Yours truly happened by a post[ link will be provided at the end] that decries the zealotry of New atheists. Since the author, Frank Furedi, a sociologist, author and commentator and a former professor at a university also identifies as humanist, yours truly, will assume we don’t have to bother ourselves with definitions and go into the heart of the matter. He begins his post by reminding us there was a time when it was dangerous to be an atheist, though, we there are places in this day and age where apostasy is punishable by death.
Where atheism was once depicted as a dangerous and subversive creed, today it is often portrayed as an enlightened outlook that perches on the moral high ground.
and this is where yours truly begins to see a problem. If the moral superiority he mentions is the demand that religions do not be given special treatment in the public square, or the claim that when the church and the state were in bed together, people were unhappy and miserable or that many lives have been lost in the name of religion- then atheists have a valid claim. Whenever it has been said that atheistic regimes have committed similar atrocities, the question that must be settled is whether this leaders killed or had others killed for their disbelief in the existence of gods for I think it is that question alone that atheism answers to. I could be wrong on this and I would like to persuaded that atheist regimes have killed others for not believing in god and if this is proven as true, then the atheists can have no high ground against the church they condemn.
But what is often overlooked is that the growing cultural affirmation of atheism has been paralleled by a big transformation in its meaning.
and I know you all want to know what this change in meaning reflects. He tells us
atheism takes itself very seriously indeed. With their zealous denunciation of religion, the so-called New Atheists often resemble medieval moral crusaders.
And how do they do this? It is by arguing
that the influence of religion should be fought wherever it rears its ugly head.
and this is partly true but doesn’t reflect the gamut of the argument. The argument here is that religion, any specific religion for example Catholicism cannot insist that assisted suicide, contraceptives or stem cell research shouldn’t be conducted because it is against Catholic doctrine. No! And it is this that those Frank identifies as NA decry and I think he would agree too. Opposing the clamour for special treatment of churches in the public square, for example tax exemption, doesn’t in any way make the atheists zealous. It is for the benefit of everyone that the public square be free of religious influence as much as is humanly possible for you never can tell which would be the next religion at the helm and whether they will approve of your brand of faith!
I don’t know how the arguments and claims of atheists verge on hysterical and irrational. To refuse to admit that religion causes harm is to ignore the testimonies of the many people who have left faith and have documented how the process of deconversion was painful and how they still feel the after effects of religion in their relationships.
His next issue appears is with the language adopted by New Atheists for he writes
the language used by atheist moral crusaders avoids the theological vocabulary of the religious. Instead, it prefers a more scientific-sounding narrative, demonising religion through the idea of medicalisation
and how do they do this? He tells us
In this vein, Richard Dawkins has described religion as a form of child abuse in his book, The God Delusion, and in other writings. He claims that instructing children about hell damages them for life. He claims that ‘religions abuse the minds of children’ and says ‘we should work to free the children of the world from the religions which, with parental approval, damage minds too young to understand what is happening to them’.
which makes yours truly wonder whether his problem is with Dawkins or New Atheists. That aside, I think, any teaching that leads to indoctrination whatever the source is not good for children. As a sociologist he must be aware of how hard it is to get people to change their thinking on matters such as religion or culture that were adopted in childhood when they were least able to analyse the questions in a rational way. It must be said there are those who for different reasons do not feel that they were damaged for good by religion but there are those who do and to deny this is to claim that those saying this are lying and I don’t think Frank intends to do that.
I think, Frank would agree that if one random fellow went to him with a narrative like the one found in the bible of a man living in fish for three days, would consider that person mad and would recommend counselling. The fact that these stories are believed by many people do not now change the position that it is similar to a delusion and if it is the language he has a problem with, I don’t know how we can help this. I don’t think he would have a problem with believing WLC to be delusional in believing there was a zombie apocalypse as described in Mathew and that another is in store for the future. Let us be fair to the New Atheists, whoever they are, for why should Frank while decrying them for using medical language in describing belief go ahead to quote persons who I guess are believers. He writes
Father Leo Booth, in his book When God Becomes a Drug, warns of becoming ‘addicted to the certainty, sureness or sense of security that our faith provides’. John Bradshaw, one of the leading advocates of the American co-dependence movement, has produced a self-help video titled ‘Religious Addiction’
Am actually at a loss here for what has this got to do with New Atheists or the claim that religion could be described pathologically? And if it is the language that is the problem, I would expect that he would be generous enough in showing us some light in how he thinks these matters would be addressed. I can hazard a guess that there will be a shift in how these matterss are handled. I know this is possible drawing from experience in how people living with AIDS/ HIV or disabilities are referred to now compared to not long ago when the language used to refer to such groups was out-rightly discriminatory and encouraged stigmatization in many societies.
