Atheists Attack Atheists

October 18, 2010

On the face of it a bizarre phenomenon, but not when you give it a little thought, the atheist attack on new atheism appears to emanate from non-believers who dislike disruption to their lives. Such people as Julian Baggini and Michael Ruse, not stupid people, have been writing very odd things. Of course this is speculation, but i suspect they resent having been shaken out of their complacent co-existence with people of faith. The poor souls have been forced to take a position.

Eric MacDonald, as always, has something interesting to say about the phenomenon:-

“This is beginning to border on the absurd! First of all, where are Ruse and Baggini and Mooney, and the rest of the gang, getting the idea that the gnu atheists are hostile? There is actually very little hostility. Listen to some of the debates that Hitchens and Dawkins have taken part in. There’s no evident hatred or hostility. Instead, what you see is an incredible willingness to discuss, to debate, to answer questions, to give explanations, etc. etc. Where did the myth of hostility and stridency and shrillness come from?

But if you really want to find stridency, just read a few of the religious responses to the gnu atheism. Some of it is almost incendiary. And it’s not a question of allies or enemies either. No one that I know of has spoken of individual religious people as in any sense enemies. It just hasn’t happened. However, there is another group of people entirely, unbelievers, atheists like Julian Baggini, who have singled out certain atheists as enemies. Now, that really is an interesting development.

The strange thing is that the response of people like Baggini is not to any specific words or acts of specific, nameable atheists. It’s a response (I believe) to the very real alarm that religious people are starting to express about the growing success of atheism. It’s significant enough of a threat that the pope made atheism his main target when he came to the UK. That’s where the real stridency comes in. That was not only strident. It was downright malignant in its hatred. And all of this is taking place against the greatest success story of our time: the unparalleled growth of unbelief. There is simply no precedent for it.

And atheists are not dividing the world up into believers and unbelievers. There is certainly a militancy, if you like, about some current expressions of atheism. But this is a response to the increasing demands that religions are making to public recognition and privilege. Islam wants the privilege of never being offended. Christianity and Islam and all the rest want to see religious law enforced in the public realm. In places the catholic church has been successful, and have criminalised abortion. In many Muslim majority countries Sharia law has been imposed with greater energy and cruelty.

Whether Baggini wants to admit it or not, religion is becoming a menace to the peace and security of the world. It needs to be opposed, because, with good reason, it feels endangered, and endangered religions are themselves dangerous. The world can no longer be divided between religious blocs of nations and cultures. Throw them all together, and they become even less believable than before. Plurality of religion defeats the claims of religious belief. This is unavoidable.

But Baggini is wrong. The gnu atheism is not hostile to religion, except insofar as religion threatens freedom and endangers the vulnerable. Religious believers are welcome to believe what they will in private. They are however not welcome to use religious belief as the basis of law, and insofar as they do so they must be resolutely opposed. If Baggini cannot see this, then he needs to think again. And while he is thinking, he might just remember that, as Jesus is depicted in the gospels, he is a divisive and not a unifying force. It is because of this canonical understanding of Jesus’ significance that anti-Judaism became a scourge that has killed millions of people, and may yet kill more. He may have said that being a good Samaritan was better than being a bad Jew, but, in the gospels, a bad Jew is one who does not believe in Jesus. For his trip to the Abbey Baggini used a skewed hermeneutic, long favoured by Christians. This is not reason. It’s prejudice. Baggini should think some more.”

Comment #12 at the following link.


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