here). In it, D'Souza makes an argument that I've heard him make numerous times before. So as not to mischaracterize it in any way, I'll quote from Dinesh directly...
"If you really don't know, than what do you do? Generally, you ignore it. I don't know if there's life on other planets. But I don't go debating guys who think there is. I don't know if there are unicorns, I don't believe there are. But I haven't written any books called 'The Unicorn Delusion', 'The End of Unicorns', 'Unicorns Are Not Great'...there is something about this new atheism, the aggression about it, and its obsession with God. One of my atheist debating partners, Christopher Hitchens, I think he probably thinks a lot more about God than a lot of lukewarm Christians. So there's an interesting thread that links belief and aggressive unbelief." (Bolding mine)
It should be noted that Dinesh typically gets a great reaction from the crowd when he presents this. In other words, the argument has been rhetorically effective for him. It almost seems to me as if he keeps it in his back pocket, for extraction at the appropriate time (often during the q&a period) when he most wants/needs the audience to feel that he's just had a brilliant insight into the very nature of the God debates. (But one that only he was smart enough to pick up on.)
So, what's my problem here?
Well notice, first off, that Dinesh began by making a case against agnostics ("if you really don't know...") but then flipped to making one about "aggressive" atheists. That's fine by me, in so far as it goes, but I do think it's worth noting that he uses this bit regardless of who his opponent is or what their specific beliefs actually are (and Ehrman is an agnostic, not an atheist).
Secondly, it seems to me that the thrust of D'Souza's point lies in the bolded statement above. I don't want to put words in his mouth but, to phrase it another way, he's essentially saying "why do unbelievers care about God so much?" "Why don't they just ignore him!" Bubbling just beneath these comments is the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) implication of a spiritual war, raging inside the heart of every infidel, an anger against God that results in their near obsession with destroying all things God related. Of course Dinesh never says as much, since he knows such a premise would likely be challenged, but this is how I would have taken his statements while I was still a Christian myself (and I suspect he intends for the believers in the audience to make the same connection).
But there is a fatal flaw in Dinesh's line of reasoning.
Can you see it?
Here's the thing...some unbelievers are fixated on God, but not unicorns, because belief in the former is pervasive and harmful (and belief in the latter is fringe, at best). As hard as it may be for Dinesh to believe, this is why they care so much about God. Many of the so called "aggressive" atheists feel that religion is holding us back, as a society, if not causing irreparable harm (or even the potential destruction of our very species, should the wrong people happen to get their hands on nuclear weapons).
There is a thread of truth to what Dinesh is saying though. People do often simply ignore things that they don't believe in. Most of us don't spend a lot of time trying to debunk the beliefs of those who think they were abducted by aliens, for example (although thankfully there are some, such as Michael Shermer, who do this for us). But suppose there were millions of people the world over, who insisted that we should be teaching our kids about the "truth" of alien abductions in elementary school...would Dinesh be o.k. with that? Or, if it were unicorns instead, would he stand idly by and allow belief in unicorns to invade the science class? I sincerely hope not. What if teachers were being pushed to "teach the controversy", about whether or not there really are unicorns? Or if scientists were being accused of having an institutional bias against further research into unicorns?
So, what Dinesh fails to see (or admit), is that actually people would write books called "The Unicorn Delusion" etc.. if in fact there were a unicorn delusion!!
But there isn't.
There is however a very large "God delusion", and therein lies the key to understanding this distinction that seems to puzzle D'Souza so.