Monday, 4 March 2013

Apparently New Atheism Is Dead, Again.

A much younger looking Dawkins.  He sort of reminds me of Bowie.
Back in January I commented about an article by Canon Ritchie, who works with a Christian think-tank in the UK, Decline of The New Atheists - (According to Canon Angus Ritchie At Least).

He was basically saying that those Mean New Atheists, who refuse to sit back and admire how nice religion is, are actually on the decline now.

No really, we're on our way back into harmless obscurity, curiosities really.  Back to being atheists who roam obscure halls of academia and fringe political groups.  The bright future is to contain none of this public New Atheism business.  Oh no! Atheism is becoming lighter and fluffier again and religion is safe.

Well, if New Atheism means speaking your mind and calling out bullshit when you see it, then I'm not really sure where Ritchie got this from.  Perhaps he thought that if he repeated this mantra long enough it would become true.

Well, another very similar article has materialized over at the Catholic Herald by blogger Ed West.  Now you'd think they'd have more important things to think about, like how their bishops and cardinals keep getting caught molesting children or sheltering pedophiles or being implicated in bank fraud.

Apparently, it's no longer cool to have harsh words for religion and the newer hipper generations think religion is all cool and stuff and that the Catholic Church is just fine.  No problems there.

Here's Ed West.
Amid all the warm words expressed by public figures after Pope Benedict announced his retirement one comment rather stood out. “I feel sorry for the Pope and all old Catholic priests. Imagine having a wasted life to look back on and no sex,” wrote Richard Dawkins on Twitter.
Even with the generally low standards of decorum on the site, the 71-year-old biologist’s comment caused groans.
I think Dawkins brings up a very good point.  Sex is great and it's a real shame the Pope and the old Catholic priests never had it.  Of course we keep finding out about their sex lives years afterwards when their cover is blown.  For the majority of priests and bishops we can only hope that if they did get laid it was with consenting adults, female or male - doesn't matter to me - and not with little children. Just sayin'.  If only some of these Church pedophiles could have just been caught with (legally aged) hookers like immoral politicians the world would be a better place.  Yes, if only they could be as good as cheating politicians.

I personally think that Dawkins' words could have been much harsher indeed.  In fact, I think he may have been restraining himself there.  I've heard much worse about this pope and would have a few choice words myself as well.

Decorum, eh?  Right, I think he was probably using too much decorum with the Pope and his priests in this case.  They deserved much less decorum than is possible within the 140 character Twitter limit.  But then the article gets a little weird.
Despite Dawkins’s continual attacks on religion, the basic premise behind New Atheism has turned out to be weak. Dawkins’s grand idea, set out in a 1993 essay, “Viruses of the Mind”, is that religion is essentially a parasite that spread in human populations that had no other way of handling the daily toll of misery and grief that was our lot until recently.
Okay, Dawkins had the whole meme theory, sure.  But unless I've misunderstood New Atheism, memes are not the basic premise behind the New Atheism.  What the hell?  Did I miss a memo here?  For me, the basic premise has to do with speaking out and calling out stupid theology bullshit rather than keeping quiet and playing along.  In other words, we don't believe the shit you're spouting and we're going to tell you our opinion. This cartoon from the Atheist Camel sums it up, I think.

(source: Atheist Camel)
Anyway, that was weird. The article goes on to mention some more concrete points - that the New Atheism is made up of mostly white middle class guys.  But this has been known for ages within the movement and it's been the case for longer than New Atheism has even existed.

He then quotes the Ritchie article I commented on back in January saying religion is on a rebound in Britain.  But he quickly follows up by saying it could also be the declining importance of religion in British culture.
Likewise, Christian campaigners on tax avoidance, debt cancellation and the living wage argue in secular language, playing down their faith.
Essentially, we have a situation here like that in certain very secular Scandinavian countries where people care so little about religion that a kind of apathetic vacuum arises where New Atheists would sound rather strident.  Atheists in these regions have a kind of neutered vestige of religion to fight against.  Or at least that's how I understand this part of the article.  You know, sometimes I think this is the case here in Canada and especially in Quebec where the culture has become very secular.  You seldom run into many New Atheists because religion is so weakened and nobody goes as far as call religion bullshit because that would be too impolite, rude or insensitive.

