We’ve gotten into a little discussion of the new atheist movement, an area well covered by other podcasts (meaning we likely won’t devote substantial time to it on our podcast, though we’ll certainly discuss religious philosophy).
To get clear on one of its key arguments, that it’s religious moderates that create a climate where extremism can exist, I’ll point to a short interview with A.C. Grayling on the excellent Julian Baggini podcast: http://julianbaggini.blogspot.com/2009/07/july-podcast.html.
Graying (who I’ve never read and had not previously heard of) sets out the relationship between the extremists and the moderates in a way that resonated with me: Growing up as a church-goer, I recall thinking that tolerance is inconsistent with what belief: If you actually believe, literally, that everyone who doesn’t believe would go to hell, and you’ve got a Christian duty to help people out, then you shouldn’t sit quietly by and let others burn, but should do whatever possible to get other people converted, i.e. loud proselytizing is the logically coherent position. What Grayling says here is more extreme: he says that if casual churchgoers actually took what was being preached to them seriously, then they’d become fundmentalists, and hence dangerous a la suicide bombers, which I don’t think is a claim that one should make without very specific evidence.
While I personally have some sympathy for this new atheism business as a political movement (i.e. I think fundamentalism is not harmless and wish we lived in a climate where an avowed atheist had a greater chance of obtaining national political office than a convicted child molester), the spirit of our endeavor here is fun, cooperative, and exploratory (I hope), and though we all have political beliefs, the podcast itself has no other political agenda beyond trying to get people interested in and reading philosophy. If someone who thinks about things finds value in theistic beliefs, I’m not going to dismiss them, and non-philosophical people can unreflectively believe all sorts of stupid things, only some of which have anything to do with religion.