Loyal NPI readers will know that I’m a very proud atheist. In fact, atheism is one of the few intellectual positions that I try to actively promote—in some ways, I consider it the defining ideological debate of the modern era.
But for all my staunch pro-atheism, I care surprisingly little about anti-atheist “discrimination.” Every so often a new study will come out showing that atheists are the least trusted, or least tolerated, or most feared “minority group” in America. While I find these facts disconcerting, I don’t really expect anything different. A recent op-ed in The Washington Post, though, referred to the “bigotry” that atheists face:
“As with other national minority groups, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s.”
This kind of hyperbole is far more upsetting than the facts themselves, and is often counterproductive to the goals of atheists. Continue reading
Should there be a mosque anywhere near here?
In discussions of religious pluralism—like the one going on about the “Ground Zero mosque”—I always find myself in an odd position. I’m generally a fan of diversity and tolerance, but I absolutely hate religion. So even though I risk aligning myself with irrational, hate-mongering bigots like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, I still essentially agree with them: I don’t think that there should be a mosque near Ground Zero.
Now, I should clarify that I also agree that this is a local issue, and that the government should not restrict the rights of Muslims to practice their religion. With that said, most of the plan’s opponents have acknowledged this, and maintained that even though the Cordoba House (or Park 51, or whatever it’s officially called now) can be built, that doesn’t mean it should. After all, the Nazis were allowed to march through Skokie, but that doesn’t mean they ought to have. By the same logic, just because the developer is allowed to build a mosque doesn’t mean that any clear-thinking individual ought to approve of the decision.
Similarly, the fact that the Cordoba House isn’t actually at Ground Zero is germane, but not decisive. It’s foolish to pretend that proximity doesn’t matter. The location, specifically how near it is to Ground Zero, was a key selling point for the group that bought the site—they wanted a site for moderate Muslims to “push back against the extremists.” If the mosque is close enough to make such a point, then it is close enough to draw criticisms of being insensitive.
Nevertheless, the main argument in favor of allowing the mosque is more principled. Put simply, it is that the moderates behind the plan for the mosque (or Islamic community center) should not be conflated with the extremists who perpetrated the attacks of September 11th. The moderates are not to blame for the actions of the terrorists. Continue reading