Andrew Sullivan asks if there are any atheists in the "conservative punditariat." I ask: why is he asking? Is he trying to drive some sort of wedge between the evil neoconservatives, who are all at least quasi-Nietzscheans (he and others have implied) and religious conservatives?
Here’s my response to Sullivan in an email this morning:
Dear Mr. Sullivan,
Allan Bloom may have been an atheist, but he was not dogmatic about it, nor did he disrespect people of faith. He was not, in other words, one of Burke’s "turbulent and seditious" atheists. And even if he was an atheist, that doesn’t make him a Nietzschean. It is possible, I’m sure you would agree, to accept Nietzsche’s critique of the "faith-based" character of enlightenment rationalism without accepting either his account of the will to power or the prescription that he thinks follows from his diagnosis. Nietzsche may well have his finger on something crucial about modernity, but that by no means requires us to adopt his conclusions.
You’re right, I think, about the place of Nietzsche as someone we must take into account.
I don’t quite understand why there can’t be practical agreements and alliances between (non-Nietzschean) atheists and people of faith. Certainly atheists have thought so since time immemorial. And there seems to me no reason why, for example, Christians can’t make common cause with non-dogmatic atheists who for all practical purposes behave as if there were something like natural law (or, in the Reformed tradition, common grace). To put it another way, there’s a long-standing Christian tradition (think of Aquinas citing Tully or "the Philosopher") of engaging with people who use their "God-given reason."
Since I suspect that you know this, I’m not sure what your motives are for posing the questions you do, unless you think that to be Christian is to be intolerant.
Joseph M. Knippenberg
Many of the relevant posts offered by Jonah Goldberg in NRO’s "The Corner" can be found here.