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Over at The New Oxonian I made the following brief comment on Hoffmann’s Belinerblau is right and you’re all wrong post, and it has been in moderation for the last hour or so; meanwhile Hoffmann has put up one by Ophelia and has commented on it. So it seems as well to put it here, even if R. Joseph Hoffmann does get around to giving it the nod of editorial favour:
This is an astonishingly thin piece of criticism. In fact, it is in the nature of a thoughtless diatribe. You’re not even, like Fred, treading water. You provide virtually no evidence, and what evidence you do provide is selected from fringe elements of the “new” atheist phenomenon. A glancing reference to Sam Harris, a citation of one of Dawkins’ less than felicitous impromptu remarks, is about the extent of the “evidence” provided. Don’t you have to do more than this? Berlinerblau and Ruse don’t do any better, of course, as you might have noticed, had you not been on such a furious witch hunt, but someone who styles himself a new Oxonian should be able to provide at least the semblance of argument, if not the real thing. I have sometimes been impressed with your quiet thoughtfulness. On this occasion you seem to have mislaid thought and quiet altogether in favour of the empty rhetoric of condemnation.
Ophelia’s comment is similar to mine, although much more direct. Here it is, or at least part of it (I hope you don’t mind, Ophelia!):
So what are we talking about here? What is the post talking about? Who exactly are the EZs? The Notorious Four, or their followers, or both, or other? I can’t tell. One minute the NF or an individual of them is under discussion, but the next minute it’s just unidentified EZs.
I ask because there’s an enormous amount of generalization in the post, and I haven’t got a clue what it’s based on. Nailing down the subject might be one step to figuring that out.
Those are fair questions, though it’s interesting that we’ve picked up a new tag along the way. We are EZs! I guess this is intended to indicate that we do our atheism on the cheap. We don’t follow it’s progress through the body of the whale — that is, the Roman Catholic Church — but take it simply as a denial of the existence of gods. But, hey, as Jerry Coyne says (in mock alarm): “O noes! Atheists ignore history!” So, let me pick up on another comment that I left over a Why Evolution is True (with a few editorial additions):
One interesting thing about Berlinerblau and Hoffmann is that their recommendations regarding the history of atheism tie atheism firmly to theology’s leading strings — one by a Jesuit (Buckley’s At the Origins of Modern Atheism, another about Rebelais’ religious humanism, The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century: The Religion of Rabelais — was it really a problem, I wonder, the third, by Alan Kors, of whom I had never heard, Atheism in France, 1650-1729: The Orthodox Sources of Disbelief. Kors writes as follows in a First Things article (122 (April 2002), 11-13) about how the decline of Catholic higher education in America should concern all Americans. In that article he speaks as follows about what he terms “willful blindness”:
We live in an age of willful blindness and willful forgetfulness. Philistines do not know that virtually every thrust that they make against Christian belief was anticipated and articulated in the sed contra objections of the doctors of the Church themselves. They do not know that the debates of which the moderns are so proud ultimately resolve into arguments that arose in past ages among Catholic philosophers and theologians—realism versus nominalism, the limits of natural human knowledge, the tension between philosophical skepticism and rational dogmatism.
Actually, I do know something about that, but that is, perhaps, another story, although anyone who has read Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion will remember how Philo allows the believers – Demea the simple believer, a bit like Galileo’s Simplicio, and Cleanthes the more sophisticated believer — to deconstruct religious belief, so his own more sceptical position emerges victor from the heart of religious disagreement. Yet, for forms sake, and perhaps because the threat of religious violence against unbelievers and blasphemers was a real possibility, and would still have been a vivid memory for Hume, Pamphilus is allowed to award the crown of victory to Cleanthes, Pamphilus’ guardian. Yet it is a Pyrrhic victory, after all.
But the suggestion that atheism does not arise from free thought, but from theology itself, and the religious disputes of the seventeenth century, while, in part, doubtless true, does not mean that there was not a vivid tradition of free thought as well, which made its way quite independently of theology, though doubtless, as today, still in constant conversation with it. We recall that when Hume went to France and admitted that he did not think that he had ever met an atheist, he was told that all the gathering was composed of atheists. So the idea that atheism is just another form of theology — which is what Berlinerblau himself alleges — is really stretching the point.
Now, no doubt, such historical studies are interesting, and perhaps, in some cases, important. No one would choose to be willfully ignorant where it is important to be informed. But it does not follow that such historical knowledge is necessary for those who are concerned about the role that religion is playing in the world today, nor does criticism of religion depend on knowledge of the history of religion’s own doubts about itself.
As for the suggestion of both Berlinerblau and Hoffman that the New Atheists do not have a political agenda, this is, when you think about it, simply untrue. What we want to see realised, at long last, is secular democracy, without the constant interposition of theological/ecclesiastical concerns in the making and enforcing of law and social order. As Michel Onfray makes very clear in his Atheist Manifesto, our societies are still dominated by a religious epistemology, our minds are still, as he says “formatted by two millennia of history and ideological domination” (44) by religion:
Where then does the Catholic substratum survive? And where the Judeo-Christian epistemology? Simply in the notion that matter, the real, and the world are not all there is. That something remains outside all the explanatory apparatus: a force, a power, an energy, a determinism, a will, a desire. And after death? Well, certainly not nothing. Something …” 
The empty critique of the new atheism by Berlinerblau and Hoffmann can be safely ignored. One wonders why they bother to criticise a movement about which they obviously know practically nothing. And they think that we are simply ignorant of history!