Mark Vernon at the Philosophy and Life blog gets it 100% right (he even calls them evangelical atheists!):
For a long time something has puzzled me about evangelical forms of atheism. What is it they are really objecting too? For I suspect it is not actually belief in God.
My puzzlement stems from the way the otherwise rational, intelligent, even charming advocates of godlessness seem blinded when the searchlight of their minds turns to religion.
After all, although they could, they simply don’t take theology seriously. Rather, it is what they fear religion implies about being human that raises their ire.
Implicit in their reaction to religion is a model of human being that is an idealised Enlightenment figure: rational, autonomous, mature and independent. They fear that religion makes people irrational, herdish, infantile and dependent.
So the risk these atheists run is propagating a deluded humanism. Their figure of ‘Enlightenment Man’ is a distortion of Enlightenment insights. Conversely, religion, riddled with ambiguities, is so precisely because it can take the irrational, herdish, infantile and dependent tendencies of human beings seriously. At best, it mitigates their excesses and provides means for redeeming them. At worst, of course, it does exactly the opposite.
This is why the great challenge for believers today is to cultivate good religion over bad. To those, like myself, who are ambivalent about religion, it is to come up with an alternative that is humanly as rich. It don’t believe it has been done yet!
This is wise, thoughtful, balanced and just plain wonderful! Mark Vernon is not middle-of-the-line here: he is being more rational than the atheists themselves by pointing to the blindness of these preachers of enlightenment. Now, if only these evangelical atheists would stop getting all worked up and emotional about religion and just try to understand it, in order to dispose of it properly, if necessary, we’d all be much better off, because as the sage Vernon says himself: these uppity atheists are some of the smartest people around.