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Desiderata for a Viable Secular Humanism



Philip Kitcher has recently worried that the New Atheists, by mounting an attack against religion tout court, risk alienating a large swath of ‘religious’ people whose way of life is, to Kitcher's mind, innocuous. Encouraging a more moderate response, Kitcher thinks certain non-threatening modes of religious existence should be protected. In this article, I argue that while Kitcher's attempt to provide balance to the secularism debate is a great service, he ultimately fails to distinguish innocuous modes of religious belief from more threatening modes, a failing that allows the debate to return to its previous extremes. In drawing attention to the shortcomings of Kitcher's approach, I make the humanist's argumentative burden explicit: the defender of a ‘moderate’ secular humanism must show that people who arrange their lives around belief in a transcendent being are more likely to do ethical harm than those that don't.