Varieties of Atheism

Garrett Baer’s interview with Stephen Prothero, “Vive la Différence,” The Atlantic, The Daily Dish. Sullivan’s advertisement of “a quieter atheism” brought a handful of letter-writers our way. Michael Salem of the well-named Media, Pennsylvania, came with compliments:

Thank you for your interview with Stephen Prothero, I linked to it from Andrew Sullivan’s blog and enjoyed the perspective immensely. It could not have been more timely as well – having been a non-practicing Orthodox Christian these past few years and watching Bill Maher’s Religulous last night, the interview with Mr. Prothero complimented it perfectly.

Thank you again, you just earned another reader of your blog. Continue exploring.

Louis Mahern in Indianapolis was a bit less welcoming of Prothero’s remarks, and adds a nice bit of natural theology to boot:

I don’t believe in God or an afterlife. However, I do not call myself an “atheist” Atheist says what I don’t believe in. In this trope I am also an “Afairyist” or an “Agoblinist.” I suppose the better term would be “Rationalist.” I am not militant in my beliefs. I could care less what others believe. It does offer me some private amusement thought when I heard them thank Jesus for saving them from the tornado for which he would be personally responsible.

We’ll be sure to ask KtB associate editor Quince Mountain about that; in the middle of a horse-and-buggy trip through South Dakota, he ran into a tornado with a gaggle of fundamentalist, Quiverfull teenage girls. “I cannot believe how completely chill and competent they were,” he wrote.

Before the Sullivan mention, Jon Johanning in Philly had this to say:

As an atheist, I appreciate Prof. Prothero’s concern about the mistakes atheists are making, but I consider religious people who give us all this kind advice as basically concern trolls. They don’t take the advice we give them, so it’s no surprise we pay little attention to theirs.

As for trying to separate the religion-atheism controversy from politics, religions (at least those stemming from the ancient Middle East) have always been intensely political. The Israelites’ religion was to a large extent about conquering Canaan, Christianity was about taking over the Roman Empire, and the case of Islam is equally obvious.

So, then, does that mean atheism is out to conquer something?