Wednesday, November 19, 2008

USA TODAY article on atheism

(thanks to Josh Kutchinsky for this)

Things are definitely changing over the pond....(source here)

ATHEISM: A POSITIVE PILLAR


It’s not easy not believing in God in the USA. That’s why a group of non-believers is trying to shed the strident image of past atheists by promoting a better side of those sitting on religion’s sidelines.

By Tom Krattenmaker


Being an atheist is not easy in this age of great public religiosity in America. Not when the overwhelming majority of Americans profess some form of belief in God. Not when many believers equate non-belief with immorality. Not when more people would automatically disqualify an atheist for the presidency (53%, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll) than a gay candidate (43%), for example, or a Mormon (24%).
(Alejandro Gonzalez / USA TODAY)

Anti-atheism might have found its ugliest public expression during an episode in the Illinois Legislature this spring. As atheist activist Rob Sherman attempted to testify against a $1 million state grant to a church, Rep. Monique Davis railed, "This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children. … It's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! … You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying!"

Lest we dismiss the legislator's harangue as an anomaly, consider the organizations that bar atheists from membership — the Boy Scouts of America and American Legion, to name two, as well as some local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars — and the conspicuous absence of openly atheist politicians on the national stage.

Mindful of atheism's reviled reputation, a new current in non-belief is intent on showing the public what atheists are for. You might be surprised by what's on their short list. Because, save for the belief-in-a-deity part, it sounds a lot like what most Americans value. Care for one's community and fellow human beings, love of country and cherished American principles, the pursuit and expansion of knowledge — these are the elements of the new "positive atheism."

A new face


The reputation of atheists has not been well-served by the surly attacks on religion by some of atheism's highest-profile torch carriers. From the best-selling atheist manifestos of recent years to Bill Maher's new Religulous movie, the loudest voices of non-belief have exhibited much of the same stridency and flair for polemics as the religious fundamentalists they excoriate.

But if Margaret Downey keeps making progress with her campaign to show a different face of atheism, it's possible to imagine the day when avowing one's non-belief will not be political suicide. (It seems to be just that today, given that only one member of Congress, Rep. Pete Stark of California, has revealed that he does not believe in a deity; in view of polling data suggesting that some 5% to 15% of Americans are atheists and agnostics, it seems certain there are at least a few more non-believing senators and representatives in the halls — and closets — of Congress.)

Downey, having recently finished a stint as president of the Atheist Alliance International, is now organizing a non-believers' unity convention to take place in 2011. She is the poster person for positive atheism, a term she uses for a new face of atheism that emphasizes the good things in which non-believers do believe.

Downey does not move in the ways of the late atheist spokesperson Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who was known for her caustic mockery of religion and its followers. And despite Downey's friendship with the outspoken atheist author Richard Dawkins, of The God Delusion fame (who likens the religious indoctrination of kids to child abuse), Downey is more interested in building bridges than walls.

In an episode earlier this year in the Philadelphia area, where Downey lives, the stage appeared set for an atheist-vs.-Christian billboards shouting match: Downey and colleagues had posted a billboard on Interstate 95 saying, "Don't believe in God? You're not alone," prompting a local Christian congregation to erect signs with a counter-message promoting God. Instead of escalating the billboard battle, Downey and company asked those who put up the pro-belief sign to join forces and volunteer with them for a Philadelphia charity. The people from the Light Houses of Oxford Valley congregation accepted the offer and teamed up with the atheists to spend a half-day sorting and packaging food for the needy.

"My goal is to teach by example that we believe in the importance of helping improve the human condition," Downey says. "We atheists simply add one more 'o' to our belief system — we believe in good."

The spirit of positive atheism infused this fall's convention of the Atheist Alliance, which comprises nearly 60 U.S. atheist groups with combined membership of about 5,000. Attendees gave blood and had their hair shorn for use in cancer patients' wigs. At last year's convention, Downey presided over a baby-naming ceremony, where parents and their supporters exalted wisdom, love, honesty and the beauty of nature, and the newborns were given not godparents, but "guideparents."

The leader of positive atheism certainly is not above going to court to protect the rights of non-believers. But in a holiday-season episode last year, Downey and her free-thinking allies responded to a crèche and menorah in front of the Chester County Courthouse outside Philadelphia not with a lawsuit, but a display of their own — a "Tree of Knowledge."The 22-foot-high evergreen was decorated with color copies of book covers, the titles included the Bible, the Quran and numerous other works on religion, atheism and evolution.

