It was sad when Eric MacDonald suspended blogging at Choice in Dying and sadder still that he removed all his old posts (an action contrary to the spirit of the Internet, in my opinion). He is a fine and enviably fluent writer.
Anyway, I just noticed that there have been a few posts over the last year, some of them being reposts of old material, a few comments on the notorious Margaret Somerville, and in February and March two long posts concerning Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists, followed by a reposted dialogue that took place in Jerry Coyne’s comment box, which Eric titles In which I take my leave from the new atheism.
There’s a lot to read in the two-part Boghossian review and the leave-taking thread (and they are evidently related, in that the process of confronting Boghossian’s book seems to have crystallized Eric’s sense of his differences with the New Atheists), so what follows are only a few remarks springing from what I gather to be the direction of Eric’s thought.
Eric appeals for more understanding by atheists of the fact that there are plenty of liberal or ‘radical’ Christians for whom their religious inheritance has become a device for structuring their lives, devoid of any literal belief in the supernatural. This greater understanding would certainly be a good thing.
Having spent many years as a chorister in liberal Christian churches, I have my own measure of sympathy for this strain of ‘belief’. Clearly many people involved with it are sane and compassionate; it’s hard for me to judge what the actual content of their belief system is, since one doesn’t go around administering questionnaires to one’s fellow parishioners. As a former priest, Eric must know much more about the range of beliefs to be found in the pews.
But while doubtless many liberal Christians are actually ‘radical’ in belief, their denominations are less so. Of the demoninations of any size, only Unitarian Universalism has really gone significantly post-Christian.
And Eric knows, and says forthrightly, that fundamentalist Christianity is dangerous, that Roman Catholicism is dangerous, and that Islam is exceptionally dangerous (although of course there must be hundreds of millions of Muslims who hold their ‘beliefs’ as lightly as liberal Christians).
So, like life in general, the situation is complicated, free of easy answers.