O’Leary looks at the spate of anti-God books and other promotions for the new Church of Atheism, and suspects that atheism was way more fun in the days when it was just a quiet, Godless Sunday at home.
Now, the church – as we all know – is the weak point of any religion. And when all you’ve got is a church – and remember, these people are supposed to be “beyond” belief – well, to me, that sounds a bit like getting married and finding out that you have no spouse but two mothers-in-law … and more too, if you want them!
Recently, spurred perhaps by the growing failures of materialism, materialist atheists have attempted to institutionalize their beliefs as a Church of Atheism. And they are full, chock full, of angst.
Put simply: Materialist science is in trouble. And the trouble does not stem from traditional religions, though materialists are – as one might expect – quick to blame their troubles on traditional religions and to reassure themselves that – despite all the evidence – traditional religions are doomed. But, materialists are also smug and thus cannot imagine or respond to any source of trouble arising from their interpretation of the evidence.
They have apparently decided instead to target the Christian religion as the source of their problems.
Goodness, it’s hard to think of a single reason for joining these people’s sect unless you have a lot of hostility to vent! And$30 billion from Bill Gates isn’t going to change that.
Actually, it’s hard to tell whether some of these people hate Christians more than they hate each other. Thus I would argue against any atheist getting involved with them, on mental health grounds alone.
As Jerry Adler’s Newsweek article admits, most theologians do not interpret blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as simply making a statement of that type, so most of the kids are probably doing it for a lark, but their atheist elders are deadly serious. Atheists don’t tend to have had many children, so they must recruit.
One thing I have learned from a lifetime in media is that most media people are unidirectional skeptics – they are very skeptical of non-materialism but not the least bit skeptical of materialism.
Two things follow: Journalists in the legacy mainstream media are regularly astonished by phenomena that better informed people might have predicted – for example the prevalence of religious belief in a high tech age.
In Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, as in the entire recent spate of atheist books, there isn’t a single new idea of any significance, as noted earlier. The two main things that the current crop of atheist books have going for them is the unperturbable certainty of their authors that they are conferring a great public benefit – a certainty that they uncritically project onto others – and the assurance of a good deal of flattering attention from the legacy media.
The flattering attention usually will usually not include references to the highly illiberal elements of the anti-God extremists’ message – elements that typically come to the fore whenever Darwinism is questioned, on whatever ground.
Ever since American Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi paid for his chair at Oxford in the Public Understanding of Science, zoologist Richard Dawkins has promoted atheism and an extreme form of Darwinism as the best way of doing science. In recent years, however, he has become best known for using his chair to promote atheism, rather than for promoting science ideas. His actual ideas, the selfish gene and the meme (a hypothetical mental variant of the hypothetical selfish gene) have not fared well under analysis, but no matter.
From what I can tell, Harris is misplaced among professional materialist atheists. As David J. Theroux notes, he has bought into a variety of New Age and Eastern beliefs such as reincarnation. That has subjected him to many materialist attacks. Remember, materialists “know” that there is no soul.
Harris’s dilemma has a simple explanation: He is in neuroscience, and he knows perfectly well that neuroscience does not confirm materialism.
Of course, some would argue, not every Darwinist is like that. Perhaps not, but it is a reliable indicator of the true state of affairs that the “moderates” tolerate the “extremists” quite well.
Indeed, the Beyond Belief conference makes the true direction quite clear: Those theistic or Eastern traditions that are willing to morph slowly into materialist atheism, treated as a religion can spare themselves many attacks by increasingly militant atheists, who have, in many cases, found public funding for their cause. Anyone who so much as wants equal time for evidence for non-materialist views faces a storm – made all the foggier by Christian clergy who wish to converge with the materialists. Perhaps such clergy hope to be eaten last?
Just what the beleaguered schools need. Caught between Islamic extremists, drug dealers, sclerotic administrators, antisocial unions, and irresponsible parents, they, um, need a whack of “anti-God” literature to mix into the swirl …
So far as understanding the anti-God crusade is concerned, the most useful thing to know is that the longstanding mid-twentieth century prediction that religious belief would wither away has been largely falsified.
While some clergy are content to reassure their congregations that going along with materialism (especially Darwinism) is okay, many thoughtful Christians and Muslims are getting the picture pretty fast. The threat is not an intellectual one, but a political one.
The underlying problem of accommodationist theistic evolution, of course, is the felt need to embrace Darwinism – and the materialism from which it springs. As I have suggested above, the most likely explanation, based on my encounters with theistic evolution accommodationists, is that they assume that materialism is basically true and that spiritual traditions must somehow accommodate themselves to its rule.
Put another way: Once you do think that materialism is not true, Darwinism is not true either. That raises the question of why any clergy should feel the need to sell “evolution” to their congregations, as part of their ministry.