Until recently, mainline liberal churches – for instance, the United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and United Church of Christ – were the dominant religious force in American society, and as such, they didn’t have to explain much of anything to anyone in order to command respect. Obfuscation, rationalization, denial, worked just fine and served to protect their way of life. Now they’re feeling boxed in: bounded on one side by fundamentalists and on the other by the New Atheists.
Compare their situation to that of men during the women’s movement of the 1960’s. Intelligent, well-meaning, respectful, socially, conscious males were caught off guard, put on the defensive, made to feel they had a lot to lose. They could see that society was unfair to women, and some of them had had a sense of that all along, but little motivation or ability to change things. They system, after all, favored men, and the prospect of reorganizing it was scary. Scary for women, too, but women were highly motivated, as the atheists are today. Ultimately, the system would have stayed the same if a lot of men hadn’t come onboard, which happened in large part because many of these men and women depended on leaders – at least, not yet – but they do have a similar worldview and a common enemy: religious fundamentalism.
–Daniel C. Dennett & Linda LaScola, Caught in the Pulpit, pg 129