"I consider the atheist's desire to generalise about religion to be a case of intellectual cowardice. The intellectual coward is one who chooses simplicity over complexity and difficulty. "
So says Theo Hobson at CiF today, variously describing atheism as pretentious, muddled, and cowardly.
His beef with "militant atheists" such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is essentially that they're rude, and sling insults like pissy snowballs at humble, earnest religious types.
I quite agree with Mr. Hobson - Hitchens in particular is surly, aggressive and self-important, character traits that have made him a rich man.
Nonetheless, we atheists should recall that we must be gracious when debating believers. Causing unnecessary offence is counter-productive to debate, and we should be measured and generous when asserting our views.
Personally, when I'm discussing religious issues with some boggle-eyed Jesus-freak, I try to be polite yet firm. If he starts spewing quotes from the risible, poorly-written fiction upon which he bases his worldview, I nod graciously and allow him the opportunity to express his credulous views.
Similarly, when discussing such matters with adherents of the other, equally ridiculous Abrahamic faiths, I let them drone on interminably about the wisdom of their semi-literate, desert-dwelling ancestors and I carefully consider the fatuous points they are making about their invisible superheroes.
At no point would I mention that soap was exorbitantly expensive in the times their prophets lived through, and the whole lot of them probably stank like a sockful of shitty camembert.
That would be rude.
Even though I may be imagining my debating companion as a cat-worshipping ancient Egyptian peasant, grovelling for a fruitful harvest before a malformed clay figurine of a woman with a lion's head, I always remember to be patient, polite and pleasant.
So I appeal to your better natures - please remember that tedious God-botherers are human beings, and deserving of our respect and civility.