Anyway, in this article the primary thrust seems to be against Dawkins, Dennett and Harris.  Okay fine.  It's a fact  that new voices will come in and they will be eclipsed some day.  Already, Dawkins and Harris have met with some disapproval in the community due to opinions taken over issues like feminism, racial profiling and gun control.  And so what?  So long as New New Atheism continues to speak its mind and call bullshit when it sees it, I don't see a problem.

He goes on to quote a few atheist scholars who think religion isn't so bad after all and ends his article with a reference to the Sunday Assembly, an atheist church I've been covering for some time now on my blog.
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.
My response to the deeper questions part of this paragraph is as following: Blah blah blah.

Now on to the second part. Sunday Assembly and Alain de Botton's 10 commandments has nothing to do with religion.  Holy crap does that last statement get my goat.  The difference between a service at the Sunday Assembly and a regular Christian church really boils down to the second having 100% more bullshit in it than the first.  Think of the church going experience, the community, the awe and emotion as the "baby."  Now think of ridiculous unproven theological gobblygook as the "dirty bath water."  Let's throw out the superstitious nonsense and keep the fun.  Why the hell not?


  1. Ah, Ed West. Still as pretentiously inane as ever, I see.

    Seriously, the only reasonable reaction to anyone declaring that Richard Dawkins is some sort of shrill, spittle-spewing militant is to laugh out loud. The man’s one of the most cool-headed and polite-spoken people around.

  2. This made me chuckle as well, new atheism is dead. If anything the religious nuts are getting more used to people calling them out on their lies. Its not that atheists have stopped questioning, its that they are gettng used to defending there lies.

  3. GodlessPoutine7 March 2013 at 18:13

    Thanks for your comment, Christian. Yeah, they're wishing it to be true... wait a minute... isn't that praying?

  4. GodlessPoutine7 March 2013 at 18:14

    Sorry. My spam trap got this into its talons. Bad spam trap. I sometimes get the feeling Dawkins is not the most socially adept person... not that I am... but he's definitely one of the sincerest looking people I have seen. He appears cool-headed and polite as well.

  5. GodlessPoutine7 March 2013 at 18:15

    And he's married to Romana. I'm sorry, but that's the coolest thing ever.

  6. Ritchie and his ilk are like the wealthy but unpopular Aunt receiving apparently enthusiastic visits from previously unknown relatives to her hospital bedside - they either do not understand the reasons for their sudden rise in popularity, or they conveniently choose not to understand it.

    The huge rise in UK immigration in recent years has been from nations where religion is in general a far greater part of life than the UK; many Africans are Anglicans, while the huge influx from eastern Europe is in large part from Catholic countries, while much of the rest comes from Muslim populations, mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the European populations, those who would not have considered themselves particularly religious at home often attend churches to connect with others of the same nationality or to pay lip service to a homeland culture they feel understandably nostalgic for.

    Religious leaders welcome them with open arms while choosing to mischaracterise the rise in attendances as "resurgence" in the permanent populations interest in their brand of fairytales - none of which is borne out by census or surveys. The only growth in religious membership among UK passport holders that could actually be claimed would the rise in Pastafarianism (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) or the even more meteoric rise of Jediism.

    Yet week after week the airwaves are full of bullish talk from Cardinals, Archbishops and Mullahs intent on converting their new congregations into political and social capital, and in some cases government funding for religious schools to produce the next generation of unquestioning dullards. They make common cause because they know well that the best chance for a seat at the top table on the important issues of the day is the implicit threat to politicians from the power of the block vote at their beck and call - "the three line whip from Rome" as one wit commented before a parliamentary vote on abortion.

  7. Thanks for this comment, Mark.


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