On the heels of a recent issue raised by an atheist blogger, here's a timely essay by Abbas Razza of 3quarksdaily. It is a response to common criticisms against those who criticize religious belief.
What i'm particularly interested in is the author's response to the charge that rationality itself is just another form of religion, therefore, it should not claim any sort of superiority as compared to other faiths. As i understand it, the author explains that while it is true that, at bottom, rationality itself is based on a certain kind of faith, it is still valid to criticize religion on this basis. This is because rationality is sufficiently commonplace that it is able to provide a shared understanding which individuals of varying degrees of belief and unbelief can take advantage of in their communication with each other. It is a common benchmark that can be used to assess the quality of one's beliefs as demonstrated by the author in the following example:
"It is perfectly legitimate of Harris or Dawkins or Dennett to make an argument of the following sort to a religious person, 'Since you agree that sodium and chlorine combine to produce salt, and you agree that X, and you agree that Y, and you agree that Z, ... and you agree that such and such is a good method of deciding these things, and this thing, and that thing, and... then you should also agree that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old.'"
Of course if you take away this shared rationality, then the basis for such communication disappears.