Paul Kurtz on "evangelical atheists"

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Paul Kurtz asks if “evangelical atheists” are too outspoken at SecularHumanism (h/t: Richard Dawkins). Kurtz expresses astonishment at “the preposterous outcry that atheists are ‘evangelical’ and that they have gone too far in their criticism of religion:”

Really? The public has been bombarded by pro-religious propaganda from time immemorial—today it comes from pulpits across the land, TV ministries, political hucksters, and best-selling books. […] Let’s be fair: Until now, it has been virtually impossible to get a fair hearing for critical comment upon uncontested religious claims.

Kurtz asks, “why should the nonreligious, nonaffiliated, secular minority in the country remain silent?”

We dissenters now comprise some 14 to 16 percent of the population. Why should religion be held immune from criticism, and why should the admission that one is a disbeliever be considered so disturbing? The Bush administration has supported faith-based charities—though their efficacy has not been adequately tested; it has prohibited federal funding for stem cell research; it has denied global warming; and it has imposed abstinence programs instead of promoting condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. Much of this mischief is religiously inspired. How can we remain mute while Islam and the West are poised for a possible protracted world conflagration in the name of God?

Given all these facts, why should the criticism of religion provoke such an outcry?

The central part of his argument is this paragraph:

What is often overlooked by the critics of “evangelical atheism” is that skepticism about the existence of God does not by itself define who and what we are. For there is a commitment to the realization of human freedom and happiness in this life here and now and to a life of excellence, creativity, and fulfillment. Life is meaningful without the illusion of immortality. There is also the recognition that the cultivation of the common moral decencies—caring, empathy, and altruism—is an essential part of our relating to other human beings in our communities of interaction. Humanists have always been concerned with achieving justice in society. Many of the heroes and heroines in human history were freethinkers who contributed significantly to democratic progress and a defense of human rights. Indeed, the agenda of secular humanism is twofold: first is the quest for truth, a critical examination of the assumptions of supernatural religion in the light of science; second is the development of affirmative ethical alternatives for the individual, the society in which he or she lives, and also the planetary community at large. To label us “evangelical atheists” without recognizing our affirmative commitment to secular humanist morality is an egregious error. [emphasis added]

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 28, 2007 9:28 AM.

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