When it comes down to it, the positive atheists aren't inventing something new so much as highlighting something that has long been true about atheists. Namely, that non-believers have always stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow citizens doing the things Americans generally do: working hard, obeying the laws, helping the needy and doing what they can to improve their communities.

Let's recall that invective from the Illinois legislator who could not tolerate the malevolent presence of — gasp! — an atheist in "the Land of Lincoln." Monique Davis' reference to the revered 16th president is instructive, although not in the way she intended. Lincoln's own story teaches a cautionary lesson to those who would exclude and condemn some Americans on the basis of their religion, or lack thereof.

Honest Abe's example

Davis might be surprised to learn that Lincoln himself was frequently attacked by politically active pastors in his time. As the author Susan Jacoby documents in Freethinkers, her 2004 book on the history of American secularism, presidential candidate Lincoln rued the opposition he faced from 20 of the 23 Protestant ministers in his hometown of Springfield, Ill. Earlier in his career, Lincoln complained about opposition from religious figures who warned Christian voters against him on the grounds, Lincoln wrote, that "I belonged to no church (and) was suspected of being a deist."

Lincoln — the man accused of insufficient piety in his time — is appropriately lionized today for his unswerving courage and moral clarity. Honest Abe's example strongly suggests that we all think twice before asserting that our religious camp has a monopoly on truth and virtue. And that we acknowledge that non-believers — who can be found all across the landscape engaging in acts of decency and battles for justice — are worthy citizens in a country whose Constitution imposes no religious test and whose tradition cherishes freedom of choice in all matters religious.

Yes, there is a place for atheists in the Land of Lincoln. Especially in the Land of Lincoln.

Tom Krattenmaker, who lives in Portland, Ore., specializes in religion in public life and is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors. His book on Christianity in professional sports will be published in the spring.

19 comments:

Steven Carr said...

'And despite Downey's friendship with the outspoken atheist author Richard Dawkins, of The God Delusion fame (who likens the religious indoctrination of kids to child abuse)...'

I guess that teaching children songs like 'Jesus loves me' is not child abuse.

Telling small children that they are such sinners that somebody needed to die because of their sin.

How can any rational person call that 'child abuse'?

brother sky said...

I appreciated the overall positive tone of the article, but honestly thought it was a poor quality piece. Mainly, it's the whole "Atheists (like Dawkins) are as polarizing, strident and extremist as the religions they criticize!" You hear this over and over again in articles, and I want to smack whoever got this ball rolling.

These "outspoken" atheist criticize dogmatic belief, and challenge the propositions that religions put forth about the nature of the world with good arguments and evidence. This is how discourse takes place, in all realms of society. Was MLK "strident and polarizing" in his uncompromising speaking out against racism? Is a classroom teacher "extremist" when she tells little billy that gravity is an inverse square law, period?

I wish more journalists would actually think about what their saying before they publish perspectives like this. How is an atheist like Dawkins supposed to be less-strident / extremeist / polarizing? By saying, "Oh yeah, religion might be true"?

Tony Lloyd said...

Well Micheal Ruse has issues with Dawkins' approach. Although the article doesn't express it as well as he does I think we need to allow the journalist to be less philosophically sophisticated than a professional philosopher!

How is an atheist like Dawkins supposed to be less-strident / extremeist / polarizing? By saying, "Oh yeah, religion might be true"?"

Well look to the problem with fundamentalist theists. Is it that they put forward the wrong opinion? I think not: it's that they combined a mix of authoritarian thought with an ethic that allows them to override others rights in the pursuit of "the cause". Dawkins does not actively subscribe to the latter (although there are plenty of his mind-set who have, do and will) but he most certainly subscribes to the former.

Let's be straight Dawkins has a naive-positivist-science-is-the-totality-of-all-knowledge philsophy. If you disagree with that philosophy Dawkins does not just think you factually wrong, but morally wrong and seriously morally wrong. If you merely argue that those who disagree with him are factually wrong but morally free to hold the opinion Dawkins thinks of you as an "appeaser".

