Quantcast

«

»

Mar 07 2013

Rumors of our demise are highly premature

Ed West is a columnist for the Telegraph who seems to have two claims to fame: he’s a Catholic anti-atheist, and he’s one of those people who seriously argues that being against racism makes you a racist and oh, aren’t those immigrants a pain in the butt? Not one of my favorite people.

He now has a column in which he claims that the New Atheism is dead…a remarkable assertion, given that what I see of atheism, new or otherwise, is lively and thriving. The corpse is still dancing; perhaps we’re going to have to rename it the Zombie Atheism?

But wait: on what grounds does West claim that the New Atheism is dead or dying? Maybe he has a good argument.

Or maybe not. Here’s how he backs up his argument:

  • Richard Dawkins is annoying.

  • Another guy who is an atheist thinks Richard Dawkins is annoying.

  • Nobody likes Sam Harris.

  • Dan Dennett agreed with Dawkins, which makes him annoying.

  • Hitchens didn’t appreciate religion enough, which made him annoying.

  • Religion isn’t going away.

  • Religion isn’t as bad as Dawkins claims.

…and that’s about it. You know, if you’re going to claim a movement is fading, I would think citing some numbers would be indispensible to bolstering the claim; crankily reciting your animus against a few people within it doesn’t quite do the job. I could tell you that the Pope is far, far more annoying than Richard Dawkins and supports odious policies that have done far more cataclysmically awful things to other human beings than Dawkins has ever done — and in fact that there seems to be a remarkable dearth of facts showing that Dawkins has done any harm at all — but I wouldn’t be so stupid as to claim that the unsavory nature of ol’ Ratzi means the church is in decline.

West is guilty of very bad reasoning, which I guess isn’t surprising given that he somehow finds Catholicism reasonable. Even if every argument he made were true (and most aren’t, or are matters of taste and opinion), they wouldn’t support his thesis.

But the core of his claim is simply that there are many forms of religion out there, and even many kinds of atheism, and that that somehow means religion doesn’t do harm.

Even to non-believers, the argument that religion is a damaging parasite seems implausible. In their everyday lives people see that atheism does not explain the fundamental questions and a godless world doesn’t make us happier or even more questioning. The popularity of the Sunday Assembly, an “atheist church” in Islington, or Alain de Botton’s “10 commandments for atheists”, reflect the growing belief in secular Britain that religion is not just a beneficial thing but perhaps an essential one. Perhaps that is why New Atheism is as dead as Nietzsche.

The Sunday Assembly is a comedy act: a ‘church’ run by comedians to mock religion with a bit of positive spirituality thrown in. It had about 200 attendees on its opening day, and while not something I’d care enough to attend or oppose, isn’t exactly a testimonial to the failure of atheism. Next he’s going to try and tell us that Brother Sam Singleton signals a return to our Protestant roots.

De Botton…well, I’ve said a few things about de Botton before. The most generous thing I could say now about him is that he is a very silly man. That some people want to wear glasses made out of stained glass says nothing about the health of the New Atheism, which is populated by people who have no interest in any form of religion. You might as well claim that the existence of Wiccans means Catholics have ceased to exist.

But my main objection would be that atheism does address fundamental questions about the universe and our place in it, and answers them honestly, unlike religion. The answers may not be consoling, but they have the power of being true, and truth is a better foundation on which to build a good life than lies. Do they make us happier? It depends on who you are, I suppose: they certainly make me happier. Does religion make us happier? Clearly not, I can imagine few greater sources of world misery than the awfulness of the philosophies behind its religions — and as he is a Catholic, I would wave the miseries and death promoted by Mother Teresa, revered as nearly a saint by his faith, as an example of just how truly unhappy believers in his religion are.

At least I can return a favor. Catholicism isn’t as dead as Jesus; it’s an animated delusion, as lively as a cadaver on puppet strings, and still poisoning the world with its decaying reek. Would that it someday join Jesus’ physical form as scattered dust. Be one with your lord.

66 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    smhll

    I could tell you that the Pope is far, far more annoying than…

    There’s no Pope today, and for a few days to come. I say we Party!!!

  2. 2
    glodson

    Can we rename it Zombie Atheism anyways?

