Thursday, 17 January 2013

Decline of The New Atheists - (According to Canon Angus Ritchie At Least)

Angus Ritchie (source)
So we've got an article in Salon.com asserting that Religion may not survive the Internet.  And then there's the rise of the Religious Nones in North America.  It sort of seems like the world is becoming less religious - at least in an organized way.

We've got massive opinion shift away from the Church towards supporting gay-marriage.  A sickly Irish Church having to import their priests from abroad and an anaemic Anglican Church going through ridiculous contortions of their own rules to boost clergy numbers and heading for a potential schism.

All the churches are going empty in places like Quebec and we find the Church boosting campaigns to try to bring people back.

I like to read articles from religious websites as well - to get the other perspective.  If it mentions atheism or secularism you can bet it'll be caught by my Google filters.  Enter Canon Angus Ritchie, who works at a Christian think tank in the UK.  You'd think things would look dismal for him, what with his own Church potentially facing extinction.  Well, not so!

The world's leading Anglican newspaper, Church Times proclaims: New Atheists in decline!
Religious arguments are gaining ground among secular philosophers, as theology achieves more intellectual credibility, says Angus Ritchie
Richie is the Director of the Contextual Theology Centre in the UK.  It's a think tank that does thinkytanky stuff that is likely designed to confuse the good sense out of people - but that's just my own unsubstantiated theory.

And if you wish hard enough, it shall be so!  I guess there is no bound to which reality-contradicting information can be believed, but it gets better.
From the start, the tone of these anti-religious polemics suggested weakness rather than strength. New Atheism is best understood as a response to the persistence of faith, not its decline. This explains its tone of increasingly angry bafflement at the fact that people continue to believe and practise.
Yes, speaking out and demonstrating that there is no proof for a god suggests weakness rather than strength.  So the fact these new Atheists aren't happy to live their lives silently without criticizing religion or demanding sufficient evidence for religious claims really proves that this whole atheism thing is really on the decline.
It is worth noting just how much Professor Dawkins and his kind need to prove. To justify the exclusion of religion from the public stage, they need to show not simply that religious belief is open to question, but that it is intellectually indefensible.
Holy shifting of the burdan of proof, Batman!  "These New Atheists really have a lot to prove saying religious belief is intellectually indefensible.  How dare they challenge us by stating their opinions!" Sheesh.

And nobody is suggesting the wrenching of religion from the public square.  They are simply requesting a place on that square and that religion be kicked off its pedestal of privilege to a level where it must defend its reality claims like everyone else.  What is being suggested is that religion lose its privileged position of power in politics and in the state as well.

Quite the contrary to what's being charged, the New Atheists desire to expose religion in the public square as being what it is - unsubstantiated, misguided and often a harmful hindrance from real social progress.
THERE are signs that this changed reality is beginning to filter through to the New Atheists - but it is a slow process. Earlier this year, Dr Williams and Professor Dawkins discussed the origins of the universe at a packed debate in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. If Professor Dawkins's claims were correct, he should have been able to show theism to be risible. Not surprisingly, most of the intellectual pressure was flowing in the opposite direction.
And this is what makes this article hilarious to me.  They are talking about how the New Atheists are in position of weakness, but the entire gist of the article is about how Religious arguments are gaining ground among secular philosophers, as theology achieves more intellectual credibility.  Like a creationist trying to boost his position by pointing to real science, Mr Ritchie seems to be pointing out how philosophers and schools outside of the Church are suddenly beginning to take theology seriously. And there are signs that this changed reality is beginning to filter through to the New Atheists.  Oh would it be so!  Because what the Church needs now to save it is a little more love from the atheists.

Theology hasn't changed but atheists have become more organized and more vocal.  The only reality that may have changed is the one Mr Ritchie sees through his Church-tinted glasses.

2 comments:

  1. I don't know much about Ritchie, but frankly, the Anglican Church is just one step behind the pervasive atheism, with only a few bits of crap held together with scotch remaining. This is why a considerable number of Anglicans have defected to the RCC where things are looking pretty bad, but are improving (and by improving, I don't mean this in the statistical sense: most Catholics are about as Catholic as a doornail, but traditional Catholicism is indeed seeing growth; as more "liberal minded" Catholics defect or have less or no offspring, and as traditional Catholics have their 8 children, it's only a matter of time that a shift in proportions will translate into a bounce from the dip, although perhaps not a leap).

    Furthermore, I see no reason why Dawkins and Co. should be defended. There are far better atheists to consider that that intellectually decrepit bunch. That they happen to be making the most noise or having some effect on the losses among the faithful (I don't know, seems like a difficult thing to measure), that's about as useless an indicator as any. The culture is stupid, and you can get a roiling mob to believe anything through propaganda, whether the content is true or not.

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  2. GodlessPoutine21 January 2013 13:05

    Thanks for your comment Bob.

    My parents are Latin-goin' Traditionalists and it's shocking to think things are going back to that. Well, maybe it will drive more people out since they'll be showing their true colours and only the extremes will be left or flock there.

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