Paul Kurtz is well-known as the father of Secular Humanism. He is an atheist in the true sense of the word and a humanist who has been instrumental in popularizing humanistic thought. His book on ethics, Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism, has a prominent spot on my library shelves, and I have consulted it often in developing my own ideas about morality. As an atheist he has not shied away from examining and criticizing religious belief, as in his book The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal.
However, perhaps the thing I have most appreciated about Kurtz, aside from his crisp thought and conversational writing style, is his more sympathetic attitude towards those who do give in to the "transcendental temptation."
His article The True Unbeliever at the Council For Secular Humanism is online and can be read in its entirety by clicking the title. This article explores the question, "Do fundamentalist theists have their atheist counterparts?"
From that article I have extracted the following passage:
Nonetheless, there still lingers among some true unbelievers an unflinching conviction toward atheism—God does not exist, period; they are convinced of that! This kind of dogmatic attitude holds that this and only this is true and that anyone who deviates from it is a fool. This insults a great number of reflective believers...This form of militant atheism is often truncated and narrow-minded. It does not appreciate the cosmic setting of the human species in the nature of things. It lacks any “natural piety" ... and it is not concerned with the humanist values that ought to accompany the rejection of theism.
I have to say, as someone who enjoys reading the comments section on internet stories and articles (usually more than I do the articles!), that this insensitive and hubristic attitude is out there and far from rare. It is employed anytime someone even broaches a subject that hints of less than strict atheistic materialism, and the insinuation is always that the person who isn't a thoroughgoing atheist is weak-minded or stupid. I find this as off-putting as I do comments like "Jesus saves!" and "Jesus is the only way" whenever a controversial issue of our day is discussed.
What's worse, these attitudes - of both true believers and true unbelievers - make friendly, enlightening dialogue virtually impossible.