    No, that’s a terrible idea. Religion is the zombie that eats the brains of people. Especially the parts that deal with reason and compassion.

  3. 3
    twincats

    Nietzsche is dead???!!? /snrk

    Along one of the few sparsely inhabited country roads left out here in SW Riverside county in CA, a new catholic church has sprung up called Blessed Theresa of Calcutta. You can practically hear them waiting for the sainting.

  4. 4
    unclefrogy

    I have this feeling that by declaring Atheism dead often enough that they think it will discourage more of their fellow coreligionists from questioning their religion. I think the more they do it, try to say Atheism is dead or dieing, is an indicator that more people are questioning religion.

    uncle frogy

  5. 5
    glodson

    Does religion make us happier?

    I go even further here. What is the function of religion?

    People told me it was a source of morality. Ask me about my days in the church and see how often I talk about moral guidance. Ask most of us former believers who had religion thrust upon as as children how much of that morality we have left.

    I know that I am constantly going through my own idea of morality and ethics to eliminate the toxic elements. Toxic elements that some want to build on.

    We don’t need religion for morality, and that is becoming apparent to many.

    How about happiness? What in religion promotes happiness? Christians, for example, might tell it does. The love of the lord is a great thing.

    Until you read the Bible. That’s abuse. It is a rather sickening kind of love.

    We know the function of religion. It controls people and generates money. It produces fear and hate and tribalistic nonsense. There’s a reason why a number of us former believers turn out to be antitheists when we finally shed the corpse of religion from our consciousness.

  6. 6
    David Marjanović

    I go even further here. What is the function of religion?

    I don’t even quite understand the point of its question. The question I ask, like Dawkins BTW, is: Is it true?

    As far as I can tell, it’s not. I can’t try to lie to myself.

  7. 7
    Rich Woods

    The Daily Telegraph has very, very few good things going for it. This is not one of them.

    They are desperately clawing for attention. Sadly, many newspapers are nowadays, but the Torygraph (sic) can usually be relied upon to present the establishment viewpoint. To make things worse, James Delingpole writes for them.

    —–
    No, I’m not providing links. My sanity quotient has a limit. Do your own research.
    —–

  8. 8
    Richard Smith

    Catholicism isn’t as dead as Jesus; it’s an animated delusion, as lively as a cadaver on puppet strings, and still poisoning the world with its decaying reek.

    Sunday service = Weekend at Jesus’s?

  9. 9
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    I feel happyyyy!
    I think I’ll go for a walk.

  10. 10
    Caveat Imperator

    And of course, all of the questions that religion appears to answer better than science or secular philosophy are questions of its own invention. Not that it ever gives good or consistent answers anyway.

  11. 11
    mythbri

    @Glodson #5

    How about happiness? What in religion promotes happiness? Christians, for example, might tell it does. The love of the lord is a great thing.

    It never was for me. Happiness was a goal, never a state of being. Because you’re human, and therefore imperfect – which means that if you’re happy, you’re not improving yourself. There’s always something about you that needs fixing. And really – happiness probably means that you’re too prideful, and we all know what cometh before the fall…

    So avoiding happiness is a defense mechanism. If there’s something that makes you happy that falls outside the approval of your religion, it’s not real happiness. It’s a trick. It’s a trap. It’s something – or someone – trying to lead you astray. Because true happiness cannot be found in this earthly existence. Happiness is a goal, not a state of being, remember?

    There are the things that “truly” happy people do – toil in the work of God. If you toil, and toil, and toil, and you don’t feel happy – well, there’s something wrong with you, you imperfect and lowly human. Who are you to question what God says makes us happy?

    And when you do question why you’re not happy, when everyone around you seems to be, it’s a threat. The illusion of happiness is so easy to obtain/maintain, and real happiness frighteningly difficult. Why would you hunt down real fruit when you can eat the wax stuff so easily? Sure, it’s wax, but it’s pretty – and besides, the real stuff might have worms in it. There’s no guarantees.

    So make the choice to live in a fake Eden, instead of risk losing the devil you know for the one you don’t.

    …..Wait…..

