I have just heard Christopher Hitchens tell the BBC Politics UK program that
the job of the intellectual is to confront faith.
I admire Hitchens for his advocacy of secular, scientific and rational thought. (He calls himself a "anti-theist" rather than an atheist.)
Many people of faith regard it as important to try convince others of their ideas. (In some faiths, that is an essential activity of a believer.) The rest of us tend to be passive: after all, we believe in freedom to worship. But this creates an asymmetry: people of faith try to convert others, but those of us who do not believe do little to try to balance the argument. I am with Hitchens in thinking that we have to do more to confront faith. We should explain the origins of the supersitions that underpin religions, and use scientific evidence to challenge the claims. Unless we take on the argument, we risk losing it by default. Religion is not harmless, like astrology or Harry Potter books: it is a significant cause of conflict and individual tragedy.
A the Hay on Wye Festival last year, Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchen discussed the proposed blasphemy laws. You can download an MP3 (lasting 78 minutes) of their discussion here. (Thanks to Dave Hoatson for recommending this.)