At its best atheism cultivates a sober, clear-eyed scientific view of the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be, while seeking to improve the fortunes of people, individually and collectively, through the propagation of rationality, tolerance, altruism, personal freedoms, and social responsibility. At its less stellar, atheism inspires smug, self-righteous bombast and cliquish chauvinism.
As many believers can attest, humility, forbearance and altruism aren’t just attitudes; they’re habits. Alas, being an atheist can be nothing but an attitude, and not a pretty one at that.
As recently as a couple years ago, a pugnacious essay like this would have landed upon my sensibilities like the sting of a leather glove across the cheek. Now, though, it only makes me nostalgic. I mean, he’s complaining about what arrogant jerks “New Atheists” can be. New Atheism! Oh, those were the days! I don’t disagree with his opinion — many godless people are just looking for a socially acceptable excuse to be obnoxious assholes — but fuggit, I can’t even muster up the energy for a devil’s advocate defense of atheism as a movement. The rudeness and arrogance of the mid-aughts are nothing compared to how online atheism has recently become a haven for couch-fainting, panty-sniffing, witch-hunting, ressentiment-driven caricatures of political correctness, exemplified, of course, by the psychological basket cases and moral-panic-profiteers that populate the FTB/Skepchick/A+ common area. Atheism’s no more significant to me now than eye color.