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The new atheists: Santa’s sleigh came and went, and never gave them what they needed

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In The Ottawa Citizen, Robert Sibley advises

From New Age cults to murderous fundamentalism, these are dark times for religion, and the ‘new atheists’ are in the ascendant. The problem with their movement is that they don’t understand the source of their hostility … (December 26, 2008)

Oh? In the ascendant? In the legacy mainstream media, maybe, but not in the world at large.

In fact, this year – for the first time in a long while – I noticed a decisive pushback against their efforts to stop people from saying “Merry Christmas!”

Be a Christian, don’t be a Christian, … it’s your choice. But December 25 is Christmas Day. In Canada, both December 25 and December 26 are statutory holidays – and pretty popular ones, too, so you need to keep that fact in mind if you intend to try litigation. No one is going to thank you for forcing them to work on one of those days, if they are not in an essential service field.

Anyway, I don’t think the new atheists’ movement is really going anywhere because what they don’t have is any important new ideas.

I mean, once you get past Richard Dawkins explaining to Ben Stein in Expelled that space aliens might have created life – but not God – or Lee Smolin’s zillions of flopped universes, theirs are not new ideas that we can compare with, say, the discovery of neuroplasticity in the brain.

Now THAT was a discovery – oh my heavens, what a discovery! Just think of all the old people who realize that they are not consigned to involuntary senility after all! But that discovery did not help materialist atheism one bit. Neuroplasticity makes way more sense if your immaterial mind is real and directs your brain.

Which reminds me: What discoveries would have helped materialist atheism? Here are some:

1995: It is conclusively proven that there is a single gene switch that causes people to be gay or straight. Soon after, the single switches that cause people to be fat or thin, faithful or unfaithful to their partners, and liberal or conservative in their voting patterns are quickly found.

1996: It becomes impossible to determine whether one is communicating by keyboard with a human or a chimpanzee.

1998: Major science geek gets Nobel Prize for discovering the God gene, which causes people to be religious.

1999: It becomes impossible to determine whether one is communicating by keyboard with a human or a computer.

2000: A rogue module is found in the brain that controls the sense that one is an “I” rather than an “it.” Everyone is really an “it” after all, and the “I” factor is a delusion caused by a glitch.

2001: Evolutionary psychologists lead the way in developing effective treatments for mental disorders, using their theories, including the Big Bazooms theory of human evolution, which wins a Nobel Prize for its sheer cogency.

2004: A computer program is developed that can predict within 99.99999% certainty who will commit a crime – or do a variety of other things – in the next twelve months, all based on hormones and similar factors.

2007: Most people worldwide agree that belief in God is harmful because it leads to bad ideas like right and wrong, and the harmful practice of accepting responsibility for one’s own actions. Billions of people urge their governments to take over intimate details of their lives to prevent further harm.

Okay, obviously, none of this happened. And Bill Maher’s Religulous came and went.

The real reason for the spate of New Atheist books, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is that they want you to become an atheist now – before you figure out that atheism is a crock. There is no way out of the desperations of human existence through atheism.

Look, I am NOT one of those feel-good Christians who try to tell you that God has a wonderful plan for your life. Maybe he does, and I am glad for you. But the figure at the front of my own church is of a crucified man (depicted above), and it is in that knowledge that I am instructed to live the rest of my life.

There is no escape from the glory and tragedy of being human, not an animal, and the “new atheist” movement is a paltry cheat and a waste of your time.

If you want to be an atheist, be an old atheist, not one of these new atheists, looking for the latest buzz from the popular science press to bolster lame ideas. Believe in God or don’t believe – you are still accountable for what you do. You really are.

ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS A DELUSIONAL FAITH WITH INHERENT INCONSISTENCIES THAT WOULD BE APPARENT TO ANYONE IS NOT DELUSIONAL. This is quite a mouthful for a grade11 ex-student to chew on so I am going to throw it into my magical hat and see what it will say then so that I will understand it. A FALSE MATERIALISTIC BELIEF IN GOD IS A FALSE BELIEF WITH BASIC QUALITIES CONSTANTLY CHANGING THAT WOULD BE WITHOUT A DOUBT TO EVERYONE IS THE TRUTH. Synonym substitution is not a common practice any more but it is a simple exercise to see if the sentence or phrase is properly balanced using the previous chosen words. Are you trying to say that you believe in the GOD of both dimensions? Dr. Time
There is a difference between being a skeptic or doubter than there is in dogmatically insisting that if it isn't material it doesn't exist. I said it before that it is infinitely more rational to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as silly as it is, than to be a secular materialist. Atheistic materialism is a delusional faith with inherent inconsistencies that would be apparent to anyone is not delusional. tribune7
This just came alive in my mind and should be a conclusion for an atheist,does not an atheist"HAVE TO BELIEVE THERE IS A GOD IN ORDER TO BELIEVE THERE ISN`T A GOD?" GOD is what 2000 calls a glitch,God {ISANIT} otherwise written as is`n`t.A simple spelling error,GOD is an it. Thank you Denyse for pointing that out to all of us.YES is your word for this year isn`t it? Dr. Time
Nice presentation Denyse.When an atheist doesn`t know that GOD is what is and God is what isn`t as well,I would say that one could be considered to just be confused,yes?If GOD can be believed to "BE",then for GOD to be balanced,GOD also has to not"BE",YES? If GOD can "BE",can GOD also not"BE"?YES? Is any one wrong "NOW"? Just one more note to addand that is,"YES",everyone is accountable for their actions but they are not always "RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS".Whom ever one believes in other than conscious you who you feel you are at their physical and mental mercy should be held responsible for your actions for there are times in our lives that no matter how much we try,we can do no more than what happens whether we want it to or not.Can any of us choose :NOT: to die? Is dying a responsibility or an accountability or is it both or is it neither or is it how one becomes }{ALIVE{}? Dead or alive,Does it matter as long as we are doing supposedly good to the best of our ability,YES? Dr. Time
The other interesting case, is to ask some evolutionary psychologist if there exists a gene for aversion to religiosity. According to this repost from NYT at richaddawkins.net "Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier." People who miss out on this by being adverse to being religious, might have a gene which unfortunately makes them adverse to religion. Poor souls. JDH
This is the thing that has always confounded me about hard atheists. If, as they seem to believe, the concept of "self", "free will", "choice", are all illusions which we invent for our own purposes- then why do they even try to argue anything. Indeed all of these things make the question "why?" moot. My contention is that they really do not believe what they say they believe. Indeed I have often imagined myself debating a hard atheist by using the hard atheist himself as exhibit # 1. He says that free will and choice are an illusion, but then asks the members of the audience to change their minds and agree with him? Isn't this just a little self contradictory. If it is not, I am not smart enough to see why it isn't. JDH
You’re post reminds me of somebody on here who claimed that pointlessness is not the logical conclusion of atheism.
It's an inevitable conclusion, yet they cannot believe it. If the universe has no meaning or purpose, neither does anything in it. The usual atheist answer is that they can invent their own purpose (an ability of which they speak proudly). Yet purpose invented by a 'pack of neurons' is illusory at very best. And a 'bag of chemicals' inventing an unqualified purpose for itself can hardly be taken seriously. Under atheism, such 'purpose' will be turned into the inert particles of vanity and utterly forgotten in the end. Borne
Borne, You're post reminds me of somebody on here who claimed that pointlessness is not the logical conclusion of atheism. He didn't give me any examples though (or if he did, I didn't see them). Domoman
Right on Denyse! Just before Xmas I came across this atheist site http://atheism.about.com/ wherein author Austin Cline had put up a reworked WW poster that said, Get Christ out of Christmas. I sent the guy an e-mail to complain - hey it's not our fault if they have no holidays. I then started to point out to him why atheism is not a logically tenable position. He understood practically nothing of what I wrote but condescended nicely claiming that I did not understand atheism (real hard to understand atheism huh) and then refused to accept any more emails. Oh well. The amazing thing about atheists in general is that when you put them to the wall using their own 'logic' they can't face it and then start the perpetual denials. That's all atheism really is - a lot of denial of reality mixed with wishful thinking. Cline now has Atheist new years resolutions for a godless new year. The guy even denied having a site that promotes atheism! Always contradicting themselves. Go figure huh. Some really smart people are dumb atheists. Borne
Oops, I meant, "an ounce of strategy" is worth a ton of ideology. StephenB