How should an atheist like Dawkins act? By putting forward his ideas "hey, this is what I think" and not seeking to impose them "hey, this is what I think and I'm right and if you disagree then you are a danger to society, as are those people who even think that it is ok for others to disagree with me".

Steven Carr said...

SO Dawkins is quite wrong to say that people who tell children they will burn in Hell for their sins unless they believe in Jesus are 'a danger to society'?

In fact, there is not one morally wrong thing with telling a 6 year old child that he is going to Hell unless he accepts Jesus as his saviour, and you should think twice before taking the approach of saying it is morally wrong to tell children they will burn in Hell unless they repent?

jeremy said...

For what it's worth, I really don't think that Dawkins could sensibly be classified as a "fundamentalist" at all. (Not that this was necessarily what Tony was saying.) For one thing, his resistance is limited to books, interviews and debates - hardly the weapons of choice for fanatics. (If that's the sort of "fundamentalist" that atheism produces, hooray for atheism!) He may not always phrase things in the tone some people would like, but I can cope. I actually rather like it. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that he is unwilling or incapable of changing his mind on the subject (and quite a lot of evidence from his biological career of the opposite).

I actually think his approach may also be rather effective, seeing that the single biggest obstacle to overcoming religion must surely be the self-imposed wall of unreasonable "respect". My personal opinion is that if you are to stand any chance, you can't criticise these guys whilst still granting them their unreasonable amount of "respect". I'm also sympathetic to his argument that his criticisms aren't anymore "disrespectful" than negative reviews of other fields customarily are (e.g. restaurants, plays, movies). Perhaps even we get suckered into the "religious offense" feeling?

This is certainly a common criticism though, so maybe there is something to it after all?

Anonymous said...

Fundamentalist theists... combined a mix of authoritarian thought with an ethic that allows them to override others rights in the pursuit of "the cause". Dawkins does not actively subscribe to the latter (although there are plenty of his mind-set who have, do and will) but he most certainly subscribes to the former.

Any actual evidence for this? I'm struggling to see it on the basis of either his written works or his public speaking. I call bullshit, but perhaps you have some new sources that will show me wrong.

Tony Lloyd said...

Hi Anonymous,

I should have made it clearer that I am talking about being authoritarian about thought (the first condition) and not about being authoritarian per se (the second condition). As for where Dawkins says these things, one example is here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-dawkins/why-there-almost-certainl_b_32164.html

Scientists divide into two schools of thought over the best tactics with which to face the threat. The Neville Chamberlain 'appeasement' school focuses on the battle for evolution. Consequently, its members identify fundamentalism as the enemy, and they bend over backwards to appease 'moderate' or 'sensible' religion (not a difficult task, for bishops and theologians despise fundamentalists as much as scientists do). Scientists of the Winston Churchill school, by contrast, see the fight for evolution as only one battle in a larger war: a looming war between supernaturalism on the one side and rationality on the other

He's drawing the battle lines and it's not between people who would kill you and people you can have a discussion with its between:

"supernaturalism on the one side and rationality on the other"

If you believe what Dawkins doesn't you are not just wrong, you are so wrong that you are irredeemably irrational. And if you think that people can be reasonable and wrong: you're Neville Chamberlain.

Mike said...

"If you believe what Dawkins doesn't you are not just wrong, you are so wrong that you are irredeemably irrational. And if you think that people can be reasonable and wrong: you're Neville Chamberlain."

Horrible interpretation of what he said there. What he was saying is that if you are believing something without any evidence (and indeed in the face of evidence to the contrary) then you are being irrational (note the lack of the word irredeemably). He doesn't say anywhere that he is always correct with his applications of rationality, he just think that applying rationality is the best way to go.

If you think that believing rationality is the most appropriate way to approach understanding out world is "authoritarian thought" then screw it, I guess I'm authoritarian in thought as well.

Oh and Steven Carr, I happen to think its quite reasonable to suggest that telling children that they will burn in hell if they fail to meet the expectations of god is child abuse. It causes unnecessary suffering to the child: psychological child abuse.

Steven Carr said...

How can atheists say what they are 'for', when atheists have nothing in common except a lack of belief in a deity?

Stalin was an atheist.

So was Mao. So was Pol Pot.

Atheists have no more in common than sober people have in common with each other.

One group lacks a god. The other group lacks alcohol.

Neither group form a natural community of like-minded people.

Mike said...

