Yglesias is generating some unwarranted abuse from his commenters here. Yglesias links to this TNR article by Damon Linker. While Linker’s piece suffers from some of the defects of the genre–he’s a bit overly schematic in constructing two distinct atheist traditions, good and bad–it’s a sound and good piece. Dawkins and Hitchens are deeply and troublingly illiberal on the subject of religion (and in Hitchens case, at least, everything else). Some are suggesting Dawkins ought not be linked with a bombthrower like Hitchens, but this won’t fly. From the Linker piece:
Following a lecture in Dublin, he recalls, “I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.”
In addition to being demonstrably false, this view is an awful and appalling thing to say, and he clearly deserves strong criticism for it. As does, in my view, anyone who suggests that people who holds a substantially different theological position is not capable of being a good and decent person. A society that contains deep disagreements regarding these sorts of questions will be benefited by deep pluralism and ecumenicalism. Many commenters feel compelled to point out that atheists of all sorts are often not afforded the respect and tolerance that Linker wants atheists to extend to theists. This is factually correct, but as a defense of the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins, it’s nothing but a tu quoque. Moreover, even if returning the disrespect in kind had some sort of strategic value, which I can’t really see, Hitchens and Dawkins attack illiberal and intolerant believers and ecumenical, pluralist believers with the same broad brush.