Of the many annoying words and phrases making the rounds last year (e.g., 'Blitcon', 'stay the course', 'Paris Hilton', 'Web 2.0', 'surge', and any clever techie neologism starting with a lower-case 'i') one of my least favourite is the one which Richard Bernstein used a couple of days ago: 'militant atheism'.
Apparently this refers to people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, and I suppose I can understand Bernstein wishing to note what might be a new cultural trend signalled by the popularity of their books. (Furthermore, since he apparently spends the rest of his time 'writing about the enigmatic Gordon Brown' I can certainly sympathise with his desire to find another topic, any other topic, to type about.)
However, I have a humble request to make of Mr. Bernstein and anyone else who chooses to write about this subject in 2007.
Until the day that Richard Dawkins appears on television standing in front of a poster of Darwin while holding an AK-47 and screaming for the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, can we find a different, perhaps more appropriate adjective to describe his approach?
What's wrong, after all, with perfectly good words like 'assertive' and 'committed'?
And we'll just leave aside the bit about 'militant, proselytising atheists' as a weak attempt at humour, shall we...because otherwise it sounds suspiciously similar to the claim that science is just another faith, and that's the kind of absolute nonsense I'd rather not suggest Mr. Bernstein believes in.
(Thanks to Butterflies and Wheels for the tip.)