Secularizers in America have had a rough go of it. "Robert Ingersoll died yesterday. Perhaps he knows better now," mocked The Charleston News and Courier in memory of Ingersoll, the 19th century's most rabid Republican and apostle of agnosticism. Atheist firebrand Madalyn Murray O'Hair had some success with the Supreme Court and a few rousing appearances on Donahue but never had a prayer in the court of public opinion. She wore as a badge of honor the title "the most hated woman in America."
In this century, the brightest lights of so-called new atheist movement—Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens—had to be borrowed from Britain. Sam Harris, our own hometown boy, turns out to be something of a Deist and a crank. Lately, he's taken to picking fights with his long dead freethinking forbear on the other side of the Atlantic, David Hume, for having had the bad manners to notice that it's awfully difficult to get to "ought" from "is."