[There is] an increasingly assertive, often obnoxious atheist offensive led in part by [Richard] Dawkins — the Oxford scientist who is author of the new best seller “The God Delusion.” It’s a militant, in-your-face brand of atheism that he and others are proselytizing for....The Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars? In-your-face atheists are "the Atheist Left"? Is this just a right-left political battle? I think at least some of this is a genuine debate about religion. Whether it's a cloaked political debate, a mixed political-religious debate, or purely a debate about religion, there is a place for pointed humor and harsh argument. I generally favor respecting religious beliefs. It's usually best not to go at religious people with mockery and contempt. For one thing, if you want to persuade people, it's usually better not to demonize them or call them idiots. But it's also a bad idea to stir up a lot of free-floating hostility. Nevertheless, we do need some strong voices in the mix, and I'd hate to live in a world where all the opinion was tamped down and moderated. I just hope that those who go in for mockery do it well. Dawkins is pretty good at it. He just needs more smart, tough people on the other side to joust with him.
[T]he tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is ... contemptuous and even ... a bit fundamentalist.
“These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge.”...
Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.
Note: In an amazing deviation from the usual NYT approach, Kristof's column contains an actual hot link that sends you away from the NYT website. (It takes you to Why Won't God Heal the Amputees? (Which is a damned good question.)) The link is right in the second paragraph, demonstrating an astounding trust in the reader's ability to remember to come back and finish reading the column. Talk about faith!
ADDED: Like me, Kevin Drum is incredulous about Kristof's assertion that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars.