The “New Atheists” are frequently disparaged as shrill, abrasive, and counter-productive — but when I read them what I see are wrters:
- who are dumbfounded that >50% of Americans don’t “believe” in evolution,
- who watch awestruck when Catholic and Muslim leaders tell millions of people not to use condoms (knowing full well that thousands of them will die of AIDS),
- who see people riot in the streets because of cartoons in far-away newspapers,
- who listen attentively to the stories of abuse of women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
- who see the news of children dying from “faith” healing,
- who realize that the election of W. Bush was funded and executed by a motivated religious community,
- who do battle with people on education boards who would turn science into Bible-study,
- who see decades of needless conflict that fall along religious lines (as in the former Yugoslavia),
- who realize a person that (openly) does not “believe in god” cannot be elected to high-office in this country,
- who fear what notions of sin, hell, judgment, and rapture are doing to the minds of our youth,
- who see families in under-developed nations ripped apart by religious missionaries,
- who see people mumbling to unseen gods to help them win lotteries or football games, or mumble to unseen gods to save them from their own sins and to avoid damnation,
- who see people who have translated their god-beliefs into other areas of their lives such as astrology and numeracy or who live in fear of alien abductions,
- who see people missing life because they are sure they are heading to another one,
- who look at the history of the Church and realize when the Church was strong, when the Church had power—everybody but the Church suffered,
- who look out and see the worst cases of the suppression of freedom in our modern world comes from highly religious countries…
—when I read Dawkins or Harris or Hitchens, I see people who look at all this and have said enough!
These writers see that god-worship is most likely an expression of our complex psychology and evolutionary past. They see that scripture and revelation are merely the “best” writings of tribal peoples. These atheist writers continue to affirm the mystery of our world, and they discuss the ways that we as a species have been successful at understanding our mysteries and dispelling our fears. They have shown that it is not by praying that the rains come–nor by our sin that earthquakes strike, and it is not by praying we cured ourselves of plagues nor through such techniques have we come to understand the rotations of our solar system. It is not by adherence to holy-writ that we have gained equal rights for women or released races from slavery—it has been the kinship of enlightened, scientific worldviews and liberal politics.
Throughout history, the majority of the conservatively religious have been on the wrong side of these issues. While some enlightened religious leaders may have helped to push for the abolition of slavery in the United States, there were many more on-record as being for it. In our country the more devout, more pious, more religious South was the champion of human ownership, not its dispeller.
These writers have looked out and asked, what is it that all of these problems have in common—what is it that the perpetrators of our modern ills seem to share? And it is not difficult to see they share holy books, and they share revelation. They share a view that plain right and plain wrong is writ large in their Bibles and Korans and that their God hath helped them to see the light—that Jesus has saved them or that Mohammed has guided them—and that, by god, they are going to spread the news!
These writers can plainly see that the more religiously devout a nation is the more of social ills it seems to suffer. They can see that enlightened societies with high incidences of disbelief—with large numbers of atheists and lightly-held-to-gods are better adjusted, less violent, and more socially integrated. They assume this is no accident.
These writers seek to dispel the mythology of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism; they seek out ways to release our minds from the subservience to gods. They see the next step in the long childhood of our species is to put away our lightly-veiled paternal transference onto supernatural beings. They seek to switch-on the light and bring people out from the shadows of their gods—they are for exposing the real questions of our universe and for sharing with everyone what it is very likely we really do know—that we were not created in the image of a deity, that we need not fear eternal torture, we need not get down on our knees and pray, we need not worship, we need not praise, we need not be shackled to ludicrous texts!
Of course there is more to say. At the same time I think all of the above is true, I also think these writers paint with too-broad a brush, and in so doing they have made enemies of friends in the moderate/liberal religious community. There is much more to say. So much more to say…