Will there be any reasoning at the American Atheists “Reason Rally”?

American Atheists are having a rally this Saturday in Washington D.C., so Christian apologist Tom Gilson sent them a message asking if they would be interested in hosting a debate at their “Reason Rally” between a theist and an atheist.

He wrote this:

Dear Mr. Silverman,

Greetings to you… [mention of mutual friend],

I’m writing to ask if you would be interested in sharing sponsorship with me in giving Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig one more opportunity to share a stage together in debate, while Dr. Dawkins is here in the U.S. later this month. I’m leading the True Reason project, which, as you may or may not be aware, is bringing Christians to the Reason Rally for respectful dialogue with attendees there. Additionally, this morning we released an ebook that has already climbed to best-seller status in the atheism category at Amazon.com, and has attracted enough notice that I’ve been asked to write an op-ed on it for the Washington Post.

I mention these things simply to give you some confidence that I’m representing a legitimate potential debate sponsorship partner to work on this with you and American Atheists. Dr. Craig is again wiling to meet Dr. Dawkins in debate. I have a contact at Georgetown University that would work with us to provide a venue for debate. Would you be open to joining me in inviting Richard Dawkins?

I’ll look forward to hearing you.

Regards,

Tom Gilson
www.thinkingchristian.net

And the American Atheists President David Silverman replied with this:

Mr. Gilson,

The Reason Rally is an event by and for the nonreligious population and their supporters. It is not an opportunity for Christians to push themselves into other people’s lives (yet again). I would never support infiltrating a Christian event with atheists on some kind of recruitment mission – that would be horribly rude.

Make no mistake – you are not welcomed guests at the rally. We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things – we are going to have fun with other like-minded people. Those who proselytize or interfere with our legal and well-deserved enjoyment will be escorted to the 1st Amendment pen by security, which will be plentiful, where you can… shout yourselves hoarse.

Spreading out among the crowd is not a substitute for a permit. Indeed, I will be meeting with the Parks Commission on Thursday to discuss how to handle your infiltrative permitless counter-protest.

Dr. Dawkins has made it clear that he doesn’t want to debate Mr. Craig. I am not sure how much clearer he (or I) could be.

Sincerely,
David Silverman
President
American Atheists, Inc.

American Atheists doesn’t seem to be in favor of having conversations and debates with those who disagree with them, do they? In fact, it doesn’t sound like they are interested in hearing any reasons for other people’s views, or giving any reasons for their own views.

Consider this post on the American Atheists web site. (The PDF is saved here because they’ve withdrawn the post, but you can still see it with Google Cache)

Excerpt:

It should come as no surprise that the individuals who abide by fundamentalist Christian… doctrines would be the first to cry out that they are being persecuted when their dangerous, damaging and disingenuous beliefs come under attack. Most of these people lack the maturity and intelligence to act in a socially acceptable manner.  Many of them are sociopaths and quite a good number of them are psychopaths.  All of them are clearly delusional.

The fact is that fundamentalist Christians… are not interested in coexisting or getting along.  They have no desire for peace. They do not want to sit down with us in diplomatic efforts to iron out our differences and come to an agreement on developing an integrated society.

They want us to die.

Their interpretation of the Bible… are such that there is no other course of action but to kill the infidel, and if anyone believes otherwise they are only fooling themselves.  It is not just in the best interests of atheists to be intolerant of fundamental Christianity and radical Islam, but it is also in the best interest of mainstream believers within these faiths, as well.  Moderates and even Progressives who stand in support of extremists just because there is a claim to the same deity are not doing themselves any favors.  Fundamental Christians make all Christians look bad…

…the underbelly of fundamentalist Christianity… does not operate in the legal system. They don’t respond to lawsuits, letters, amicus briefs or other grass-roots campaigns and they must, must, must be eradicated.

That doesn’t sound very tolerant or open-minded.  It was written by “Al Stefanelli – Georgia State Director, American Atheists, Inc.”. Now, this isn’t the view of most atheists that I know, but it is the view of some organized atheists like those in the American Atheists group.

What do they mean by eradicating Christianity?

From the correspondence with Tom Gilson, we now know that they don’t want a conversation and they refuse to hear both sides in a debate. So they aren’t trying to eradicate Christian ideas by winning conversations or winning debates. What does that leave as a meaning of the phrase “eradicating Christianity”? Can we infer what they mean by “eradicating Christianity” from the e-mail sent by David Silverman? Could it be that eradicating Christianity means using coercion to suppress beliefs that atheists disagree with, so that they won’t be offended while they are busy having a good time? That seems to be consistent with what Al Stefanelli and David Silverman said, but it’s just my guess.

Now consider this post from the UK Daily Mail which discusses a recent interview with Richard Dawkins.

Excerpt:

But the centrepiece of this Christmas edition is the main coup for the New Statesman – an interview by Prof. Dawkins with Christopher Hitchens, the great polymath who today lost his fight against cancer. It’s a fascinating read over three double-page spreads. Not least because Prof. Dawkins reveals a charming humility, allowing Hitchens to show his intellectual superiority at his own expense. Hitchens is thoughtful about CS Lewis and Christianity and rather leaves Prof. Dawkins floundering in his wake, occasionally interjecting little assents to show that he’s still there, as he struggles to keep up.

But one of these interjections is most revealing. About half-way through, the Prof gets this in edgeways: ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?’

So, ‘if we win…and destroy Christianity’. True, there’s a ‘so to speak’ in there, but it doesn’t do much. Try ‘If we win and, so to speak, kill all the Jews’ as an alternative. Doesn’t really work, does it? And Prof Dawkins can hardly claim that he was misquoted or taken out of context. He was editing the magazine, after all – there’s even a picture of him doing so, pen poised masterfully over page proofs.

Again, that seems to me to be echoing the language of the the American Atheist person who wanted to eradicate Christianity. Indeed, Dawkins is not a very timid fellow. In this video, he expresses his support for infanticide, which most people view as equivalent to murder. I don’t think he means “destroy Christianity” intellectually, since he refused his chance to do that when he refused to debate William Lane Craig, as documented in the liberal UK Guardian. I think he means something else by “destroy Christianity”, but I’m not exactly clear what. Let’s hope it’s something different than what other atheists have meant by it in history.