Anyone Can Have a Closed Mind — Even Atheists

In an opinion piece in today’s edition of USA Today, Tom Krattenmaker argues that atheists and secularists can be just as dogmatic and close-minded as the religionists they so despise. He describes an email exchange he had recently with a staff member of a humanist organization:

Discussing the relationship between science and religion, I had expressed my view that religion should leave scientific research to the scientists and devote itself, along with the fields of ethics and philosophy, to the mighty issues of the human condition: good and evil, the meaning of life, the nature of love and so forth. To which my correspondent replied: Why would something as inherently foolish as religion deserve a place at the table for discussions of that magnitude?

As someone who has studied religion and attended progressive churches, I was aghast. I had expected an articulate and intelligent advocate for the non-religious worldview to display a more nuanced understanding of that which she stood against.

Krattenmaker — no “right-wing Christian nut” himself — points out that this kind of sweeping generalization is more and more coming to define atheism’s intellectual foundation, as documented in recent bestselling books by atheist authors. If all they can do is flail wildly at the admitted excesses of religion, then what is the reasonable alternative? Especially when history offers just as many examples of secular excesses.

Krattenmaker quotes an earlier piece from atheist Jacques Berlinerblau, who is dismayed at this decline in secular thought:

Can an atheist or agnostic commentator discuss any aspect of religion for more than 30 seconds without referring to religious people as imbeciles, extremists, mental deficients, fascists, enemies of the common good … conjure men (or) irrationalists?

Maybe the problem is not religion or secularism, but a more fundamental trait that theists and atheists share alike: human nature itself. Regardless of how we approach the problem, we’re all grappling with the same issue, i.e., human imperfection and its consequences. That’s why atheists can be just as close-minded and irrational as people of faith. Let’s all just admit it, and set about to discuss possible solutions with reason and respect.

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