  12. 12
    cactuswren

    ” … atheism does not explain the fundamental questions” == “Why is there something instead of nothing? Who PASSED the laws of thermodynamics? HA! Gotcha, Atheists!”

  13. 13
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    Atheism isn’t dead.

    Herbert Hoover is dead.

    (too soon?)

  14. 14
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Nobody likes Sam Harris.

    No, too many people like Sam Harris.

  15. 15
    k_machine

    Happiness isn’t really the goal of Christianity though.. The whole point of Christianity is that life on earth is shit and is only a series of hoops you have to jump through to get to heaven. (See the Bible verses quoted here: http://supportedbythebible.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/bible-life-is-meaningless/) Christians like “mother” Theresa like to go on about how suffering is beautiful and this is because it is a sacrifice to god.. If the price is high, the product must be valuable is the backwards logic.

    Let’s say a biologist wakes up one day and realizes that he knows the cure for cancer. She only has to do one experiment with stem cells from one fetus and the cure is finished. According to Catholicism that biologist should not perform that experiment because of the absolute morality that comes from god says that taking a life is always wrong. More important than the massive relief of earthly suffering that curing cancer would cause is to get even one soul into heaven. Again, if the price is high, the product must be valuable.

    Another thing that annoys me is that Christians take this view like their religion has never done anything wrong, they are the avatars of all positive western values etc. They just blatantly ignore the history of the faith which is filled with the smoldering corpses of those who didn’t want to convert or those that didn’t believe in the trinity. They just ignore that the reason religion hasn’t played a big part in the worst of recent history is that society has been very secularized in modern history, leaving religions without power to do harm. I remember a while back I started watching this video of a TV debate program with Dawkins on Australian TV and first there was this woman who started going on about how Christianity was this wonderful purveyor of good. She says, sitting on land that was stolen by force from the aboriginals, complete with genocide and forced conversion.. I couldn’t watch any more.

  16. 16
    glodson

    @David Marjanović

    My point was that one could say that religion isn’t supposed to make us happy, but rather be a framework for morality. When I saw the question posed in the posting about religion making us happy, I thought about it as I would when I was a theist.

    I would have said the point of religion wasn’t to make us happy, as a progressive Christian. I would have admitted there was bad stuff in my religion, but that was okay as it was just myth. I would have ignored the bad stuff done so that I could keep my fiction.

    And I would have said that religion has a purpose in providing morality. Nevermind that I mostly ignored the Bible when it came to dealing with people.

    Religion isn’t true, but it still has a function. People don’t really take their moral cues from religion, as our morality has shifted over time while the books haven’t changed. Religion doesn’t make people happy, often it makes people unhappy over time.

    What’s left? I couldn’t think of another function for religion other than controlling people and making money.

    Atheism has a function. It removes the authority propping up religion. This is what I was trying to get at.

  17. 17
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re “happiness”:

    No, religion doesn’t offer happiness, nor promote it, nor is it a “goal“. Religion simply commands one to be happy. “You say something bad happened? Don’t worry, it was part of God’s plan. BE HAPPY, don’t be sad. God says so!”, is what they do.
    Somewhat a goal, “When you die, you’ll be happy, forever and ever (nevermind how painful it is right now)”

  18. 18
    jose

    This google trends graphic probably means nothing but it doesn’t look encouraging. Looks like atheism doesn’t care about new atheism.

  19. 19
    tfkreference

    Jose – add the term Dawkins and its a different story (still means nothing).

  20. 20
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    No, please not de Botton.
    Really, if you ask me, catholics can have him, gift-wrapped with a ribbon.

    But as they say in German: Totgesagte leben länger (those proclaimed dead live for longer)

  21. 21
    tfkreference

    “it’s”

    Of course the one time that autocorrect doesn’t add the apostrophe is the time when its presence is needed.

  22. 22
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    They just ignore that the reason religion hasn’t played a big part in the worst of recent history is that society has been very secularized in modern history, leaving religions without power to do harm.

    I dunno, seems to me that 9/11 and the resultant crusade in Afghanistan and Iraq are evidence that religion can still do some harm.

