Recently (in the past day or so in fact) I have come across 2 articles about our world Post-Atheism. I think a better description would be Post New Atheism.
Either way, back in the early 200o (post 9/11), the combination of both the horrible religiously driven events and the fairly recent ubiquity of the internet helped fuel a sort of irreligious revolution in the western world. Spearheaded by the so-called 4 horsemen (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Danial Dennett and Christopher Hitchens), the previously esoteric cohort of higher education begun to explode in numbers. To the point now that the irreligious are thought to be one of the largest untapped cohorts in the United States alone.
I use the term irreligious as a catch-all for anyone in the secular spectrum, being that I don’t expect people to adopt labels that they may not feel are fitting. I also don’t use the term Nones, because that seems a silly term to be throwing around in an intellectual environment. Not that it has stopped people like Dawkins though.
But moving on, it has been close to 2 decades since the events of September 11th, and the birth of Nu-New-Atheism. And some are saying that it is time to move on. Time to move into a post-atheist world.
I have to agree. Having already more or less adopted such a mindset in terms of my personal self, it’s about time that the rest of the world and the cohort caught up.
New Atheism has increasingly become an unintended parody of the religiosity it is supposed to be trying to defeat. Which is severely retarding its ability to fulfill that original purpose in many ways. It’s time for a reboot.
That was my condensed take on the subject. I will now switch to the article.
We’re now in the age of post-atheism, and not a moment too soon.
The Utopia That Never Was
If the study of science and history teaches us anything, it’s that everything has a lifespan. Organisms, species, and even civilizations originate, develop, thrive, and then die out. The universe itself will someday expire through heat death. So welcome to the age of post-atheism.
I believe the word that the author is looking for is entropy.
Not really a criticism. More, a helpful hint?
In the aftermath of 9/11, atheism seemed like a great idea. The new millennium was supposed to represent a fresh start, where we would apply skepticism to all the old beliefs. Science and reason would replace religion and superstition, and the world would be a better place.
However, the problems of the world are a lot more complicated than they seemed in that moment of crisis. We can argue all day long about whether God exists, and we’ve been doing so for over a decade; not only did religious belief refuse to go away, but blaming all the world’s problems on religion turned out to be just as self-serving, simplistic, and erroneous a dogma as any religious belief.
I feel inclined to swap out Atheism in the opening sentence with Nu-New Atheism But at the same time, I can’t help but think that using the word Atheism to describe the ideology that it has devolved into recently is wrong. New Atheism could be applied here, but I know for a fact that this practice long predated New Atheism. As much as I love this speech from Madelyn Murray O’Hair, I can’t help but think she is engaging in some of the same rhetoric. The whole Atheism First mentality that still permeates American Atheists, and really, much of the cohort as a whole to this day. Pissing away the potential of an entirely new voting block due to its reluctance to embrace a label.
That is not rational.
I suppose that the pre-2000’s version of garden-variety Atheism is not all that different from what ended up taking off in the New Millennium. Both were destined to become unintended parodies eventually.
White Men Tell Us Things
Our celebrity atheist spokesmen have plenty to answer for. The Four Horsemen initially inspired us to think about religion critically, but gradually we realized we were getting sold more than books and tickets to high-profile debates; we were also buying into a right-wing mindset. The New Atheists were providing intellectual cover to the War on Terror and Muslim-bashing. They derided feminists, and applauded academic hoaxes intended to discredit critical theorists. They’ve touted the work of racist pseudoscientists and declared that philosophy is a waste of time. For people who supposedly champion critical thinking, they sure believe some wacko stuff themselves.
I still struggle with this, really.
It started with the infamous Bill Maher/Sam Harris V. Ben Afflick show some time ago. There was a lot of reactionary outrage on both sides, lots of black and white arguments made. They are racist, they are not racist.
I used to be on the side of Maher and Harris. But I have since withdrawn entirely from the debate. Meaning that I don’t take any side.
Being around philosophy types has helped make many things more clear to me than they ever were before. Conversations like the one above are often chalked full of WAY more moving parts and nuance than is recognized. And the supposed thinkers that have become famous and well respected also often seem to miss (or ignore) the grey areas. I have yet to have ONE New Atheist that I formerly respected that does not fall into this trap.
Could this be why they so dislike philosophy?
Even their pro-science rhetoric turned out to be problematic. The two-dimensional positivism they peddle is like the Model T of philosophy of science, a construct that went extinct around the same time as did the passenger pigeon. Scientific inquiry is in hock to corporate and military interests: pop-science TV shows like NOVA and Cosmos are sponsored by Samsung, Chrysler, FOX, and the Koch Brothers. Are these institutions that value freethought?
Though I have nothing to add or say about the statement, I have to bring one thing up. The word Freethought.
These words annoy me. You often see people use labels like freethinker despite obviously only applying the logic it entails to one area . . . religion. Ideological Atheism that mirrors religiosity, conspiracy theory, identity politics . . . the only one that counts is religion!
I had to say it. Its why I, for the most part, don’t take anyone that describes themselves with a buzzword (freethinker, logical, rational, reasonable, nuanced etc) all that seriously. In a nutshell, you do not have to tell me or anyone else because we will know.
In a nutshell, you do not have to tell us. We will know.
Let’s Be Reasonable
The most dire problems we face today aren’t religious: anthropogenic global warming, income inequality, systemic racism, our vulnerability to terrorism, gun violence, corporate influence over our government, denial of reproductive rights for women, and various other intractable matters. The idea that religion will disappear if we insult enough strangers online, and then all our problems will go away, is magical thinking of the highest order.
But they’re your hours, so pass them as you will. If the God-is-God-ain’t matter still seems important to you, have at it. But that’s stale stuff.
More or less what I have been trying to say for a while now. As the planet burns, we are trying to sell the passengers black t-shirts.
To my way of thinking, it’s more important to look at our own beliefs and biases, and subject them to the same scrutiny we’ve spent years and years applying to those of religious people. We need to take an honest look at the way we conceptualize science and approach knowledge; we need to examine our society and the inequities that still exist; and we need to acknowledge that there are philosophical assumptions involved in how we define history and humanity that deserve skepticism.
There’s no God. Let’s move on.
Could not have said it better.
It’s nice to see that at least a small part of the digital universe has started to wake up and smell the coffee. Well, has become comfortable enough to share these feelings publicly. But we have a long way to go. As evidenced by many of the comments under the article.
And possibly in this comment section in the future.