I would like you to pretend, for a moment, that you are an atheist.
Furthermore, I want you to pretend that a large atheist organization in another country . . . say, Ireland . . . had long ago set up a system of schools and orphanages. Then, imagine that a report has just come out saying that the people who ran those schools and orphanages engaged in a large amount of child abuse.
Now, I would like you to go to Planet Atheism and find blog postings that address a current report on a similar scandal involving Catholic schools and orphanages in Ireland. Imagine that they were, instead, written by theists in response to a report on the abuses found at these hypothetical atheist schools and orphanages.
I would like you to ask yourself how an intellectually respectable theist should cover news of such a report.
I would suggest that one of the rules the theist should follow is to make it clear that the abuses that these atheists may have engaged in imply nothing about the existence or non-existence of God. Nor does it allow anybody to infer anything about the moral character of those atheists who did not participate in this abuse.
It is perfectly compatible with the fact that these abuses occurred that there are other atheists in the world who abhor those abuses and are working to establish a different set of institutions where those types of abuses do not exist. You may want to assert that it is important that the people who created this report were also atheists for the most part trying to expose and end these abuses and reforming the organization that was responsible for them
It is a simple application of the maxim that one should do unto others as they would have others do unto them. The atheist should cover a report of this type of abuses in a religious institution (or of crimes committed by people who believe in God) in exactly the same way that they would have theists cover a similar report of crimes perpetrated by a group of atheists.
If you can cross out all references to religion, and substitute similar terms that would be applicable if the report was about atheists, and still be satisfied with the results, then one has engaged in a morally permissible form of reporting or blogging on this type of issue. However, if this substitution would result in a blog entry that would have been a morally outrageous slam against atheists, then we have reason to hold that the actual blog entry was a morally outrageous slam against theists.
One question we should seriously be asking at this point is, Why is it the case that we do not have reports of abuses at atheist schools and orphanages? Does this not show that atheists schools and orphanages are run by morally responsible individuals who simply do not engage in this type of behavior?
No. It is because there are no (or too few to mention) atheist schools and orphanages for abuses to take place in. Atheists do not even make the attempt to provide children with an education or to care for children who have lost their parents. Atheists leave these social tasks to the theists. They then complain when the theists engage in abuse, but they are not concerned enough to offer any kind of alternative.
The previous paragraph is not entirely fair. Atheists do support the education of children and care for those without parents (or whose parents were not fit to raise children). It does so mostly through the mechanism of the state, rather than setting up private charities.
Where atheists support private charities, they tend not to care whether those charities have an atheist logo. That is to say, they tend not to see helping others as a means of selling atheism. There is reason to wonder how much religious charity is motivated by genuine concern for others and how much is motivated by a desire to advertise to others – how much charity there would be if the charity was not also being used as a billboard for promoting the church.
Yet, this does not change the fact that there are very few free-thought orphanages and schools. There are very few schools that a parent can choose from where the teachers can freely discuss the philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God without state intervention. Where they can freely criticize creationism. Where they can promote skepticism about astrology, tarot cards, faith healing, and dozens of other superstitions. Where the students are not required to look at posters on the wall that say, "If you do not trust in God then you are not one of us," or have classmates daily pledge to view those who do not support "a nation under God" the way they pledge to view those who do not support rebellion union, liberty, and justice for all.
Why don’t such schools exist in numbers befitting the size of the free-thinking population?
If such schools were to come into existence, we can rest assured that those who would abuse children would likely seek to exploit those opportunities. Some schools will do a better job than others of protecting children, and news reports would start to surface of how abuse became rampant in some of those schools.
How would we want people to handle When those reports surfaced? What should theists say about this or that atheist school in which abuse and neglect became widespread? This tells us what atheists should be saying about theist schools in which abuse and neglect became widespread.
In the mean time, it is very easy to criticize where others try and fail when one does not try and thus has no opportunity to fail.