Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for this congratulatory thread ... after "The New Atheism rocks" was linked by the Dawkins website.
As I said in the Pharyngula thread, I never set out to be an "uppity atheist", as Blake Stacey likes to put it. I was happy to be low-key about my lack of belief in deities. Live and let live, etc.
So I used to think, and would still like to think.
I'm just very disturbed at the aggressive way in which religion has been encroaching on public policy over the past decade or so. I first noticed this with the hysterical response when the cloning of Dolly was announced in early 1997, but it's happened with issue after issue, whether it be the Terry Schiavo debacle, gay rights, AIDS policy (particularly the use of condoms), the push to teach Intelligent Design in American schools (which is infecting other countries), the shift in government funding to religious organisations, stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, or whatever other issue you wish to name. Religious conservative views are always in the forefront, and all too often they are politically influential.
We are currently seeing a New Endarkenment.
Contrary to what might sometimes be the appearance, I'm actually quite friendly and conciliatory to genuinely moderate religious folks - though I almost always remember to make clear that this does not include all "mainstream" religionists. In particular, it does not include the current Vatican leadership or its international network of astoundingly reactionary cardinals and bishops. Even the loopier religionists can believe what they like, as far as I'm concerned, as long as they don't try to impose it on the rest of us politically. Let them by all means keep their great queen spiders and talking snakes, their flying horses and armies of monkeys, and all the other creatures in their whole colourful zoo, but let them not loose their theological critters to scratch and play and defecate in our public spaces.
Of course, it's not working out like that: on issue after issue we see illiberal, irrational, miserable policies being pushed by outspoken religious leaders ... and it's well and truly time to push back and challenge religion directly and boldly. As we philosophers like to put it, we have no real choice but to contest religion's epistemic content, its actual truth-claims. That's the message of the article, and I'll go on defending it.