D. Linker calls New Atheists Illiberal

The whole article is worth the read.

Key quote:

clipped from tnr.com

It is with this enmity, this furious certainty, that our ideological atheists lapse most fully into illiberalism. Politically speaking, liberalism takes no position on theological questions. One can be a liberal and a believer (as were Martin Luther King Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, and countless others in the American past and present) or a liberal and an unbeliever (as were Hook, Richard Rorty, and a significantly smaller number of Americans over the years). This is in part because liberalism is a philosophy of government, not a philosophy of man–or God. But it is also because modern liberalism derives, at its deepest level, from ancient liberalism–from the classical virtue of liberality, which meant generosity and openness. To be liberal in the classical sense is to accept intellectual variety–and the social complexity that goes with it–as the ineradicable condition of a free society.


  blog it

Worth pointing out that Linker’s is defending secular liberalism–not belief in God. Consistently. He opposes both the New Atheist illiberality and his book is a tract against Theocons of the Religious Right.

Update I. Case in point. Daniel Dennett’s call for teaching religion in public schools. The problem with his specific proposal is that he wants religion to be taught as a “natural phenomenon”. That’s already an interpretive frame that’s extremely suspect, perhaps illiberal.  As opposed to teaching religion as a subject, like any other, (again non-confessionally), and letting students decide for themselves.

A good comparison I think would be philosophy classes.  Having taken a great many of those in life, I can tell you the student always knows the philosophical sympathies of the teacher.  But the really great teachers do not impose their views and are not threatened by differing views.

Letting students decide for themselves and be willing to allow other students to interpret otherwise is the heart of liberalism. As opposed to indoctrination (naturalistic or doctrinally approved religious forms thereof).

Teaching religion as a Natural Phenomena is very different than teaching religion say in a rationalistic fashion. Rational being wider and more expansive than naturalistic (which is to say materialist and reductionist).  So then there could be teaching of religion in public schools, even by a teacher who is predisposed to Dennett’s view of the subject, so long as that teacher does not enforce that position on the students.  Free thought as opposed to FreeThought.

Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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