It’s kind of the friendly people at the “Battle of Ideas” (some of whom are also the people at the Institute of Ideas, some of whom are also the people at Spiked, some of whom are also the people who used to be Living Marxism and the Revolutionary Communist Party) to offer up a neat example of the backlash against gnu atheism just when the New Humanist posts online the article I wrote for the next issue, on that very subject. Caspar Melville invited me to write it in reply to his article on the new atheism at Comment is Free. Honorable!
As for David Bowden of the Battle of Ideas…well, he’s all too typical of that backlash.
Claims of heresy, iconoclasm and blasphemy in days gone by have now given way to the language of offence, with both sides equally guilty. Everything from cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed to ice cream adverts depicting pregnant nuns get censored, often pre-emptively, for fear of offending religious groups; yet militant secularists call for the Pope to be refused entry to the country on the grounds he offends victims of child abuse, sexism and homophobia.
Bullshit. Secularists and others call for the pope not to be invited on a state visit on the grounds that he is a criminal for being one of the Vatican officials who protected child-raping priests from the police. Secularists and others strongly criticize the pope for his illiberal anti-egalitarian views and pronouncements on women and gays as well as for his lethal pronouncements on condom use and his church’s ruthlessly lethal policy on abortion (better a woman should die than that a fetus should be aborted). That goes way beyond being “offended,” and Bowden probably knows it. This “both sides equally guilty” crap is just formulaic and lazy.
In their perceived role as guardians of European secular liberalism against the growth of Muslim communities across Europe, it seems that many New Atheists are now compromising the very principles of religious tolerance fundamental [to] this tradition. Secularism should be about allowing individuals and communities to live by their own values without official interference.
Bullshit, again. Secularism should not be about “allowing individuals and communities to live by their own values” without any qualifications at all. If the “values” in question include child marriage, or no education for girls, or no medical treatment for illness or injury, or mass suicide, for example, communities should not be allowed to live by them, and adult individuals should not be allowed to impose them on their children.
However what we are now seeing is the bizarre rise of illiberal liberals, where so-called “liberals” assert their right to micro-manage every aspect of individuals’ lives, from the clothes and symbols people wear, to the talks they choose to attend.
No we’re not. We are now seeing lots of people, of different views and allegiances, confronting some of the difficulties of simply “allowing individuals and communities to live by their own values without official interference.” We see few if any liberals asserting their right to micro-manage every aspect of individuals’ lives. That’s a canard, and as such, it’s satisfyingly typical of the backlash.