Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | MARCH 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Re: Disowning New Atheism

As a “New Atheist,” I would like to make a treaty with the religious. Their faith and my atheism can coexist so long as each of our beliefs are kept private. Unfortunately, this pact could never be upheld because theists believe they have a divine right to proselytize and impose their worldview on others.

Because of religion, homosexuals are forced into foxholes, scientists face obstacles in performing research, women are denied reproductive-health rights, and the education of children is being tarnished. I will not be a spectator of such stupidity. Society is becoming more secular, and I’m ecstatic to see an increase in the number of people that are morally and intellectually courageous enough to reject religious dogma.

Science offers more perfect, elaborate, sophisticated, and beautiful answers, and it has been doing so since the 18th century C.E. It is the way by which we can know the universe. By its very nature, science is self-correcting. It does not accept claims based on authority nor shun free inquiry.

Absolutely none of the advances made by mankind would have come about if we had suppressed our curiosity and accepted religious teachings as sufficient.

It would certainly be difficult for one to argue that atheists are intellectually superior. However, I do find peculiar the inverse relationship between religious belief and academic accomplishments. Jon Overton (DI, March 7) ought to know that a comforting belief is not true by default. Assertions are only valid when supported by evidence rather than fallacious arguments and wishful thinking. The philosophy of atheism is only concerned with the truth. It is not disparaging or vilifying of believers. The point that Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris make is that no institutions, organizations, or beliefs are too sacred to be criticized and dismissed.

Brett Coons

Jon Overton’s column “Disowning New Atheism” unfortunately attacks specific atheists rather than the philosophy of atheism. Just as many proponents of various faiths may disavow adherence to the extremists among them, many atheists are proponents of an appropriate middle ground. In that place, there is simply no god. There is still goodness, love, friendship, a desire for peace, humane ethics, and many other positive qualities so often associated with people of faith.

Most atheists — like some believers in various religions — do seek to remove faith as a basis for government. Religious beliefs and texts should not be a source for creating and enforcing laws or determining budgets. Instead, science and logic are the preferred foundation for government (and government-funded programs such as public education and health care).

Overton is right to be offended by suggestions to make fun of people or criticize them publicly. (It’s awkward, then, to read Overton’s rant and name-calling.) He can be commended for bringing up religion as a reasonable topic of discussion. “An honest discussion of the role religion plays in society” is an excellent idea. Let’s pursue such discussions at the university, a place designed for rational discourse and uniquely suited to bringing together the thin edges and the deeper cores of human beliefs.

Jan Norton

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