There’s a difference between ‘thoughtful’ and ‘wrong’

Oh the tedious predictability and smugness of the middlebrow mind.

Traditionally, religious wars were fought with swords and sieges; today, they often are fought with books. And in literary circles, these battles have usually been fought at the extremes.

It’s smug and predictable to pretend books are the equivalent of swords; it’s smug and predictable to cast anything one wants to sneer at as (somehow, and self-evidently) ‘extreme’; it’s smug and predictable to pretend that religion and atheism are really equivalent and each as bad as the other. It ought to be possible even to disagree with atheism without making that stupid stale untrue move, but apparently it isn’t, at least not for hacks. I would like Kristof not to be a hack, because he does good work, but this dreck is hackery.

…[D]evout atheists built mocking Web sites like That site notes that although believers periodically credit prayer with curing cancer, God never seems to regrow lost limbs.

And? How is that obviously an example of atheism as ‘extreme’? God never does seem to regrow lost limbs, so why isn’t that relevant? Kristof can’t be bothered to say, because he’s in too much of a hurry to say how good Karen Armstrong and Robert Wright are.

Karen Armstrong. Well that’s a sure sign of a mind that isn’t trying hard enough – anyone of adult years who thinks Karen Armstrong is good is not paying attention.

This year is different, with a crop of books that are less combative and more thoughtful…Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God,” likewise doesn’t posit a Grandpa-in-the-Sky; rather, she sees God in terms of an ineffable presence that can be neither proven nor disproven in any rational sense. To Ms. Armstrong, faith belongs to the realm of life’s mysteries, beyond the world of reason, and people on both sides of the “God gap” make the mistake of interpreting religious traditions too literally.

And that’s enough for her to be considered ‘thoughtful.’ A truly thoughtful reader of Armstrong (and other ‘God is ineffable’ types, for that matter) might manage to come up with the thought that a slippery non-literal but still named ‘God’ God is a very useful dodge for theists in a time of scientific education. But not Kristof – he just lets himself be snowed.

I’m hoping that the latest crop of books marks an armistice in the religious wars, a move away from both religious intolerance and irreligious intolerance. That would be a sign that perhaps we, along with God, are evolving toward a higher moral order.

There’s the banal false equivalence again. Such an armistice wouldn’t be a sign of any kind of moral advance, it would be an instance of the success of relentless bullying by false equivalence, that’s what. Well it won’t work, Mr Kristof – the more you call us things that we’re not, the more irritated and stubborn we get. So get used to the ‘war.’

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