The atheists are coming!

Boy, it seems like the atheists are taking over, doesn’t it?

Two in-your-face atheists, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, have written in-your-face books that dismiss believers as somewhere between ordinary boneheads and delusional zombies. Both use language that is so over-the-top that it’s kind of funny.

And yet, believers are lining up to take them on. I got a mass email today from Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative talking head from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, plugging his “debate”:http://www.tothesource.org/11_30_2006/11_30_2006.htm today on Fox News with Harris. It’s at 4 p.m. EST.

Of course, nobody lands any punches in these debates. Both fighters swing wildy and come out thinking they’ve won every round.

It’s not like Harris is going to see the light or D’Souza is going to shut his off.

You have to figure that Harris and Dawkins’ books are so confrontational, do dismissive of religion, precisely to rile up the other side (and sell more books). And it’s easy for the other side to defend God’s honor in a country where just about everyone says they believe in God (even if they’re only spiritual and not religious).

It’s kind of funny to open Harris’ book “Letter to a Christian Nation” to any page and see what bomb he throws.

Page 6: “Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling. The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible’s account of itself.”

Page 54: “It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. It is time we acknowledged how disgraceful it is for the survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God, while this same God drowned infants in their cribs.”

Page 61: “Why doens’t the Bible say anything about electricity, or about DNA, or about the actual age and size of the universe? What about a cure for cancer? When we fully understand the biology of cancer, this understanding will be easily summarized in a few pages of text. Why aren’t these pages, or anything remotely like them, found in the Bible?”

I have no way of knowing if Harris expects Christians or other believers to read this stuff and go “Gosh, I never looked at it that way before.” But he sure has guaranteed himself invitations to a lot of debates.

For a sample of Dawkins’ rhetoric, check out this “essay.”:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-dawkins/why-there-almost-certainl_b_32164.html Dawkins insists that religion must be subject to scientific inquiry, like anything else:

“Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think…”

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.