  23. 23
    Sastra

    According to the article, New Atheism’s major claim was that religion is a damaging parasite, unremittingly bad and with nothing to recommend it. But all you need do to refute that is find people who find some part of it useful, even beneficial. Thus, a more genial, tolerant attitude — one that recognizes religion’s “social benefits” and unique abilities — is taking its place.

    I think the writer misunderstands new atheism. It was never about claiming that everything connected to religion was completely horrible. Even Richard Dawkins goes to the cathedral to sing Handel’s Messiah. New atheism is basically grounded in the recognition that the broad category of religion contains many things that are unique and valuable … but those two categories do not overlap. What is valuable (the music, the community, the charity, the ideals) are not only found elsewhere, but are grounded not in some other world but in this one. And what is unique to religion is not true. If the claims about God and karma and angels and magic and souls and everything else falls, you don’t get to point to the other baggage and pick out the positive bits and insist that THIS is what religion is really about.

    No. It’s not. Especially not when the negative bits are all grounded in the false claims of fact.

    New atheism turns science on religion and treats god as a hypothesis. That is not going away because no matter how much people like West may try to distract himself and others, faith beliefs are empirical beliefs and they don’t stand up to scrutiny without “faith.” And we new atheists are no longer content to grant that faith is a virtue.

  24. 24
    Moggie

    perhaps we’re going to have to rename it the Zombie Atheism?

    Zombie Atheism: because we really like brains.

  25. 25
    jennifred

    Interesting how many comments on the linked article have been deleted.

  26. 26
    Ichthyic

    Even to non-believers, the argument that religion is a damaging parasite seems implausible.

    if that were true, which I’m sure you can find a small number of people to support that, it is our limited ability to communicate the argument in the face of thousands of years of religious privilege, not the premise OF the argument, that is the problem.

    religion is indeed, in great part (though it has other negative features as well), a damaging parasite. The premise of the argument is quite supportable when it is actually allowed to be made in full.

    often hard to get to that stage though.

  27. 27
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    If logic and reality operated in the manners this dude’s magical thinking would have them do, then there wouldn’t have been any (new) atheism to begin with.

  28. 28
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I don’t worry about the false concerns mentioned here. I do worry about the spread of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity in poorer countries. Religion feeds on ignorance and despair as well as perpetuating them.

  29. 29
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    He may be correct in saying that ‘new atheism’ – in the sense that it was the exclusive playground of middle-class white guys with limited interest in social justice (except where it served as the means of criticising religion) – is dead, since I’m feeling there’s a very different tone in the atheist community than there was five years ago.

    But he’d be wrong to assume that’s happening is a demise; rather, it’s an evolution, and what’s showing up now has no less interest in fucking religion’s shit up than ‘old new atheism’.

  30. 30
    James Stuby

    Just to make sure this is captured on the webiverse, comments on the linked article are closed now, and many have been deleted. Clearly the cannot withstand criticism.

    And in case any of linked catholics are reading these comments…

    COWARDS!

  31. 31
    brianwestley

    I had the highest-rated comment on there until a whole slew were deleted (and most weren’t in violation of the terms; I guess they’re just hypocrites). My comment only pointed out that the article was just a series of unsupported assertions, just like religion.

  32. 32
    Don F

    I loved reading the comments section:

    Guest
    Comment removed.

    Like

    3 days ago
    41 Likes

    Guest
    Comment removed.

    Like

    3 days ago
    in reply to Guest
    21 Likes

    Guest
    Comment removed.

    Like

    3 days ago
    in reply to Guest
    15 Likes

    Guest
    Comment removed.

    Like

    Nothing like a vigorous debate on the subject . . . .

  33. 33
    ck

    No, too many people like Sam Harris.

    No kidding. I’d have marginally more respect for the man if he’d at least own the vile opinions he implies in his writings without the continual rhetorical trick of “Oh, but that was just hypothetical! I wasn’t actually endorsing that.”

  34. 34
    rapiddominance

    At least I can return a favor. Catholicism isn’t as dead as Jesus; it’s an animated delusion, as lively as a cadaver on puppet strings, and still poisoning the world with its decaying reek. Would that it someday join Jesus’ physical form as scattered dust. Be one with your lord.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you believe that there really was a historical Jesus. Some atheists don’t hold to this view, but others (apparently like yourself) do.

