Can a non-religion schism? Maybe that’s too dramatic a phrase, but there’s a rift growing between so-called “new atheists,” who favor an aggressive, mocking stance toward religion, and the old live-and-let-live kind. On “Blasphemy Day” last month, for example, new atheists were out in force, “de-baptizing” each other with hair dryers, and, in one case, debuting a painting entitled “Jesus Paints His Nails,” showing an effeminate Jesus polishing the nails driven through his hands.
“I think religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred, and contempt,” author Christopher Hitchens declared to a hooting crowd. Hitchens tells NPR that religion is “sinister, dangerous, and ridiculous,” given the violence it inspires. But the old guard isn’t so eager to insult the faithful. “I consider them atheist fundamentalists,” says the founder of the Center for Inquiry. “They’re anti-religious, they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately.”