For all the exuberant talk about the liberation of what is often called the “new atheism” as exemplified by people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, and Saturday Night Live alumna Julia Sweeney – with the vast majority of which I heartily agree – there is one area, so far little remarked, where the “new atheism” and the “new atheists” simply cannot compete with conventional, theistic religion: comfort and reassurance. Yes, yes, to be sure, conventional, orthodox, theistic religion is, in many ways, a congeries of pathologies ranging from the comically absurd -- Neanderthal humans hunting t. Rex, anyone? -- to the violent to the downright evil. Their name is “Legion”, for they are many. I have criticized many of them in this space,
My reaction was pretty typical to the recent scandal about the racist slogans chanted by members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity at Oklahoma University (OU) at Norman and the companion video of the SAE house-mother repeating a racist slur: kick them out of OU, fire the house-mother, and dissolve the fraternity immediately. At that point, I was -- I freely admit -- feeling with my glands instead of reasoning with my brain. So I began to use the latter to think the issue through more dispassionately from a constitutional and First Amendment standpoint. In the end, my glands were vindicated ... sort of: my original reaction was right, just for the wrong reasons.
Regarding the recitation of the racist chant on the bus, there are two broad possibilities, each with somewhat diff