    Not that that matters now. We’re talking about the supposed “death of New Atheism” and if anybody wants to start discussing the case for a historical Jesus then they need to run off and play in Thunderdome.

    Getting back to New Atheism–Have you ever seen a video where an airplane pilot loses control of his/her craft and the thing plummets to a fiery demise? Its interesting how before the crash happens you can just KNOW by watching that things aren’t going to end well, even if you don’t know that the plane is going to crash beforehand. Its different from watching stunt pilots at an airshow, because no matter how dangerous the stunts may seem a plane that is in control has a far different LOOK to it than one that’s out of control.

    OK, so there is something of a grey area of uncertainty (especially for non-pilots). Plus, good pilots can sometimes pull shit out their asses at the last moment.

    Do you FEEL like New Atheism is doing well?

  35. 35
    Nick Gotts

    We’re talking about the supposed “death of New Atheism” and if anybody wants to start discussing the case for a historical Jesus then they need to run off and play in Thunderdome. rapiddominance

    How exactly is it that you get to tell the blog owner where he can discuss what? You’re not this “God” fellow by any chance?

  36. 36
    Argle Bargle

    Do you FEEL like New Atheism is doing well?

    Yes.

    Simple answers to silly questions.

  37. 37
    Ichthyic

    Have you ever seen a video where an airplane pilot loses control of his/her craft and the thing plummets to a fiery demise?

    you know what burns even faster than crashing airplanes?

    strawmen.

  38. 38
    alexmcdonald

    @31: They’re just numpties over at the Cat Holic Herdal. Here’s their http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/privacy-policy/

    LINKING TO OUR SITE

    You may not link to our site without our prior written consent.

    Same for being an atheist in the comments section. No prior consent — no comment, you damn sinner you.

  39. 39
    Ichthyic

    You may not link to our site without our prior written consent.

    ROFLMAO

    “You may only gaze upon us with our permission. AVERT YOUR EYES, HEATHEN!”

  40. 40
    rorschach

    Do you FEEL like New Atheism is doing well?

    I feel that New Atheism at this point is like someone who has just finished spring-cleaning their home: Taken out all the old garbage, cleaned the dust out of the cupboards and gotten rid of some really putrid rancid stains on the walls and in some corners.
    So yeah, doing well indeed.

  41. 41
    Ichthyic

    Getting back to New Atheism–Have you ever seen a video where an airplane pilot loses control of his/her craft and the thing plummets to a fiery demise? Its interesting how before the crash happens you can just KNOW by watching that things aren’t going to end well, even if you don’t know that the plane is going to crash beforehand. Its different from watching stunt pilots at an airshow, because no matter how dangerous the stunts may seem a plane that is in control has a far different LOOK to it than one that’s out of control.

    Joey… you like movies about gladiators?

  42. 42
    rorschach

    So now if we could only stop talking to the neighbors and to mum and dad how awful that particular shitstain in the toilet smelled, or how much garbage there was to clean from the garden shed and instead focus on how nice it looks and smells after the cleanup, we could all move on.

  43. 43
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Even to non-believers, the argument that religion is a damaging parasite seems implausible. In their everyday lives people see that atheism does not explain the fundamental questions and a godless world doesn’t make us happier or even more questioning. The popularity of the Sunday Assembly, an “atheist church” in Islington, or Alain de Botton’s “10 commandments for atheists”, reflect the growing belief in secular Britain that religion is not just a beneficial thing but perhaps an essential one. Perhaps that is why New Atheism is as dead as Nietzsche.

    What Ed West fails to understand, along with almost every religionist, from what I can work out, is that absolutely none of the above matters. They have a damnably irritating habit of failing to distinguish between something being desireable and something being true, resulting in the sort of argument from consequences that West uses here.

    Religion is a parasite, it does cause human misery, a lack of it certainly makes me happier, and the fact that religion has somehow laid claim to gatherings on a particular day doesn’t actually make it theirs. But it doesn’t matter. It could turn out tomorrow that moral absolutes are a thing and that religion is absolutely required for human health, happiness and morality; but it wouldn’t make religion true. Evidence, religious types, evidence! That’s the thing that, if not the thing that makes something true, at least the thing that proves it to be so. Provide some.

