Constructive engagement can yield good results. For example, in the UK, the Accord Coalition has been formed to resist the spread of religious schools. Its member include the Hindu Academy, a Christian think-tank, Ekklesia, and The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.
It is sometimes argued that this kind of desire for engagement with moderates is dangerous, since the liberals merely provide cover for the extremists. I find this as unpersuasive as the argument that talking to democratic socialists only encourages the communists, or that negotiating with Fatah is a sop to jihadists. The best way to disrupt such continuities as there are between moderates and extremists is to encourage them to see the greater continuities they have with moderates they disagree with.
Not reading The God Delusion, God is Not Great, Breaking the Spell and The End of Faith is perfectly reasonable. Why on earth would I devote precious reading hours to books which largely tell me what I already believe? These books are surely mainly for agnostics and open-minded believers. In fact, I think atheists who have read these books have more of a responsibility to account for their actions than I do my inaction. As the posters on the sides of British buses rather simplistically put it, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” God's non-existence is a fact atheists live with, not something that they should obsessively read about.
But if I haven't read these books, surely I should have no opinion about them? I think you’d be less sure of this if you had read How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard (or even not read it). In any case, my opinions are not so much about these books as the general tone and direction the new atheism they represent has adopted. This is not a function of what exactly these books say, but of how they are perceived, and the kind of comments the four horsemen make in newspaper articles and interviews. All this, I think, has been unhelpful in many ways. In short, the new atheism gets atheism wrong, gets religion wrong, and is counterproductive.
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