In my review of Richard Dawkins' new book, I tried to account for the tone and texture of his atheism – the attitude that is sometimes described as "bullying" or "hectoring". I suggested that Dawkins wrongly supposes that atheism requires or entails a blanket disdain for religion and all its works. [UPDATE: Mary Midgley makes much the same point in a letter to the Guardian today: "Dawkins sees no real difference between George Fox and Torquemada, between Rowan Williams and Osama bin Laden."]
A reader has emailed to remind me that there's a further, epistemological point that I could have made:
[It] is always interesting to compare Dawkins with T.H. Huxley - another Darwinian bulldog, but unlike our professor, very notably the inventor of the word 'agnostic'. Which is not to say he couldn't make his mind up but that he wouldn't - because that is the most scientific position to adopt.
And I see Norm is drawing a similar distinction between proselytizing atheism of the Dawkins kind and "open-ended" or fallibilist atheism:
You can be an atheist on the grounds that you've not yet seen (or felt) a compelling reason, piece of evidence or anything of any other sort to persuade you of the existence of a divine being. That is still an open and fallibilist form of belief. It's not the same as certainty of the non-existence of God; it's just an attitude of economy - not to accept the existence of entitities for which you can find no persuasive arguments or persuasive anything.