  44. 44
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @rapiddominance

    Plus, good pilots can sometimes pull shit out their asses at the last moment.

    Much like you, apparently, though admittedly you had more time to prepare said excrement. Judging from the quality of your post, I do not think you used that time productively.

  45. 45
    anubisprime

    Just when an organization really needs a step-up in act and coherent and cogent rhetoric with excellent convincing aspects backed by impeachable evidence to their argument and laid bare and easily accessible to the audience…they can only manage this rather damp sticky and noxious mewling whining squib.

    Even the desperation leaks through in greasy patches, when in doubt and consternation the religious only have one tactic, personal attack, they have nothing else!

    It is not new Atheism that is dying…it is old and credulous oratory designed to morale boost a rabble of a shoddy, nauseating and odious religion that is ever so determined to slip into the warm embrace of bubbling stinking tar from the pit!

  46. 46
    richardelguru

    You could have stopped at “a columnist for the Telegraph” and not lost much from your argument (good though it was).

  47. 47
    Roberto Aguirre Maturana

    New Atheism is dying indeed, but not for the reasons Ed West believes. New Atheism is dying because it’s been replaced by a better form of atheism, one where Sam Harris fascistoid ideas, Christopher Hitchens defense of Bush and torture after 9/11, and Richard Dawkins huge blind spot regarding his own privileged position as male in a patriarchal society has demonstrated that it is not enough to fund a social movement in atheism alone, because the lack of belief in God is not a sufficient condition to be a good and tolerant human being. New Atheism is dying, because it’s evolving into Atheism+. And that’s a good thing.

  48. 48
    Louis

    New Atheism issn’t very new. Unless you are thinking geologically.

    New New Atheism is being joined with (optional!!!!) other rationalist concepts of pro-science, pro-Enlightenment ethics etc.

    Happy days!

    Louis

  49. 49
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    I don’t want to be a New Atheist anymore. I’m going to be a Rude Boy like my da.

  50. 50
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    Let’s hope so, Roberto.

  51. 51
    esmith4102

    “atheism does not explain the fundamental questions and a godless world doesn’t make us happier or even more questioning. …religion is not just a beneficial thing but perhaps an essential one.”
    These are points Mr. Ed West should be preaching to the Rwandan survivors of the genocide attempt, in 1994, in which religious leaders participated in the extermination of thousands.
    At Richard Dawkins site, the Foundation of Reason and Science, there is a post explaining the rising rate of atheism among the Rwandan people. It, yet again, refers to the age old problem of why does a beneficent god allow such horrors? In Rwanda, catholic officials actually participated while the god of the innocent passively stood by. Who in their right mind could accept any “god” as uncaring and impotent as the christian god of the Israelites? BTW, any reasonable person should ask the same question when visiting a children’s cancer Hospital.

  52. 52
    Sastra

    esmith4102 wrote:

    Who in their right mind could accept any “god” as uncaring and impotent as the christian god of the Israelites? BTW, any reasonable person should ask the same question when visiting a children’s cancer Hospital.

    Depends on what you mean by “right mind.” I think a lot of intelligent people manage to slip around this problem by applying a clever sleight-of-hand in the way they think. Modern theodicy relies heavily on category confusion. When today’s ‘sophisticated’ believers look at great suffering they often don’t like to frame it in terms of God’s deliberate punishment or negligence — thus seeing a hypothesis-destroying conflict between God’s presumed omnipotence and omnibenevolence.

    Instead, they consider “God” to stand in the same place as the concept of “Good.” “How can you still believe that God exists?” turns into “How can you still believe in Goodness?”

    That’s a different sort of question. It’s basically the same question atheists answer when people ask “if there’s no God and no eternal life and final justice, then why not be a suicidal nihilist? Why bother living? ” We answer by bringing up things like compensations, inherent value, lessons, appreciation, and progress — all the reasons life still matters to us even when there is no God to “save” us.

