Grey Thoughts
Skeptic Presidents Open Letter to Militant Atheists
Michael Shermer, president of Skeptic has published an Open Letter to Militant Atheists
in the Scientific American (if you ever thought the scientific american was a science magazine, look no further than them publishing non-scientific writings about how best to deal religion to see it's true purpose)

Shermer of course, talks about "rational atheism" (can we expect rationality from people who believe the universe came from nothing and that our accidentally created minds can find truth, whilst defending non-material and therefore non-existent notions of morality and justice?). But sure...lets humour ol Michael and see how rational he is.
Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad. Among many metrics available to track this skeptical movement is the ascension of four books to the august heights of the New York Times best-seller list....Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.

Sounds great so far.. Shermer seems to be castigating the new atheists and instead says that atheists should be nice, calm and polite...and proceeds to give reasons for why....let me summarize..

Michael thinks that it is the best way for atheism to achieve victory over other religions. Yep. Not because of any intrinsic value in tolerance and respect of others. Just because it is not the best strategy for Athiests to achieve their goals...

But what is really interesting is the last reason Michael gives...
5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief. A higher moral principle that encompasses both science and religion is the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose, so long as our thoughts, beliefs and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant because our freedom to disbelieve is inextricably bound to the freedom of others to believe.

Michael concludes with
Rational atheism values the truths of science and the power of reason, but the principle of freedom stands above both science and religion.

Read the quotes again. Michael tells the new atheists to play nice except in the case where religion threatens science and freedom. Yet the very first thing he wrote was that religion is threatening science and freedom...So essentially Shermer has told the new atheists to keep going whilst putting forward a nice calm sounding article to placate those who are somewhat disturbed by the rabid zealousness of the high profile new atheists.

Of course, the last paragraph really sums it up....freedom should trump science and religion. But if that is the case then why does Michael tell us that "As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant" Shouldn't that comment have said 'As long as religion does not threaten freedom'? Michael has placed science on the same level as freedom, all the whilst saying freedom trumps science. Hardly a pinnacle of rationality.
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