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An Open Letter to Michael Novak.

Michael Drake

Michael Novak recently penned a curious piece for National Review Online, "The Atheist-Civil Liberty Union," in which he speaks out against what he claims is an atheist agenda to ban religion from all of public life. The most charitable way to read his article, as I saw it, was as a parody of establishmentarian rhetoric.

Dear Mr. Novak,

At first I was a little put off by your article in National Review. I didn't get it. It couldn't be yet another banal exercise in atheist-baiting, I reasoned, since this was National Review, and, well, you're Michael Novak.

But, thankfully, now I do get it. And let me be the first to say: I find your ironic touch so refreshing!

For example, the way you playfully ridicule the vapid charge that atheists somehow all believe "public life in the United States must be made religion-free." I mean, what a delightful send-up of the establishmentarian's utter inability to cognize the elementary distinction between a restriction on government-imposed religiosity, on the one hand, and a mandate for government-imposed atheism, on the other. How droll!

And how you lampooned the hackneyed line that atheists have no ground for believing that the "events, phenomena, and laws of the world we live in cohere, belong together, have a unity." Very subtle, there, the way your sly omission generates such mirthful effect. (But are you entirely sure your readers at the Review will properly savor the deliciously-hidden presupposition that the relevant "ground" must somehow be provided by an invisible man living in the sky? Just wondering.)

In sum, then, your piece is just the most delightful badinage of those tedious types who opine on pressing moral, political and metaphysical issues, yet resist dealing with them in an honest, respectful or otherwise honorable manner. I for one say, "Bravo!"


Mike Drake


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