The "Four Horsemen" of the Atheocalypse (l to r):
Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

Atheism in America

By Julian Baggini
Financial Times, February 2012

Edited by Andy Ross

Matt Elder, who lives in Festus, Missouri, says with a smile that when he goes out wearing his black T-shirt with its large scarlet A — the symbol of the atheist Out Campaign inspired by Richard Dawkins — "you'll see mothers bring their children a little closer and step a little quickly away". Elder is not militant and tries to be as accommodating as he can without being a hypocrite.

Churches are the main hubs for volunteer work, which is much more central to life in the welfare-state free America than it is in Europe. As Daniel Dennett says, "The sad truth is that in many parts of the country, if you want to join forces with your neighbors and do something good, and you look around for an organization that will help you do that, thatís the churches."

Religious freedom was the reason why the puritan Pilgrim Fathers boarded the Mayflower in 1620. They were followed by other nonconformists wanting to escape countries whose established churches made it difficult for people of other denominations to thrive. The founding fathers were determined to ensure that the United States government should have no role in determining the beliefs of its citizens.

But the strict separation of church and state has not stopped many seeing America as a Christian nation. Many Christians campaign for both prayer and the teaching of creationism in schools. Other legal disputes are still being fought over monuments such as crosses and the Ten Commandments on publicly owned land.

A now famous University of Minnesota study concluded that Americans ranked atheists lower than Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians, and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society". No wonder atheist groups talk of modeling their campaigns on the civil rights, gay, and women's liberation movements. "We want people to realize that some of their best friends are atheists, some of their doctors, and lawyers and fire chiefs and all the rest of them are atheists," says Dennett.

Sam Harris is one of Americaís best-known atheists. His 2004 book, The End of Faith, sold over half a million copies. He agrees that the situation for atheists is "analogous to being gay and in the closet for many people". But he says "it's a losing game to trumpet the cause of atheism and try to rally around this variable politically. I've supported that in the past, I support those organizations, I understand why they do that. But, in the end, the victim group identity around atheism is the wrong strategy. It's like calling yourself a non-astrologer. We simply don't need the term."

A report from the Pew Research Center last November showed that 53 percent of Americans say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. That is one reason why many are afraid of coming out, to the extent that both American Atheists and the American Humanist Association (AHA) will, on request, send mailings to members under plain covers.

The number of people who don't believe in God in the United States is said to have doubled over the past decade, with even faster growth among the young. Validating that claim is difficult, but surveys agree that atheism is on the rise. Books by the Four Horsemen — Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens — have all been New York Times best-sellers, with sales in the hundreds of thousands.

The Global War On Christians

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Newsweek, February 2012

Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm. In some countries government agents burn churches and imprison parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes murder Christians and drive them from their homes.

Media reticence on the subject may be in part due to lobbying groups that have persuaded leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called Islamophobia.

But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.

Christian minorities in many majority-Muslim nations have lost the protection of their societies. In countries with radical Islamist movements, vigilantes often feel they can act with impunity. The old idea that non-Muslims in Muslim societies deserve protection has all but vanished from wide swaths of the Islamic world.

Western governments need to be clear that criticism of Islam is not Islamophobia. The West can help religious minorities in Muslim-majority societies by making its development aid and trade and investment relationships conditional on the protection of the freedom of conscience and worship for all citizens.

AR  In my opinion, the proper response here is to regard the recent manifestations of atheism as expressions of the radical demystification of moral life characteristic of very early Christianity and hence to extend atheist solidarity to "Reform" Christians in order to form a scientifically respectable foundation for a faith in the progress of life on Earth that can defeat Islamic fundamentalism and go on to fructify Globorg.