Glad you are making more sense in that post SC. I think you are quite right to say that the term atheist is inappropriate for grouping people in any way other than to define their lack of belief. Secular humanism is a better term for the kind of "positive atheism" that the article mentioned (I think its been days since I read it and I can't be bothered to read it again).

Also, kudos to jeremy, good post I agree with you.

Tony Lloyd said...

Mike wrote: Horrible interpretation of what he said there. What he was saying is that if you are believing something without any evidence (and indeed in the face of evidence to the contrary)

"in the face of evidence to the contrary" I agree is irrational (assuming there is inadequate evidence "for").

"believing something without any evidence" is no sign of irrationality. We all believe huge numbers of things without evidence. ((Everything empirical we believe is believed on inconclusive evidence. That part of the belief not "covered" by the evidence is thus believed on no evidence.)

Reason deals with reasons, it moves from premises to conclusion. But it does not provide those premises. You have to get the premises from somewhere else. Dawkins holds that if you get your premises from supernatural (effectively anything that is not his conception of science) then you are not just wrong but an enemy of reason. Dawkins imposes his premises, which cannot be rationally derived (as premises are not derived from reason), and are not derived from evidence (derived would be proved, some are influenced by evidence but none are derived from evidence such that it would be irrational to reject them). This is authoritarian: you will think as I think (for no better reason than that Dawkins thinks so).

I'm going to put the irredeemably back in there (although wholly would have been a better choice of words). Dawkins is not saying that the Archbishop of Canterbury is "sound on evolution, dodgy on God". No: the totality of the Archbishop's viewpoints are "supernaturalist". More, Dawkins specifically rejects making a distinction between the cuddly-but-stupid Archbish and the not-so-cuddly Taleban/Christian Reactionaries/Sarah Palin (the last is cuddly, but in a different sense). It cannot be clearer: the goats of those who entertain the supernatural are on “one side”, the sheep of reason on the other, with plenty of illusions to world conflicts surrounding them.

jeremy said...

Tony, could you briefly summarise your issue(s) with Dawkins' opinions? Perhaps it's just me, but I'm finding it hard to see the core issue(s), rather than the peripheral ones. Do you just have a personal dislike for his aggressive discourse (an opinion to which you'd be entitled, like "I hate tomato sauce", but which would be just as uninteresting), or is there a more serious charge you want to lay?

Thanks,
Jeremy

Steven Carr said...

Tony Lloyd's summary is 'If you believe what Dawkins doesn't you are not just wrong, you are so wrong that you are irredeemably irrational. '

Guess what? Dawkins uses no such language in the Huffington Article.

'If you disagree with that philosophy Dawkins does not just think you factually wrong, but morally wrong and seriously morally wrong.'

Guess what? Dawkins uses no such language in the Huffington Article.


I guess the first thing to do when accusing Dawkins of ranting is to put ranting language into the mouth of Dawkins, whether he uses such language or not.

And, hey presto, suddenly Dawkins is ranting!

What does Dawkins say about these 'appeasers'? Does he salute these 'irredeemably irrational', 'seriously morally wrong people'?

'The Chamberlain tactic of snuggling up to 'sensible' religion, in order to present a united front against ('intelligent design') creationists, is fine if your central concern is the battle for evolution. That is a valid central concern, and I salute those who press it, such as Eugenie Scott in Evolution versus Creationism.'

Far from calling 'appeasers' seriously morally wrong, Dawkins says it is fine for those of them whose central concern is for evolution, and he salutes them.

I guess Dawkins doesn't think such people are 'seriously morally wrong', he in fact salutes them.

Of course, you can't expect Tony to take on board that Dawkins stance is anything less than ranting.

What fun is there in bashing Dawkins if you actually have to comprehend what he says?

Tony Lloyd said...

Jeremy,


Ok, ok, I have Dawkins “issues”!


It's not a matter of taste (his writing style is great) but mainly the question of a foundational basis and having read too much Popper.

Dawkins thinks we must have a basis. Now we all have loads of beliefs that we haven't arrived at but by a “basis” I mean a set of propositions from which all others are derived. Any “basis” in this, universal sense, must be dogmatic and unsupported. If it could be revised then it would not be a set of propositions from which all others are derived, as it too would be “derived” from other propositions. Neither can it be supported, it's the basis after all and as its universal there are no other propositions to support it. So if its to be accepted it is accepted “just because” and if someone (eg Dawkins) insists on us adopting his basis then he is insisting that we think like him “just beacause”. That's strike 1.


