11 Jun 2010 Filed in: Cam
So. "New Atheism." What's the deal? What's the strategy? Why's it called 'New'? What does it mean for me?
I'm so glad you asked :)
The New Atheism is, as you might have guessed, a new movement in… derp… atheism. Atheism, as you know, is the positive belief that there is no God. The New Atheism, though, stands in contrast to what can be called the old atheism. The old atheism was aimed at religious tolerance, but in dislodging religion from the public. The idea is that religion has no place in policy making, verdict rendering, public schools, displays, etc. Apart from that, though, personal - that is, private - faith and religious practice were not targets. Private religion was tolerated, though seen as superstition akin to faeries and goblins.
Zip forward to just this decade and you'll see that the New Atheism is decidedly (and purposefully) different. Taken from newatheism.org, the definition of the New Atheism is:
Intolerance of ignorance, myth and superstition; disregard for the tolerance of religion. Indoctrination of logic, reason and the advancement of a naturalistic worldview.
What's to say to this but, "Wow" ?! Does that strike you as, uh, pretty rough? The defining characteristics are "intolerance" and "indoctrination?" They will tell you, though, that the reason that religion is evil is because of intolerance and indoctrination. This obvious (and indescribably frustrating) contradiction aside, let's analyze (break apart) this definition some more.
Intolerance of ignorance, myth, and superstition. This sounds pretty solid and confident, but look again. It is so absurdly rigid and absolute, that nobody ought to reasonably condone it. Do they really refuse to tolerate ignorance, myth, and superstition? I don't think that anybody could or should want to. First of all, it seems that an out-and-out intolerance of ignorance would lead to a lot of reading, since we can presume that we all suffer from degree of ignorance. To be intolerant of it is simply silly. The opposite of ignorance is total knowledge -- omniscience. So, really, only God could be intolerant of ignorance. What an asinine thing to say - intolerance of ignorance. Furthermore, intolerance of myth and superstition. What?! Really?! The word intolerance is just way too strong - it's inflated language (remember this, it'll be important soon).
Disregard for the tolerance of religion. Well. That's strange. I mean - okay. If you want to disregard tolerance of religion, but who cares if you do? I don't. At least I'm pretty sure I don't. This claim is weaker than it is intended to be because, really, who cares if these folks disregard the tolerance of religion. But it is telling, indeed. Remember this, it'll be important soon.
Indoctrination of logic, reason, and the advancement of a naturalistic worldview. Now, wait a minute. You can't just slam "uh…andanaturalisticworldview" in there on the end as though it follows reasonably from the beginning of the list. It might as well say "Indoctrination of logic, reason, and bananas." Simply bolting "naturalistic worldview" onto the list does not make it somehow co-equal with logic and reason! There's no (positive) guilt by association here, pal. A naturalistic worldview simply does not obviously fill out the list that begins with "logic" and "reason." Maybe "mathematics" or even "scientific investigation" would suit the list, but naturalism is a totally different thing than logic and reason. Think of it, if you were reading a recipe and it called for sugar, flour, milk, and rocks - you would be justified in questioning the last ingredient. Just because "rocks" is on the list doesn't make it food!!! But remember this, it'll be important soon.
So. Here's the important bit. The New Atheism is not (I repeat- NOT) an intellectual/academic movement. It piggy-backs onto the academic and intellectual world as a parasite. Consider this (remember the things I said to remember? They're important now). The definition of the New Atheism is not (and it's important to note this!) something like:
Propagation of the well-established truth of reality by all means of investigation: philosophical, scientific, ethical, intuitive, etc.
Notice, the definition says nothing about the truth! It looks nothing like, "We are going to do our best to figure out what reality is really like and then teach everybody about it." Rather, it says what it will and will not tolerate, disregard, and indoctrinate. the New Atheism is…wait for it…an attitude. And it's a poo-tinky one at that! It is self-righteous, hostile, arrogant, and bullying.
Imagine the stones on these guys! Intolerance and indoctrination - when carried out in the context of religion - are the most loathsome of acts. But these guys, they (alone) are allowed to indoctrinate and be intolerant, even though these are the VERY THINGS they stand against! My head hurts I'm so frustrated with this! "When anyone else does it - purest of evil, when we do it - height of enlightenment"
This is all I'm going to write about it now. In the next couple of weeks I'm going to write another installment on this topic - a Part Two - but for now, I'm going to stop thinking about it. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail them to me. I would greatly appreciate them as they will be very helpful for Part Two.
The last thing I will say is this, do not fear the New Atheist movement. It's like a big, scary lion with a loud roar and no teeth (or claws…thanks Whit...). Trust me in that and sleep well knowing that we are well grounded in our faith in Christ and that He has shown us the Truth. Pray for softness of heart for the New Atheists so that they can see it, too.