For those not following the earlier thread, here are the links, both at Pharyngula:
and Asma (with a brief reply by Myers and a long Pharyngula-style thread).
It's an interesting discussion, and I think good points are made on both sides.
PZ is a friend and a great ally, but I don't entirely go along with him on this one, to the extent that I understand his viewpoint, because I don't share his (apparent?) view that the truth is always what most or ultimately matters. There may well be situations where other values can come in conflict with truth and may, in the particular circumstances, be more important. If that is denying a foundation of the Gnu Atheism, so be it (I doubt that it is, though: to the extent that there is such a thing as a "New Atheist" movement, it's probably quite diverse and has no party line on a topic such as this).
I'm interested in scrutinising the truth claims of religion primarily because I think these particular truth claims are important to me. If some religion or other can give me the sorts of things that religions typically claim to - eternal bliss, or whatever - it's worth checking how much credibility these claims really have. All the more so if they are likely to be false and buying into them can be a good way of ruining your one and only life. Furthermore, devoting some time to these questions is a service to others.
Secondly, however, I've come to believe that widespread social acceptance of the authority of various religions does a lot of harm. I think there is some urgency in challenging that authority in a forthright, high-profile way, not just in our own thoughts or in private conversations or obscure journals. So I'm an ally with any Gnu Atheist in that regard. But I don't necessarily think that all religions are equally harmful in all contexts, and given my particular motivation I do think it's worthwhile making distinctions and setting priorities ... and in discussing publicly and frankly which distinctions and priorities are important. Despite its sensationalist title (and remember, these are usually chosen by sub-editors and should not have too much influence on how we read what follows), I thought that Asma's original piece was mainly about doing that. Whether or not we actually agree with its content - something I hope to return to, since the thread over on the other post has some cogent criticisms of Asma - I think it makes a contribution to an important discussion about priorities, etc. Even if people make mistakes in the process of this discussion, their contributions may be of value.
Stepping back somewhat, yes, I'm interested in truth. But that alone would not have motivated me to be a forthright public critic of religion. What actually motivated me to become such a thing also motivates me to make distinctions, set priorities, wonder whether I'm making and setting the right ones, want to talk to others about it, and so on.
Stepping back even further, truths about the world are, by and large, very useful to us in achieving our goals, whatever they are. On this, I'm with PZ. In most cases, we can't know in advance which truths will prove useful, so it's kind of difficult pursuing some truths and not others (though there actually are some that I consider better not pursued - usually truths about ourselves as individuals that could tie us in knots if we worried about them and became too self-conscious).
I'm fairly ruthless in my own pursuit of the truth - it has taken me to philosophical positions that even many atheists find unpalatable - but truth is not the only value and nor do I assume that it must prevail in all circumstances. Perhaps PZ also thinks this, but some passages in his post suggests not and that we don't have the same motivation here. If so, that's cool with me. I'm happy if people have social goals that are similar to mine without sharing the totality of my underlying values and motivations.