Brights: the new euphemism for educated atheists

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Christian philosopher Michael Rea has posted a very interesting exchange with Daniel Dennett on the issue of naturalism. Dennett is known, among other things, for his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, a discussion of the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory.

Dennett recently published an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Apparently the point of the piece is to come out of the closet as an atheist (or, to use his preferred and highly pretentious, dialectically loaded, term, a bright) and to ask for more respect for atheists. Yes, atheists are now playing the victimology card.

John McWhorter spends his first chapter of Losing the Race, argues that the black community in the United States (and pretty much nowhere else) seems to emphasize victimhood merely for the sake of saying it to feel better. There's no attempt to make things any better. A number of other groups in American society have done this sort of thing, with political correctness as the most obvious result. Christians have certainly joined the bandwagon, as evidenced by David Limbaugh's new book. (Incidentally, I think what Limbaugh is pointing out is true. Christians are often belittled by the intellectual elite. However, I think it's ridiculous to emphasize this as persecution in the face of what Christians in Saudi Arabia or China have to deal with or what most seriously Bible-following Christians throughout history have had to deal with.) Another example is the "reverse racism" idea, which in some ways does get to a real issue about whether fairness is the standard and how it should be achieved. This issue is actually far more complicated than both the right and the left tend to make it seem. See my thoughts on this past summer's Supreme Court ruling and John McWhorter's argument that affirmative action's real problem is its racism against underrepresented minorities, not against whites and Asians. Still, white people actually complaining about (and even bringing lawsuits over) the unfairness they've experienced for being white is as bad as any other kind of victimology.

Well, now atheists are claiming victimhood. They just want a little respect. I think Rea makes it clear that Dennett isn't really looking for mutual respect. Most of what he says about Dennett is about right, as far as I can tell. Basically, Rea is blowing the whistle on a real presumption for atheism among professional philosophers, something Christians in philosophy have been able to see for a long time. It's actually gotten better in recent years, but Dennett exemplifies the attitude I've seen in many I know who want to portray evangelicals as "ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked" (to quote Rea). It's interesting that someone who clearly does have this agenda (whose view on this issue happens to be considered orthodoxy among philosophers) would claim victimhood.

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