    They’re doing the same thing. They’re making the same argument. Only they’ve somehow managed to twist this process around into a defense of a God which looks like it’s not there to save us. From what I can tell, it’s a positive attitude taken from one category (we should strive to keep on believing in the value of goodness) transcribed into a positive attitude in another category (we should strive to keep on believing in the existence of God.) Once you’ve done this I can see why you’d think religion was “essential.”

    A faith-based approach encourages just this sort of sloppy thinking. It also promotes the idea that doing this is deep and insightful. West’s faith that religion makes us “more questioning” is nonsense. And saying that at the same time he is dismissing serious questions is a fine example of what it is to be clueless.

  53. 53
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Roberto #47

    New Atheism is dying indeed, but not for the reasons Ed West believes. New Atheism is dying because it’s been replaced by a better form of atheism, one where Sam Harris fascistoid ideas, Christopher Hitchens defense of Bush and torture after 9/11, and Richard Dawkins huge blind spot regarding his own privileged position as male in a patriarchal society has demonstrated that it is not enough to fund a social movement in atheism alone, because the lack of belief in God is not a sufficient condition to be a good and tolerant human being. New Atheism is dying, because it’s evolving into Atheism+. And that’s a good thing.

    Not really, because those things aren’t New Atheism. New Atheism was a term coined to describe Atheists actually willing to stand up and say what a bunch of crap religion is. Harris being an Islamophobe, Hitchens being pro-torture and Dawkins being occasionally a bit of a dolt has nothing to do with it; those things are politics.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “Dictionary Definition” atheist who believes that any self-described Atheist Blog/publication etc. isn’t allowed to touch on Social Justice or anything. Your atheism probably has an affect on your politics, I know that’s true for me. But there’s nothing wrong with ackowledging the difference, especially when the failings of a few self-ackowledged New Atheists are being used to make out the philosophy as a whole is bad. T-foot and his pals are New Atheists… they just also happen to be misogynistic douchebags. I’m a New Atheist… I’m also a Liberal with a centre-left political lean. Neither I nor he, nor Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris are indicative of the whole.

    Atheism+ isn’t a new form of Atheism. Atheism is Atheism, it’s a lack of belief in Gods. A+ is a label, a declaration not only of your lack of religious beliefs but also of your political beliefs. It’s a way of saying you are an Atheist, and a Liberal, Feminist, Humanist, Pro-choice, pro-GLBT rights, Pro-minority rights etc. It’s a label to tell people what you are as well as what your are not.

    I agree with the A+ position and I agree with you that it being more widespread is a good thing. But I don’t think it’s replacing new Atheism, I think it’s adding to it. A+ is a whole, well-rounded philosophy; New Atheism is just one facet of that philosophy.

  54. 54
    Rey Fox

    Have you ever seen a video where an airplane pilot loses control of his/her craft and the thing plummets to a fiery demise? Its interesting how before the crash happens you can just KNOW by watching that things aren’t going to end well, even if you don’t know that the plane is going to crash beforehand.

    Would you even be watching the video if it was just a pilot flying an airplane in a completely routine and safe way?

  55. 55
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    #54 is why Pharyngula needs like buttons.

  56. 56
    rorschach

    thumper1990,

    New Atheism was a term coined to describe Atheists actually willing to stand up and say what a bunch of crap religion is.

    Not correct. “New Atheism” is the term for those who approached questions of religion from a scientific point of view, it is the realisation that claims of the supernatural can be approached like any other claim, with the means and tools of science. New Atheism kicked NOMA in the gonads and said to the religious “show us your work”.

    Hitchens being pro-torture and Dawkins being occasionally a bit of a dolt has nothing to do with it

    You do tend to paint with a broad brush, don’t you. Nuances (or facts) are not your thing, I can see.

  57. 57
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Rorschach

    In that case I’ve misunderstood the term, my apologies. And OK, “Dawkins occasionally being a sexist dolt such as his letter “Dear Muslima” which denigrated the concerns of women in the West through that old cliche “Someone somewhere has it worse”". My apologies for not being specific enough.

    Do you actually object to any of my thoughts on A+ and the “death” of New Atheism?

    As for painting with a broad brush, and nuance and facts not being my thing; what exactly are you basing that assertion on? Is it just this post, or have I said something you don’t like in the past? I don’t recall us ever having a disagreement.