Atheists are blamed for being selective on whom they express their ire against. He writes
[..]although it claims to challenge irrationalism and anti-scientific prejudice, it tends to confine its anger to the dogma of the three Abrahamic religions
and he is partly right but as I said before he ignores the fact that in most of the western world, to which I guess he gets all these atheist writings, it is the Judeo- Christian- Islam lot of believers that each of us are confronted with on a daily basis and it is these three that insist to have a say on every public policy wherever they are the majority. The Hindu community in my country is so small and so quiet one may actually think they don’t exist. They pose no threat to public harmony but if they did, I would write about it. Atheists have condemned the ongoing terror posed by Buddhist monks, in areas where they dominate, against muslim minorities. To want us to put the Vedas or the Gita in the same breadth with the Quran or the Bible is to be blind to the great divide between how the Easterners sees man and his place in the universe and the narratives by the Middle Eastern god. Yours truly should be found guilty as charged for preferring the gospel of Buddha to the New Testament any day.
I don’t know if what he writes about spiritualism and mysticism is true. He writes
Since the New Atheism is culturally wedded to the contemporary therapeutic imagination, it is not surprising that it has adopted a double standard towards spiritualism.
I don’t know about you, but as for yours truly, to talk about spirits and to talk about god fall in the same class. They are words that to me have no meaning. And don’t get me wrong, for a great number of people these words seem to carry so much weight. I just don’t see it that way, sorry!
When he mentions Voltaire, he ignores to tell us that he, Voltaire, when in 1761 published the Testament by Jean Meslier, published a a grossly distorted “Extract” that portrayed Meslier as a fellow-deist and entirely suppressed Meslier’s anti-monarchist, proto-communist opinions, a document that can be described as the first atheistic treatise in modern times and which was so critical of religion, all religions and its influence in the Europe of his time.
He is right that the idea of atheist temples is abhorrent to most atheists but to claim that atheists shouldn’t meet as the religious do is to be guilty of insinuating that, because we have rejected the idea of god[s], we no longer need communities. How could this be when we are just as human as the next believer except of course that we lack a belief in phantoms, ghosts and gods? Why deny our humanity?
I therefore don’t see how he could justify the claim that
in all but name the New Atheism has transformed itself not only into a secular religion but into an intensely intolerant and dogmatic secular religion.
unless he supplies us with what the dogma he refers to is and what rituals and associated practices go with it. Unless he can do this, we would consider a baseless attack on atheists.
He says, and yours truly agrees, that
As a humanist, I am distressed by the corruption of the idea of atheism
but this isn’t done by atheists simply because atheism answers to one question and one question only. Beyond the question of the belief in existence of gods, you can’t deduce whether I like eggs or not.
When he writes towards the end of his article
Genuine humanists are critical of the influence of creationism and of religious fanaticism. Yet while attempts to reverse the separation of church and state are always a cause for concern, the real challenge facing humanists today does not emanate from organised religion. Rather, it is now often secular movements that promote the idea that human beings are powerless, vulnerable and victims of their circumstances
am a bit at a loss for I don’t see how atheists are at fault here. I don’t know what secular movements promotes the ideas he mentions and I would like to be enlightened.
Again when he writes
So instead of the religious belief in original sin, today we are confronted with the therapeutic claim that children are easily damaged and scarred for life. All the old religious sins have been recast in a secular, medical form. People are no longer condemned for lust but rather are treated for sex addiction. Gluttony has been reinvented as obesity. And envy and avarice have been rebranded as illnesses brought about by our ‘addictive consumer society
I don’t see how atheists are at fault.
Since this post is already longer than they usually are, I intend not to say anymore but to quote Meslier writing about religion in 1725. He writes
I saw and recognized the errors, the abuses, the vanities, the follies and the evilness of men. I hated and despised them, but I didn’t dare speak of them during my lifetime. I will at least say them upon dying and after my death, and it is in order that they be known that I make and write the present Memoire so that it serve as a evidence in support of truth to all those who will see and read it, if they deem it appropriate.
And if Frank or anyone else is going to expect us to wait till our dying moments to point out the faults of religion as we see them in our days, he is grossly mistaken, especially, living at a time where at every corner there is a church and one can not surf through broadcast before he is bombarded with religious channels asking for your money or time for miracles to happen in your life. No we shall not be cowed and for this we can’t apologise. Accuse us of other crimes but don’t tell us to keep quiet!
How atheism became a religion in all but name