Tomáš Halík is a Czech philosopher and public intellectual. He is also a Catholic priest. In fact, he was an underground priest during the Communist years, so he knows something about state atheism. I’ve been reading his wise new book, Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty (Random House 2012), in which he meditates on the possibility of Christian hope in the context of an increasingly post-Christian Europe. CLR Forum readers will be particularly interested, I think, in this passage, in which Halík discusses the relationship between state religious neutrality and state atheism:
Many people continue to confuse the desirable religious (or more precisely, denominational) neutrality of the state with a certain new type of state atheism. If atheism fails to be regarded as one of many “beliefs” and is exalted to the position or role of arbiter on the religious scene, it is capable of being even less tolerant than religion once was in the periods of history when it exercised political power. “Religious neutrality of the state” means a legally guaranteed space for religious freedom and plurality (including legitimate space for people who believe in atheism).