Richard Dawkins addresses the Global Atheist Convention Photo: Luis Ascui
Article by Barney Zwartz.
If the meek really do inherit the earth, it won’t be the atheists who turned out in force in Melbourne at the weekend for what organisers believe to be the world’s biggest atheist conference.
It probably does mark in some way a coming of age for the militant atheist movement: they are visible and vocal, energetic and starting to become organised. They are gaining in confidence, which is no bad thing — but, as a couple of brave speakers observed, they would be much more persuasive if a touch less strident, a touch less dogmatic, a touch humble.
We are all enriched when people think through serious issues rather than inheriting parental or cultural assumptions, and when atheists advocate a view of a better society they must be taken seriously. By implication, of course, they must extend the same courtesy.
One lesson the atheist movement is learning, as the convention shows, is that it must broaden its appeal, reaching out to secularists, rationalists and others who share similar goals.
Evaluating the convention depends on what one considers its purpose. If it was to validate hardline atheists to themselves and give them confidence, it was a triumph. If it was to take a mature look at how to advance the cause of secularism, politically and socially, the speakers should probably have spent less time ridiculing religion and more on positive and practical ideas. …
Here’s my advice. If atheists can reduce their contempt for believers and work harder for their positive goal — reducing the footprint of religion in society — they may begin to exert more of the influence they feel they deserve. …