Strike 2 is that this is the problem with fundamentalist religion. The fundies want you to stone the teenage girl to death because the dogma says so. You would never even think of doing it without the dogma. But the dogma, which is the basis on which you decide stuff, overrides what you would normally do. It is not a case of bad people doing bad things but only religion causes good people to do things: it's dogma that causes good people to do bad things. Plenty of religious people do nice things. Plenty of atheists, for example the people under Pol Pot and Stalin do dreadful things. But the good people who do dreadful things do so because of some dogma (in the cases mentioned, because of some political dogma). It's almost a defining characteristic of a “bad” person that they will do bad things for no reason. Cut off the reason for doing bad, dogma, don't just swap dogmas.


If we miss dogma as a key evil in society, miss all those secular ways of turning good people bad. We also miss...well just leaving the harmless-but-deluded alone. By all means campaign against frightening kids with tales of everlasting torture but to equate all religiously motivated acts because of this is just plain wrong.


Strike 3: Dawkins' inability to see, what I think is, the real problem prevents us pursuing the real solution. Anybody who is against the dogmatic enforcement of belief is an ally. But Dawkins sees them as the enemy. Why? Because he thinks you should enforce belief, and enforce his (those who do not subscribe to his base views are “irrational”).


Finally: this turns it into a war. From the theist point of view Stephen Law is “harmless-but-deluded”. For Dawkins that isn't an option. How does Dawkins ask the theists to leave Stephen alone when he won't leave the people he thinks are harmless-but-deluded alone? His non-compromise stance leads the “opposition” into an equally non-compromising stance. Dawkins' view of things as a dichotomy pushes things into “total war” with either total victory or total defeat for one side or the other and, from "2" he's drawn the "sides" wrong.

Tony Lloyd said...

Hi Steven (Carr)

Tony Lloyd's summary is 'If you believe what Dawkins doesn't you are not just wrong, you are so wrong that you are irredeemably irrational. '

Guess what? Dawkins uses no such language in the Huffington Article.


Well he does use the word "rationality" and opposes it to theism. He doesn't say "irredeemably". As above, I think I should have used "wholly". This fits in with the dichotomy: you are either rational or you are anti-rational.

'If you disagree with that philosophy Dawkins does not just think you factually wrong, but morally wrong and seriously morally wrong.'

Guess what? Dawkins uses no such language in the Huffington Article.


I'm trying to draw the distinction between being incorrect-but-blameless or being incorrect-and-culpable. Let's go back to the discussion on evidence. If my reliable method for determining a fact suddenly becomes un-reliable I may be wrong - but I am only factually wrong. If a normally reliable clock, uknown to me, stops working and I determine by looking at it that it is 22:30 then I may be wrong, but I can hardly be blamed. On the other hand "justification" has a moral aspect. If I were a doctor and, instead of looking up the dosage of a drug, I just prescribed on whim then I would not just be incorrect about the facts I would be contravening a moral duty. Any time that our reasons are the basis for actions towards others we are in a position where there is a moral and not just factual way of being wrong.

Now does Dawkins think that theists have just got things mixed up? Does he think they have just made an error in reasoning or judgement? I don't think so, he says they are irrational. I think, and I think Dawkins thinks, that you should (in a moral sense) be rational if the consequences of your deliberations effect others. If you are irrational you are not just making a blameless error: you are bad.

And, again, on Dawkins' analysis you are seriously bad. He denies a distinction between the "moderates" and the loonies. The loonies are very bad indeed: if they are the same as the moderates (whose only crime is being, in Dawkins view, irrational) then the moderates (on Dawkins analysis) must be very bad indeed.

He may not have said it, but this is the entailment of his equation of supernaturalism with irrationality and his imposition of a dichotomy. If he does not agree with the entailment then, to preserve consistency, he must abandon either the equation or the dichotomy.

Mike said...

I'm sorry what?

"Reason deals with reasons, it moves from premises to conclusion. But it does not provide those premises. You have to get the premises from somewhere else."

You are missing something here. Yes you can make any premise you like and use reason to make conclusions from it, how is this helpful? I could propose that gravity on the moon is twice as strong as here on earth and then conclude how that would affect mechanics but if I have no evidence its still unreasonable to believe that this is true.

