Monday, October 10, 2011

New Atheism is a Passing Fad


article in first things that new atheism is a passing fad.

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.
first he points to the book Fifty Voices of Disbelief. It's trivial, the contributors are just the usual suspects, and what they have to say is said by atheists on message boards everyday on the net. There's nothing deep or new or hard to predict being said. It's all the same old ideological propaganda slogans. Of course it has to be the same old stuff because if it wasn't it would be off template. What do I mean by "off template?" Atheists on only think according to an ideolgoical template they learn form the echo chamber, constantly spitting back the same slogans on message boards. that's their standard of truth, on template is the definition of truth, off template is crazy wired stuff no matter how well supported it might be.

Yet the book that hails as the magnum opus of a movement is shallow and predicable.

Nicholas Everitt and Stephen Law recycle the old (and incorrigibly impressionistic) argument that claims of God’s omnipotence seem incompatible with claims of his goodness. Michael Tooley does not like the picture of Jesus that emerges from the gospels, at least as he reads them. Christine Overall notes that her prayers as a child were never answered; ergo, there is no God. A.C. Grayling flings a few of his favorite papier-mâché caricatures around. Laura Purdy mistakes hysterical fear of the religious right for a rational argument. Graham Oppy simply provides a précis of his personal creed, which I assume is supposed to be compelling because its paragraphs are numbered. J.J.C. Smart finds miracles scientifically implausible (gosh, who could have seen that coming?). And so on. Adèle Mercier comes closest to making an interesting argument—that believers do not really believe what they think they believe—but it soon collapses under the weight of its own baseless presuppositions.
The scientist in the book give the same indications of scientifically minded atheists on board who are unimaginative and totalitarian in their thinking, yet allow themselves to assume wild flights of fancy as proved fact while anything a believer thinks is just "unscientific and ridiculous."

Victor Stenger is the most recklessly self-confident, but his inability to differentiate the physical distinction between something and nothing (in the sense of “not anything as such”) from the logical distinction between existence and nonexistence renders his argument empty. The contributors drawn from other fields offer nothing better. The Amazing Randi, being a magician, knows that there is quite a lot of credulity out there. The historian of science Michael Shermer notes that there are many, many different and even contradictory systems of belief. The journalist Emma Tom had a psychotic scripture teacher when she was a girl. Et, as they say, cetera. The whole project probably reaches its reductio ad absurdum when the science-fiction writer Sean Williams explains that he learned to reject supernaturalism in large part from having grown up watching Doctor Who.
The great thinkers of their movement are no deeper than the rank and file. The author derides their constant triumphalist tone and their need to score cheap victories. Their conceptual understanding of theology remains childish and undeveloped. That would be because they think they don't need to read theology. It's enough to just insist that it's stupid and not learn about it.

As a rule, the New Atheists’ concept of God is simply that of some very immense and powerful being among other beings, who serves as the first cause of all other things only in the sense that he is prior to and larger than all other causes. That is, the New Atheists are concerned with the sort of God believed in by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Deists. Dawkins, for instance, even cites with approval the old village atheist’s cavil that omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible because a God who infallibly foresaw the future would be impotent to change it—as though Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and so forth understood God simply as some temporal being of interminable duration who knows things as we do, as external objects of cognition, mediated to him under the conditions of space and time.
The problem is the criticisms are just as predictable and samie as are the things being criticized. This is actually a book review, not an article about the passing of New Atheism. I think Atheistwach has it all over this book review because we have gone past these obvious observations about the banality of the New Atheist. We have delved into their psychology, cracked the secret of the organizing and their funding (at least part way), and systematized thier ideology. I don't see how their movement can last in the long run except as a subculture that feeds off of the disillusionment of former fundies.


billwalker said...

'god's dice are 'loaded'. Now Joe, you can write a 10,000 word treatise on this topic, which will give you something to do that few, if any ,will bother to read.

Metacrock said...

but they will all be reading your brilliant 2 line post. they all be reading your billion noble prizing wining 'I don't have to read stuff I know its stupid because the sec web says so."