Rational Atheism

An open letter to Messrs. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens

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. Full Story »

Posted by Leo Romero


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Dale Penn
by Dale Penn - Oct. 1, 2008

To me the title "rational atheism" is redundant. Evidently there are irrational atheists out there who need this message, but for my part I haven't found any rabble rousing, evangelical atheists at my doorstep handing me books by Dawkins. More likely, you will find the religious folk with their hackles up whenever an atheist attempts to make a rational point that inadvertently goes against their religious beliefs - leading to cries that the atheists are trying to corrupt the world. If atheists would simply mind their manners and stay in their place everything would be fine. Sound familiar? It would to Dr. King who is quoted freely in this piece. The atheists I know are not "anti-religion," though most are not religious, as few ... More »

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Tim Jackson
by Tim Jackson - Oct. 1, 2008

This is fairly obvious stuff. If non-believers need delineated rational to justify themselves then, I suppose, such an article is worth reading. I grow weary of too many prescriptions from all sides. Don't we all need intuitive, creative lives of inquiry and empathy?

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Argie Tejada Segor
by Argie Tejada Segor - Oct. 1, 2008

I agree with the author, however, he ignores the long history of humanism and secular humanism. These are skeptic movements that defend reason and science but also have a compassionate philosohpy of life without religion and a strong ethical affirmation. Go to www.centerforinquiry.net

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Donald Carl Isenman
by Donald Carl Isenman - Oct. 1, 2008

This make nice article strikes me as an attempt to reassure religious subscribers that they don't necessarily accept these writers' views; in so doing it makes the relationship of science and this commercial magazine a little fuzzy. After all, Dawkins is a scientist and if they don't accept his scientific credentials they should say so. Otherwise this is having it both ways--claiming that they are not polite enough is not what you call scientific and, given that we have a president and politicians who have no respect for anyone with a contrary opinion, I find the 'letter' gratuitous advice and damaging to Scientific American's credibility. dci

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Eric Campbell
by Eric Campbell - Oct. 1, 2008

What the author only alludes to, and needs to be said explicitly, is that atheism is just as much a position of faith as theism. Neither position can be proven and adherents of both find plenty of evidence in the natural world to confirm their positions. What ought to be taught in science class is science - that which can be potentially falsified by repeatable experiment. What ought to be taught in religion or philosophy class is personal beliefs - about ethics, origins of the universe, origins of life, and rules of righteous behavior. What has to be resisted is the coercion of one group by the other by governmental or other means.

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Seabury Lyon
by Seabury Lyon - Oct. 1, 2008

A good compilation of testimony from diverse sources recommending that the golden rule be applied to protagonists of all stripes. Unfortunately, this kind of reminder and affirmation seems to be required frequently to keep the idea alive; a lesson in itself, eh?

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Robert Vermeers
by Robert Vermeers - Oct. 1, 2008

It is good journalism because it emphasizes a positive approach to the friction between religion and atheism. It doesn't say everthing there is to say about it, of course; but it gives a comprehensive analysis of a complicated subject.

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Paul Keene
by Paul Keene - Oct. 1, 2008

An opinion piece and guide line for presenting facts and viewpoints without alienating your audience. Can be used for a vaeiety of subjects and not just that the writer intended.

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Leo Romero
by Leo Romero - Oct. 1, 2008
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Jack Dinkmeyer
by Jack Dinkmeyer - Oct. 1, 2008

In an era marked by overzealous evangelism, substituting creed for science, and a president who thinks he's on a mission from a special God, this excellent opinion piece calls for respect of other views and the freedom to believe as one wishes without rancorous criticism.

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Fran Meaney
by Fran Meaney - Oct. 1, 2008

Challenging the erudite and all-knowing is courageous. The writer makes his points gently so as not to offend the all-knowing. Why are they so insistent in denying the unknowable -- from whence the world came? Fear? Anxious that man be pre-eminent or fear that he is nothing? When in fact a human is said -- believed -- to be important because made in God's image. Man as worm or exalted graduate to the presence of the God of Love?

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Roland F. Hirsch
by Roland F. Hirsch - Oct. 1, 2008

This essay meets its modest objective of pointing out the problems with the attitudes of the militant atheists whose books have lately received much attention. It is ironic that two of the nine paragraphs are taken up by quotations from a Baptist minister who is known today solely for his activities in that ministry, quotes the author seems to approve of strongly. And the article ignores the bigger picture of the incredibly bad things that atheism historically has led to.

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Francis Scalzi
by Francis Scalzi - Oct. 1, 2008

Since this piece is not the usual journalistic presentation, my review will address the substance of the opinion. First, lumping together four such different authors, as Shermer has, lends to generalizing about the public acceptability of their various positions rather than offering sound rebuttals. Many of us likely know Dawkins. Having read four of his books and many of his essays, I find him quite tolerant toward believers, while still adhering very strongly to his rational arguments. But negative publicity and the strong condemnations by his crtitics have tended to paint a false and exaggerated picture of his atheistic views as though they are extremist violations of some sort. On the other hand, Hitchens, with whom I am ... More »

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Joe Silverman
by Joe Silverman - Oct. 1, 2008

there is nothing scientific or american about atheism. if one has no belief in a "higher power" and is zealous enough to publicize that lack of belief, how is that any less arbitary than those they criticize?

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Dave Grossman
by Dave Grossman - Oct. 1, 2008

Less of a journalism piece and more as a call to action, Shermer's article presents an important concept that members of all groups should embrace; being against something is a false foundation for a movement.

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Michel Salim
by Michel Salim - Oct. 1, 2008

Like the position taken by Krauss in his recent debate with Dawkins (SciAm, July 2007), Shermer argues that knee-jerk anti-religiousness does not do atheists any favour. Well-argued position that well-meaning people of rational persuasion, across the faith divide, would agree with.

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Mark Barnes
by Mark Barnes - Oct. 1, 2008

Succinct and well-written. The author makes his points with minimal verbiage and focuses on his main points which are persuasive.

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