Does America Need Quotable Atheists?
In "The Quotable Atheist", Jack Huberman tries to provide ammunition with which atheists and other secularly minded people can go about attacking the faithful in America. Part of this is a political strategy to counter to rise of Christo-fascism and the power of the religious right within the Republican party.
However, cathartic it might be to criticize religious people as medieval holdovers and fascists, one has to wonder whether this kind of discourse contributes to a better understanding of the problems in our public life. Mark Taylor writes, in this thoughtful piece, that teaching religious studies has never been as important to do--or as hard to do, either. He mentions a phenomenon that I find in philosophy classes all the time: to raise critical questions about a person's beliefs is sometimes taken by students as a personal attack. I've heard students say they feel "unsafe" if a professor questions the support (or lack of) for their opinions.
Of course, raising critical questions about public life has made the lives of many philosophers uncomfortable. Just ask Socrates! But is a political strategy to paint some people as religious buffoons really a way to encourage progressive action toward justice and democracy? Socrates certainly didn't set off to paint Euthyphro as a buffoon (he did this to himself). Is there room for a Socratic dialogue on the nature of religioin in contemporary America?