example, the terms of debate they have laid out: If you dare to say (as I do) that religion still has some redeeming qualities for people, you’re branded an “accommodationist.”  If you dare to say (as I do) that science and religion can coexist, you’re branded an “accommodationist.”

This intolerant brand of atheism is similar to the intolerant politics of today’s Tea Party-influenced Republican Party in the United States. The GOP has pretty much been taken over by a fanatical wing that insists on ideological purity, and it’s killing them. The mature adults left in the Republican party know this. But they are powerless to stop the madness.

Fortunately, there are prestigious scientists like Peter Higgs willing to call out the “fundamentalist” strain that soils the atheist movement. To see the reaction to that is to know that Higgs has hit a nerve.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: atheism, science
  • bob

    Why must everyone profess to be or to know something? Seems in that regard there is not much difference between evangelicals and evangelical atheists.

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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