I've been wondering lately why so many atheists go beyond simply disagreeing over worldview to mean-spirited hostility towards Christians. Take Rosie O'Donnell's outrageous anti-Christian comments on The View (thank God she will be leaving in June!) Think of Mark Morford's vile and often completely gratuitous Christian-bashing week in and week out in his San Francisco Chronicle column (I cancelled my trial subscription over the Chronicle's decision to condone such religious intolerance).
What is even more disturbing that entertainers (and I use the term loosely!) bashing Christianity is when respected academics do it. Let's leave aside such demagogues as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, whose writings have more in common with Ann Coulter & Michael Moore-style trash talk than serious scholarship.
This morning, I read about a speech given by Dr. Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford and current editor in chief of the journal Science. In it, he goes beyond a reasonable scientific critique of literal Biblical Creationism (something many scientists who are Christian such as Dr. Francis Collins would agree with) to bashing Christians for "deadening curiosity" and "lacking the ability to critically think". Faith and Reason are complementary ways of understanding, not set in opposition to each other as too many anti-Christian intellectuals claim.
No human knows the origins of Life and Darwinian evolution is just a theory NOT a fact. Too often secular textbooks, science museum exhibits, and the like present Darwinian evolution as if it were a fact instead of a highly controversial theory held by some (but not all!) scientists. The Darwinian proponents have not yet adequately explained many of the criticisms of the theory put forth by scientists who believe in Intelligent Design. By insisting that schools ignore the controversy, who is "deadening curiosity?" Is it not conducive to "critically thinking" by teaching ALL of the various theories from Darwinism to theistic evolution to Intelligent Design to a literal reading of Genesis?
Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer-Prize winning science journalist for The New York Times wrote an arrogant and insulting diatribe against religion in general and Christianity in particular that included the lines: "I can't f****** believe that I have to write about [Intelligent Design]" and
"The higher one goes on the cerebral hierarchy, the greater the percentage of atheists and agnostics." Basically the entire premise of her article is to denigrate the intelligence of religious believers and to mock beliefs such as the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, Heaven, angels, Transubstantiation, and so on.
A similar tone can be found in Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach by Dr. Nel Noddings, former dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. The premise of the book is that teachers ought to use controversial topics to encourage critical thinking among their students. Interesting idea, but what Dr. Noddings promotes in the book is teaching skepticism towards beliefs with which she disagrees and indoctrination of impressionable young minds in furtherance of her own agenda. Critical Lessons is full of hostility towards religion in general, Christianity in particular, and most especially traditionalist denominations such as Fundamentalism and Catholicism. The book contains much misleading information about Christian beliefs and Dr. Noddings distorts the historical record when it suits her purpose.
For example, Dr. Noddings notes that there has been much debate among theologians over when exactly the soul enters the growing fetus and it wasn't until the 19th century that Catholic doctrine held that it happened at conception. However, there is NO mention of the Catholic Church's clear and consistent record of opposing abortion dating all the way back to the Didache written in 90 A.D.! The question of ensoulment "was always extrinsic to the Church's fundamental teaching that abortion is a grave evil. The ensoulment (or animation) question never deflected the Church from her contention that abortion is always a grave evil. " Why does Dr. Noddings leave out that very important point from her discussion? I suspect because it undermines her political agenda...
There has been a lot of discussion about whether Christians should remove their children from government schools. I think it's clear that there is a disturbing hostility towards Christianity from what Bill O'Reilly calls the "Secular-Progressives" in this country.
Many atheists will try to defend their intolerance by noting that they are a minority in America and often have to face prejudice. Well, so do Mormons, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha'i, etc. and there is not a serious problem with them engaging in mean-spirited mocking of those who hold different beliefs. Why is it that those groups are able to support those who share in their beliefs without tearing down those with whom they disagree?
In America, we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech enshrined in our Constitution. Atheists are certainly entitled to their own personal beliefs about Christianity, just as I am entitled to mine. However, the Golden Rule is not just a Christian ethic but a universal human one. Atheists should treat those with differing worldviews with the tolerance that they seek for themselves.