Gary Wolf on The Church of the Non-Believers

This article by Gary Wolf in considers various current opponents of religion and in the end decides to “refuse the call” to join in their crusade. But this raises the question of what he would say himself when asked the question that he posed quite “innocently” at the dinner table (in an anecdote in the article), but which often arises less benignly in courtrooms and political meetings. To stand up when asked “Who here is an atheist?” is not the same as declaring war on the beliefs of others, and to suggest that merely acknowledging that position amounts to offensive proselytizing (in a way that acknowledging other positions somehow does not) is itself offensive.

In a society that professes tolerance for all religious beliefs (at least for those that are relatively benign in their consequences) it is important also to challenge the intolerance of non-belief which is manifest throughout North American society – and to which the article contributed by implicitly identifying all who declare non-belief with something that many people find offensive.

In a subsequent blog posting (which, in 2012, appears to be no longer available) Wolf went some way towards correcting that, at least to the extent of clarifying his own position, but that cannot come close to undoing the damage done by the article.

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