  58. 58
    David Marjanović

    You may not link to our site without our prior written consent.

    The stupid! It burns!

  59. 59
    Rich Woods

    You may not link to our site without our prior written consent.

    It seems alexmcdonald is going to hell. Send us a postcard…

  60. 60
    corkscrew

    The Sunday Assembly is a comedy act: a ‘church’ run by comedians to mock religion with a bit of positive spirituality thrown in.

    Couple of points of order:

    1) The Sunday Assembly isn’t as a comedy act. Although its primary speakers are both comedians, that just means they give very catchy sermons. They’ve explicitly stated that the SA as a whole is not intended to be ironic.

    2) The speakers actively try to avoid mocking religion, because frankly that kills the mood. The guest speaker last Sunday was actually a fairly devout Christian, talking on the subject of charity. He gave a very good talk on getting angry about injustice which would have warmed the cockles of the average Atheism+er’s heart*.

    The overall feel was that they’re not out to beat religion; that will be a completely unintentional side-effect.

    * “Atheism” is to “atheist” as “Atheism+” is to ???

  61. 61
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Not only are contradictions not a problem – that they occur in the Bible, just as in purely human works, suggests that they have a reason to be present. ISTM that their presence is a hint that perfect self-consistency is not necessary for the Bible to be a Divine message. Inconsistency is frequent in the Bible – God contradicts His own words on several occasions; this is very valuable, because it is a caution that God is not static non-self-contradictory perfection, but a dynamic, active Person, Whose freedom extends to being free from the logic of His own words. The Biblical portrayal of God would be much the poorer, if it were perfectly self-consistent.

    Could this possibly be any more circular? Any further from argument or closer to wishful thinking?

    Wow. This is every bit as much ridiculous as the extended arguments you sometimes see that take a form similar to, “Some of the Koran is poetic, but then there are places even in the poetic sections where there is no consistent meter, rhyme, or other devices to carry the poetic feel forward. Therefore, instead of being bad poetry or prose inexplicably interrupted by sing-song voice, the Koran must be the most perfect literature ever: only God could create lines that fail to rhyme in the middle of a poem or thumpy speed bumps creating an annoying washboard-rhythm in the midst of a body of prose!”

    Of course, what you see above is highly simplified and in no way representative of how truly **sophisticated** are the arguments for divine authorship of the Bible and Koran – based on a perfect author’s contradictions and flip-flopping styles, respectively.

  62. 62
    jonjermey

    If New Atheism is dead, who are all the people whose comments on the post they felt it necessary to delete?

  63. 63
    usagichan

    corkscew @ 62

    * “Atheism” is to “atheist” as “Atheism+” is to ???

    decent human being?

  64. 64
    ck

    If New Atheism is dead, who are all the people whose comments on the post they felt it necessary to delete?

    I could argue that New Atheism is dead because it never really existed in the first place. The term was basically imagined up as a way to express anti-atheist sentiment without appearing completely bigoted by pretending all Old Atheists were somehow completely respectful towards religion with good, sophisticated arguments. The truth of the matter is that there have always been a number of people who weren’t afraid to call a spade a spade, and that the claims of the pious are plainly false. Maybe there’s more of these people among atheists, and maybe there is not.

  65. 65
    ck

    and that the claims of the pious are plainly false.

    should be: “and flatly state that the claims of the pious are plainly false.”

    I gotta stop dropping words.

  66. 66
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @CK

    Don’t worry, we got it :)

    You raise an interesting point though. Rorschach corrected my definition of New Atheism above to “the term for those who approached questions of religion from a scientific point of view, it is the realisation that claims of the supernatural can be approached like any other claim, with the means and tools of science.”

    With that definition in mind, how exactly does one become an Atheist in any other way? Surely every Atheist throughout time has looked at the claims of the religious and gone “Well, where’s your evidence?”. As Rorschach said, “Show us your work”. When everyone else around believes God(s) exist, I don’t see how else you could come to the conclusion that they don’t. In which case “New Atheism” isn’t “New” at all. It’s just Atheism.

Comments have been disabled.