Is the New Atheism the New Fundamentalism?

I thought the following article from the Washington Post was an interesting critique of the new atheism. Chiefly because it comes at the issue form a humanist perspective. It points out how humanists find the new atheism aggressive and destructive without offering any real alternative. It identifies the old issues that it easier to say what we are against that what we are for. Whist the new atheism suggests that it operates in the spirit of free inquiry in reality all it does in shackle us with doctrinaire atheism.Read the article at-

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/25/

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12 Responses to “Is the New Atheism the New Fundamentalism?”

  1. hkyson Says:

    Science and Atheism

    Science is different from religion. It does not pretend that it knows everything. There are even now deep questions about the origins of the universe that we don’t have answers to now though it is possible we may be able to answer some of them in the future.

    But the inability of science to provide answers to these questions does not prove that religious faith, tradition, or an ancient holy text has the ability to answer them. Science cannot prove that God does not exist, but this in no way establishes that God exists. There are millions of things whose lack of existence cannot be established.

    The philosopher Bertrand Russel had an analogy. Imagine that there is a teapot in orbit around the sun. It is impossible to prove that the teapot does not exist because it is too small to be detected by our telescopes. Nobody but a crazy person would say “Well, I’m prepared to believe in the teapot because I cannot establish that it doesn’t exist.” This means that maybe we have to be technically agnostics, but really we are all atheists about teapots with orbits around the sun.

    But now let us suppose that everybody in our society including our teachers and the sages of our tribes all had faith in a teapot that orbits the sun. Let us also suppose that stories of the teapot have come down to us for many generations as one of the traditions of our own society and there are ancient holy texts about the teapot. In this case people would say that a person who did not believe in the teapot is eccentric or mad.

    There are infinite numbers of things like celestial teapots whose lack of existence we are unable to establish. There are fairies, for example, and there are unicorns and goblins. We cannot prove that any of these creatures of the imagination do not exist in reality. But we don’t believe they exist, just as we don’t believe that the gods of the Scandinavians, for example, have any true existence.

    We are all atheists about almost all of the gods created by societies in the past. Some of us, however, take the ultimate step of believing that the god of the Jews and the Christians, like the gods of the Greeks and the Egyptians, also do not exist.

    Now here’s a version of this text in Interlingua. (For more information about Interlingua, use a search enging to search on the title “Interlingua in interlingua” or go to http://www.interlingua.com.

    Le scientia es differente del religion. Illo non pretende que illo sape toto. Il ha etiam nunc questiones profunde sur le origines del universe al quales nos nunc non ha responsas ben que il es possible que nos potera responder a alicunes de illos in le futuro.

    Ma le incapacitate del scientia de provider responsas a iste questiones non proba que le fide religiose, le tradition, o un texto sancte e ancian pote responder a illos. Le scientia non pote probar que Deo non existe, ma isto non establi de ulle maniera que Deo existe. Il ha milliones de cosas cuje existentia non pote esser establite.

    Le philosopho Bertrand Russell habeva un analogia. Imagina que il ha un theiera in orbita circum le sol. Il es impossibile probar que le theiera non existe proque illo es troppo parve pro esser detegite per nostre telescopios. Nemo excepte un folle dicerea, “Multo ben, io es preparate a creder in le theiera proque io non pote establir que illo non existe.” Isto significa que forsan nos debe esser technicamente agnosticos, ma vermente nos es omnes atheistas sur theieras con orbitas circum le sol.

    Ma que nos nunc suppone que omnes in nostre societate includente nostre professores e le sagios de nostre tribos habeva fide in un theiera que orbita le sol. Que nos anque suppone que historias del theiera ha venite usque nos trans multe generationes como un del traditiones de nostre proprie societate e que il ha textos sancte ancian sur le theiera. In iste caso le gente dicerea que un persona qui non credeva in le theiera es eccentric o folle.

    Il ha numeros infinite de cosas como theieras celestial cuje manco de existentia nos non pote establir. Il ha fees, pro exemplo, e il ha unicornios e gnomos. Nos non pote probar que iste creaturas del imagination non existe in le realitate. Ma nos non crede que illos existe exactamente como nos non crede que le deos del Scandinavos, pro exemplo, ha ulle existential ver.

