The 'moral equivalence' argument - the tactic used by some anti-secularists to suggest that critics of religion are as 'fundamentalist' as those they oppose - is something that I've often posted about. Now Max Dunbar has written a fine piece which collects together some of the more outrageous of these slurs and offers a robust rebuttal:
What to make of these writers (who appear in popular liberal newspapers and magazines) who say that critics of religious fundamentalism are no different from religious fundamentalists…just because they are quite passionate in their views? These pundits (shall we call them ‘anti-secular fundamentalism fundamentalists’?) are telling us, in essence, that people who are for free speech and human rights are the exact same as people who are against these things.
When people discuss religious fundamentalism and ‘atheist fundamentalism’ it is always the secular fundamentalist that comes off worst. It is always the critics of religion, not its followers, who have the explaining to do.
And that makes a kind of sense. If you write something bad about Christopher Hitchens, he may be annoyed but he won’t actually kill you. Write something critical of Islam (or Christianity or Hinduism) and there is a good chance that you may be attacked, threatened, your name and details put on some Redwatch equivalent somewhere. Atheism is a safe target.
Dunbar makes a connexion with the left's changing attitude to religion, picking up on the liberal disillusionment with modernity that I mentioned in a recent post. He writes:
In classical Marxist theory, faith was both a comfort to the oppressed and an illusion that had to fall before true happiness could be obtained. Now, faith is seen as a more spiritual alternative to our decadent consumerist society. Hence, dissidents of Muslim background such as Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are slandered as neocons and Uncle Toms for criticising Islam.
Pryamvada Gopal, Ian Buruma , Timothy Garton Ash, Madeleine Bunting, Karen Armstrong et al: take note.
(via Butterflies and Wheels)