In his new book, Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious (Beacon, 2012), Chris Stedman asks for kinder, gentler expressions of atheism. For Stedman, the current level of hostility among atheists toward religion and religious people is not only uncomfortable but also, more important, counterproductive to the achievement of shared humane goals. If, like Stedman, you’re involved as a humanist in interfaith efforts to address poverty and suffering, one of the last things you want is an uncontrollable spiral of hostility and distrust between religious people and nonbelievers.
That seems to be the gist of his argument, though there’s a bit more complexity to it. At any rate, I think Stedman’s efforts in developing such a viewpoint ought to be welcomed. Plainly enough, Stedman is a calm, thoughtful, and compassionate man, and he’s engaging in a debate that we need to have. He does so with entirely admirable clarity and civility, though it doesn’t follow that he’s right.