A once of strategy is worth a ton of ideology. True enough, “soft” atheists are content to contemplate their navel and go with the flow. Hard atheists, on the other hand, try to sell their wares and tear away at a society ordered around theism without proposing a better alternative. These days, however, the most dangerous and destructive among the hard atheists are the quiet ones. Loud atheists, like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett beat their chests and yell like Tarzan. Quiet atheists seek to create a society in their own image and likeness by promoting public policy around their materialism. It isn’t the drum beating that threatens our survival, it is the quite, stealth atheism that poses as “education” and “compassion.” Look at what the quiet atheists have done to us without even “outing” themselves. Deweyite educators dumbed us down in the name of progress, Kinseyite perverts vulgarized us in the name of science, and activist judges dehumanized us in the name of “choice.” Hard atheists are alive and well because they have learned that they cannot win in a dual at sunrise, so they attack by night. They are winning because we are sleeping. StephenB
Zakrzewski, I wrote on that very thing here this morning: Religion: There is atheism, ... and then there is materialist atheism ... O'Leary
I just finished talking with my relatives in Germany. Dawkins has been mentioned there but has no traction whatsoever, I’m told. The arguments are all ancient: Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Darwin are such old news. This has been worked through and new atheism is a big yawn.
Living in Germany I would say that many people just don't beleave, don't feel a need to justify this, they especially don't need authorities to justify their disbelief and actually care just as much about Nietsche, Feuerbach and Dawkins as they care about Benedict XVI. sparc
Unfortunately, the old atheists are getting rarer. Stephen Jay Gould is dead, Terry Pratchett's been diagnosed with Alzheimers, and, of course, Antony Flew has left the old faith altogether. Perhaps the New Atheists are ascendant in that they're superseding the old ones. Yuck. Zakrzewski
"The real reason for the spate of New Atheist books, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is that they want you to become an atheist now - before you figure out that atheism is a crock." That's a powerful statement Denyse. Atheism seems to be in a place of intellectual and scientific stagnation....much like the old primordial goo perhaps? Not a lot of useful material came from the Miller-Urey experiment. The same can be said from the new atheists. On the design view, I think that the more technology develops, more evidence there will be for design of the universe and of living things. Atheism doesn't seem to have anything developing, except more creative excuses and more blatant derision. Atheism has had its' day. It's twilight is at hand. Bantay
From Darwin's Autobiography. "I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music. Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. On the other hand, novels which are works of the imagination, though not of a very high order, have been for years a wonderful relief and pleasure to me, and I often bless all novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily-- against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if a pretty woman all the better. This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." Darwin insisted that animals appreciated beauty, but Darwin couldn't appreciate it. He claimed that songbirds sing for the love of music, but he couldn't love music. He insisted that animals were so much like humans, that he lost his humanity when he voluntarily relinquished it. The more he gave to animals all that made him distinctly human, the less humanity he could retain for himself. This portion from C.S. Lewis's essay "Transpositions" comes to mind: "I have tried to stress throughout the inevitableness of the error made about every transposition by one who approaches it from the lower medium only. The strength of the critic lies in the words "merely" or "nothing but. He sees all the facts but not the meaning. Quite truly, therefore, he claims to have seen all the facts. there is nothing else there, except the meaning. He is therefore, as regards the matter at hand, in the position of an animal. You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. His world is all fact and no meaning. And in a period in when factual realism is dominant we shall find people deliberately inducing upon themselves this doglike mind. A man who has experienced love from within will deliberately go about to inspect in analytically from outside and regard the results of this analysis as truer than his experience. The extreme limits of this self-binding is seen in those who, like the rest of us, have consciousness, yet go about the study of the human organism as if they did not know it was conscious. As long as this deliberate refusal to understand things from above, even where such understanding is possible, continues, it is idle to talk of any final victory over materialism. The critique of every experience from below, the voluntary ignoring of meaning and concentration on fact, will always have the same plausibility. There will always be evidence, and every month fresh evidence, to show that religion is only psychological, justice only self-protection, politics only economics, love only lust, and thought itself only cerebral bio-chemistry." Clive Hayden
I just finished talking with my relatives in Germany. Dawkins has been mentioned there but has no traction whatsoever, I'm told. The arguments are all ancient: Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Darwin are such old news. This has been worked through and new atheism is a big yawn. brigitte
Nice post Denyse! I especially like your last three paragraphs. I wish people would realize that atheism, even it were true, is a dead end. Domoman

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