enough already

“I think I am very close to concluding that this whole “New Atheism” movement is only a passing fad—not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and The Bridges of Madison County. This is not because I necessarily think the current “marketplace of ideas” particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in à la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys.”

— The first paragraph of a jolly splendid article by David B Hart, as flagged by this gentleman here. Do click and read the whole thing.

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4 thoughts on “enough already

  1. Well, there was certainly nothing new in the ideas – the only thing that was new was the overblown nastiness of the rhetoric, and the determination not to get to grips with any coherent/recognisable system of religious thought.

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  2. An interesting critique.

    Against my tribal impulse (I share the label “atheist” with them), I have to agree with the main thrust, as summarized in the bits I have read. The New Atheists – well, Dawkins and Hitchens, who are the only authors so-labelled whose work I have read – do not contribute any new or useful philosophical or scientific insight into the question of any god’s (non)existence.

    I find the “New Atheist” epithet worrying, in that it seems to suggest that it applies to any current atheist. In my experience, only a few (admittedly the most vocal) atheists approach religion in the pugnacious manner of Hitchens and Dawkins.

    One philosophically-inclined atheist whose writing I am currently impressed with – both for its tone and for its responsible approach to evaluating evidence and arguments – is Luke Muehlhauser, maintainer of Common Sense Atheism and host of the podcast Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot. (In the podcast, he talks to people from both sides of the theism/atheism fence – mainly philosophers and theologians – and gives them a fair opportunity to present their perspective. No attacks, no debates, just discussions and explorations of the ideas.

    I’m currently working through his “Ultimate Truth-Seeker Challenge”, containing 8 accessible books summarizing the best arguments for two competing theories of reality: atheism (4 books) and Christianity (4 books).

    Sure, I am not about to go do a philosphy/theology degree in order to fully understand the position of every religious person who may resent my rejection of their beliefs, but I think I am making an honest effort to engage the best, rather than the worst, of a variety of worldviews.

    What’s my point?

    Well, just that I tend to agree with you about Dawkins and Hitchens. (Though the former has some great science books, and the latter would make a great wordsmith if he would only turn his rhetoric on a target more worthy of his acid.) But they do not exemplify the best of modern atheism, either as a philosophical position or as a way of approaching life and one’s fellow humans.

    Nor do I, to be sure. But attacks on atheism tend to the same faults as Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ attacks on theism: they go after the easy targets, not the most plausible and thoughtful arguments on the other side.

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    • (Sorry Tim – this comment has been languishing in the spam folder for days and days – too many links i think – tend not to look at the spam very often, is the only reason it hasn’t been rescued before now!)

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