    Nos es omnes atheistas sur quasi omne le deos create per societates in le passato. Alicunes de nos tamen prende le ultime passo de creder que le deo del judaeos e del christianos, como le deos del grecos e le egyptianos, anque non existe.

  2. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for the interesting comment. I agree with you that ‘Science cannot prove that God does not exist, but this in no way establishes that God exists.’ A couple of points come to mind however. If science cannot prove that God does not exist why then do you believe that God does not exist? Are you not then like me- a man of faith?
    The reason I don’t believe in the ancient gods is because I do not find them credible. I do however believe in the God who reveals himself in the Bible because I see that as a warranted belief for a number of reasons.

  3. Jesse Says:

    Thanks for posting this article, otherwise I would not have found it. I’m a (likely?) Atheist, but this article makes some excellent points about the nature of “new” Atheism, and its hypocritical attacks on religious folks.

  4. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for the comment Jesse. I’m glad you found the post helpful. I’m intrigued by your self description ‘a (likely?) atheist.’ I would love to know more.

  5. Jesse Says:

    “…likely Atheist” code for “errant skeptic.” Or, the most accurate translation: “individual whose adolescence precludes him from making statements one way or another.” 🙂

  6. sibbesian Says:

    Interesting! Many people are sceptical for reasons of memory and experience. Would you say you are an open sceptic? Or a sceptical sceptic?! Do you have specific issues that push you in this direction?

  7. Jesse Says:

    Frankly, I wouldn’t describe what I am. Mainly I just shy from any system of thought which explicitly closes itself off from the possibility of external views. So self-description has always eluded me. Plus, the more I explore the Atheism/theism debate, the more I get the feeling that self-description is the modus operandi of conflating ideas and people–which is dangerous. I like to keep those things separate to avoid the compartmentalizations of either ideology.

  8. Jesse Says:

    Oh, whoops– what did you mean by “reasons of memory and experience”?

  9. sibbesian Says:

    Reasons of memory- I was just picking up on your comment “individual whose adolescence precludes him from making statements one way or another.” I assumed- perhaps wrongly- that you had a bad experience of religion at some point.
    As a Christian I would argue that if I believe God exists then that closes me off to the idea that atheism is correct. Yet I must also accept the possibility that someone may come along and give me reasonable grounds to change my mind. That I have made up my mind doesn’t preclude me listening to others and entering into constructive dialogue.

  10. Jesse Says:

    I got ya. Yeah, no bad experiences! I saw “memory and experience” and thought maybe the context was something with epistemology.

    “That I have made up my mind doesn’t preclude me listening to others and entering into constructive dialogue.” Evidently! And much thanks for that. How do you respond to the view that one can believe in God, but that God is either unknowable (extreme skepticism) or paralyzingly difficult to know without imposing self-reflective/human attributes on him/her/it? I’m not setting you up with the question. Just curious what degree of directness you see in one’s relationship with God.

    My own feelings about the matter, and why I err toward Atheism/Agnosticism as a possibility, is that I think any such relationship seems highly indirect and indeterminate. This doesn’t preclude “faith,” really it just kind of buffers it.

    • sibbesian Says:

      Thanks for the question Jesse. At the heart of Christian belief is the idea that God is unknowable- unless He reveals Himself. Which we believe He does. He reveals Himself in the world that He has made, He reveals Himself through the people He has created, through the Word that He has given and ultimately through His Son whom He has sent into the world. For Christians anthropomorphism is not us projecting onto God but a necessary dimension of God’s self-revelation. For this is how the infinite accommodates Himself to our finitude.
      I must admit that I have come to regard atheism as faith- faith in alternative theories which explain reality but which are themselves unprovable. Obviously I have come to the conclusion there are better reasons for believing in God than there are for not believing in God.

  11. Jesse Says:

    Absolutely–Atheism has absolutes and universals of its own, though many deny it. The problem with a lot of emerging Atheists is that they refuse to acknowledge their own “faith,” and as such they don’t derive any of the unifying ethics and morals that Christians derive from their formulation of faith as a necessary consequence of its unavertable condition. Excellent conversation though–thanks much for discussing!

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