Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad discusses an interview in Salon with James Carse.
He (Carse) condemns Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for not being "historians or scholars of religion" and so "it's too easy for them to pass off a quick notion of what religion is."
This is a common argument; PZ called it the "Courtiers Reply". The fact is, when atheists engage with less sophisticated versions of religion, they're doing it because that's what people believe. Was Dawkins' aim to engage with esoteric, sophisticated versions of religious belief? No. Indeed, it's a pointless effort, because the apologist can simply keep moving their goalposts, and refusing to pin down exactly what it is they would expect the atheist to engage with. Carse's difficulty in defining religion in the interview is a case in point.
What these atheists do is argue with veiws on religion that people actually hold.
My first thought on reading this was "he's got a double standard there - he's not asking Christians to study sophisticated versions of other religions, to be historians or scholars of religion before they reject other religions".
But actually, what made me write this is that I realized it's worse than this. There's an even worse double standard.
"To be an atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not believing in. Therefore, if you don't have a deep and well-developed understanding of God and divine reality, you can misfire on atheism very easily."
Apparently, the meaning of atheism is lost on him, since, of course, we lack belief in any gods (unless gods are defined so weakly that the term becomes, essentially, pointless).
That's funny, because Carse is apparently attempting "to find some underlying unity to all religions".
His understanding of atheism is laughable. He also says:
"To be an atheist is not to be stunned by the mystery of things or to walk around in wonder about the universe."
So while he berates atheists for failing to have the sophisticated understanding that would come from being an historian and religious scholar, he can't even do us the courtesy of engaging with an everyday relatively unsophisticated version of atheism. Instead, he makes up his version of atheism out of whole straw.
That's an astounding double standard.