Ron Rosenbaum has a good note on that crappiest of all trends: Neo-atheism.
I would not go so far as to argue that there’s a “new agnosticism” on the rise. But I think it’s time for a new agnosticism, one that takes on the New Atheists. Indeed agnostics see atheism as “a theism”—as much a faith-based creed as the most orthodox of the religious variety.
Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence—the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence. (And some of them can behave as intolerantly to heretics who deviate from their unproven orthodoxy as the most unbending religious Inquisitor.)…
Why has agnosticism fallen out of favor? New Atheism offers the glamour of fraudulent rebelliousness, while agnosticism has only the less eye-catching attractions of humility. The willingness to say “I don’t know” is less attention-getting than “I know, I know. I know it all.”
Funniest of all is the neo-atheists childlike faith in “Science” – which tells us things that aren’t true all the time. The science of Copernicus’ time told us that the earth was at the center of the universe. And Copernicus was afraid to publish his more advanced views because of what those university scientists would do to him.
Science, in many instances, is just the first stab at things. It is like the blind man feeling the elephant. When he first takes hold, he thinks an elephant is like a snake, because he began at the trunk. Later, he finds out how very, very wrong his first findings were. Science is wrong for hundreds of years before they finally get it right.
Note the Global Warming debate, in which we were told that science had all the answers, and we had better get in line. But “science” did not have all the answers, in fact, they mostly had the wrong answers.
But since Dawkins is one of those “scientists”, it all comes down to a demand that we worship Dawkins and his friends instead of God. And somehow, on a psychological level, I think this is what it is all about.
Like I’ve said before: all this neo-atheism is simply a political movement, an allergic reaction by the sad people who read the New York Times and believe everything they read, to the NYT claim that fundamentalists are taking over the world.
The new Atheism is also an anti-intellectual movement, in that they fervently believe in history that never happened. They cut and shape and mold history until it fits their needs, then they present it as real history. Or, they pick through 2,000 years of history and find the nasty bits, and bring them to your attention. They tell you that all of this nastiness is not caused by human nature, but by religion. This is cherry picking and this is deceptive in the extreme. This is deeply unscientific and is revolting.
On the other hand, Just because one goofy scholar says one goofy thing in a book does not make it so. Yet, they search out these offbeat statements and present them as “Modern Scholars say…” Well, as we have seen, modern scholars are usually on the far left, and you can’t trust anything the far left tells you.
And what do they tell you about atheism? They claim that throughout history it has been noble and scientific and just and pure. They just forget that the only time atheism was given widespread application (Communism) it murdered 100 million people, and produced the most repressive, horrible regimes known to man. Ah, but that, they say with a straight face, was just another religion. So anytime atheism does a horrible thing it becomes religion.
And these are the scientific people?
They also take things out of context, for propaganda purposes. They love to complain about the Old Testament. Yet, when you read the old Testament as a whole, and understand it, you aren’t able to draw the lessons they draw from it. They rely on the ignorance of their listener to get their message across. And surely that is the worst of their several intellectual conceits. They live in the realm of the propagandist. Nothing less. Nothing More.
Rosenbaum discusses the childishness of most of what they say:
This is—or should be—grade-school stuff, but many of the New Atheists seemed to have stopped thinking since their early grade-school science-fair triumphs. I’m thinking in particular here of the ones who like to call themselves “the brights.” (Or have they given up on that comically unfortunate term?) The “brights” seem like rather dim bulbs when it comes to this question. It’s amazing how the New Atheists boastfully stride over this pons asinorum as if it weren’t there.
You know about the pons asinorum, right? The so-called “bridge of asses” described by medieval scholars? Initially it referred to Euclid’s Fifth Theorem, the one in which geometry really gets difficult and the sheep are separated from the asses among students, and the asses can’t get across the bridge at all. Since then the phrase has been applied to any difficult theorem that the asses can’t comprehend. And when it comes to the question of why is there something rather than nothing, the “New Atheists” still can’t get their asses over the bridge, although many of them are too ignorant to realize that. This sort of ignorance, a condition called “anosognosia,” which my friend Errol Morris is exploring in depth on his New York Times blog, means you don’t know what you don’t know. Or you don’t know how stupid you are.
Perhaps worst of all, they pretend that science and religion are matter and anti-matter, and the two simply cannot exist in the same universe. But throughout history, many of the great scientists have been men of faith. According to the neo-atheists, this should have so addled their brains that it should have been impossible for them to walk upright, let alone figure out the mechanics of the universe. But it didn’t. The notion that the two are unalterably opposed is an unscientific conclusion, just like the rest of their dogma.
Almost all serious historians of science admit that the church was the great benefactor of science, not its enemy.
So what are the Neo-atheists? Well, they are rabble rousers. Hitchens, for example, has made a living out of rabble rousing for years. They seem to take particular delight in denigrating other people. Sneering is a finely tuned art in their world. In fact, that seems to be the whole reason for their existence.
New Atheism offers the glamour of fraudulent rebelliousness, while agnosticism has only the less eye-catching attractions of humility.
Yes. It is all fraudulent, isn’t it? After all,they don’t have to construct an entire civilization and make it work, as Christianity has done. All they have to do is utter calumnies against those who have created such a civilization. It’s fun, it’s free, and you can do it on a Saturday with your friends.
It’s a fad. It’s something to do.
Like the Hula Hoop.