Modern people can be so weirdly literal. And by no means are they all fundamentalist religious types.
I have known many atheists and I have come across a great many atheists. The first rule of atheism is: talk about religion. The second rule: dispute the Bible. The third (possibly the second, actually): tease and argue with fundamentalists, mostly in absentia, especially they most objectionable and uncouth ones.
Yes, now that they don’t have to worry themselves anymore about the literal truths of the Bible that all the fundamentalists believe in—phew—I get the impression many self-congratulatory atheists like to spend a whole lot of their intellectual time insisting the Bible isn’t literally true and is in fact full of falsehoods and absurdities (and in doing this, feeling intelligent and perceptive).
Well, first of all: no kidding, the Bible is not literally true. Have you ever tried to read other mythology literally? Ovid makes a poor science or history textbook, but that’s a similarly insipid point.
We can rest assured that whoever refuses to accept such a painfully obtrusive lesson must have a personal attachment at stake, or simply won’t because a contrary painfully-obtrusive lesson was hammered into them already by their parents and church, and brainwashing works the first time.
Either way, if “freethinker” atheists have the opportunities to think about and discuss anything they like, it seems dopey to spend time telling the fundamentalists that material which millions of people have already come to view as allegorical since the Middle Ages is—*gasp*—not literally true.
Whether they’ve rediscovered how to be as concerned with literal meaning as fundamentalists, or how to keep pace with fundamentalists, or how to keep having a ‘conversation’ with fundamentalists instead of moving on, I’m not sure that congratulations for “free thought” are in order quite yet.
You’re simply not past religion and done with it until you regard reading the Bible as no more threatening and offensive to your own mind than reading ancient Greek, Norse, or Chinese myths. In fact, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that quite a few intellectuals got past their own religious instruction and obstruction by reading mythology and literature more widely, as Jung did, and realizing that not only is belief subjective, but there is more depth to be found in religious interpretation than Christian theology has to offer. In the process of graduation to move beyond religious obsession, agnosticism with less to prove and more to learn seems the freest stage, not (as some atheists think) some weakly-resistant intermediate stage.
If instead the atheists’ concern and reason for so much adversarial attention is merely and truly over what fundamentalists will do with their dogmatic beliefs (as many atheists would claim) , they should be spending some time telling the hundreds of millions of Hindus that their authoritative texts aren’t true; they should logically also be dispelling the doctrines of fundamentalists of all kinds, in the orthodoxies of science and politics as well as religion, wherever free and open thought is denied and the consequences are great.
Instead, the trending atheism today is yet another species of missionary fundamentalism by a Chosen People who are zealous to prove they are not at all like the believers.