You also said: ""believing something without any evidence" is no sign of irrationality. We all believe huge numbers of things without evidence. ((Everything empirical we believe is believed on inconclusive evidence. That part of the belief not "covered" by the evidence is thus believed on no evidence.)"

Well for a start inconclusive evidence is not no evidence. Secondly if you want to slip into solipsism or radical skepticism or whatever the appropriate epistemological term is be my guest but it seems a tad unhelpful as it renders every knowledge claim utterly void.

I had a lot more to say but my friends have just got home so I guess I'll be back tomorrow.

Steven Carr said...

By the way, who are the 'appeasers' on the other side?

Who are the religious people clamouring for atheists to be allowed to speak on Thought for the Day?

Who are the religious people claiming that religious people must listen to atheists, and take on board their very valid points, and work closely with atheists on matters of education, and legislation?

Who are the religious people demanding that atheists have their own dedicated atheist programming on TV, the way that the BBC is compelled by law to make pro-Christian programmes?

Where are the religious people demanding that newspapers have 'atheist' pages , the way that the Times has a Faith page?

We all know that religious people are way more tolerant than Dawkins, so it should be easy to name a 100 relgious people who want to be 'appeasers' on these matters?

Tony Lloyd said...

Hi Mike:

Say I believe, on the evidence of weight in my hand, and a taste in my mouth and other stimuli that I am sitting in a pub drinking a pint of London Pride. The evidence is pretty good, but not conclusive. It could be that I am a brain in a vat being fed an illusion by mad scientists. If I had evidence that I was not a brain in a vat, not hallucinating, the beer wasn’t fake and all the things that stop the evidence I do have being conclusive then my evidence would be conclusive. As my evidence is inconclusive I believe that I am not a brain in a vat and all the propositions that render my evidence inconclusive on no evidence.

The search for basic evidence is in vain. I could search for evidence that I was not a brain in a vat (“E”). “E” would, however be believed on no evidence. Unless I found E1, which was evidence for E, but then E1 is believed with no evidence. Regresses have to stop somewhere, but the universality of evidence doesn’t allow it. Something is always believed on no evidence.

In one way you could propose that the moon is made of cheese. But this would be irrational, not because you don’t have evidence it is made of green cheese but because “the moon is made of cheese” contradicts huge swathes of your other beliefs. As you are (I’m assuming) unwilling to revise the bulk of your world view to accommodate the idea that the moon is a dairy product you cannot put it forward without contradicting yourself at some point.

As you say this does lead to radical knowledge scepticism: it is utterly impossible to have justified true belief. I don’t think this unhelpful though. Once we face up to it we can drop the futile search for justification, realise that reason is a limiting rather than positive force and make sure our thinking is within these restraints: ie that it is “reasonable”.

Hi Stephen (Carr):

And? It's not a straight choice: being critical of Dawkins doesn't hand everything to "the other side".

mike said...

"As you say this does lead to radical knowledge scepticism: it is utterly impossible to have justified true belief. I don’t think this unhelpful though. Once we face up to it we can drop the futile search for justification, realise that reason is a limiting rather than positive force and make sure our thinking is within these restraints: ie that it is “reasonable”."

If we drop the futile search for justification don't we immediately open ourselves to be suceptible to dogma the very thing you identify (correctly I think) as the real danger to society?

Also, I disagree with your strike 1 against Dawkins. Yes of course there is a base set of propositions which we cannot fully support beyond saying that they have been useful propositions in the past. But the goal of rationality (I may be using language poorly here as I'm out of my area) is to reduce the number of these propositions as much as possible. Just because the search for basic evidence will probably never finish does not mean it is in vain!

I also still disagree with you on another point. Yes Dawkins sees rationality and supernaturalism as being at war but that in no way entails that everyone is on one side or the other, or that they can't be contributing to both sides. When has that ever been the case in war? Yes anybody who is against the dogmatic enforcement of belief is an ally, while they are acting in that capacity. If they then go home and teach their children beliefs based on dogma then they are undermining their previous position and have become the enemy. In fact even just saying that some dogma is ok to believe because it is benign undermines the overall battle.

(this hasn't been proof-read and I have customers so my apologies if bits are non-sensical.)