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luni, decembrie 7

CJ Werleman

An excerpt from The New Atheist Threat (pages 55-57). Available now on Amazon:
The New Atheist books, conventions, podcasts, and blogs serve as a concoction of religious demonization. The New Atheist authors and speakers peddle a mixture of hope and fear. The former (hope) reads as a utopian promise – that civilization will be made perfect the day after religious belief is eradicated – while the latter (fear) presents religion as an existential threat to all of humankind. In a speech given to the American Humanist Association in 1996, Dawkins compared the threat of religion to the threat of AIDS, and other human spread viruses. “A case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus, but harder to eradicate,” he writes.
In August of 2014, I received a phone call from Peter Boghossian, a professor at Portland University and author of the number one selling atheist book of that same year – A Manual For Creating Atheists. The purpose of his call was to ask if I’d be interested in participating in a joint project. He explained how he was building an “anti-religion app” for the iPhone IOS. When I asked him what his objective was, he thundered, “I want to eradicate religion wherever I find it” – in those exact words. I was shocked not so much by his words, but the manner and tone in which he thrust them. When the call ended, I turned to my wife and said, “This guy sounds almost psychopathic.” I did not return any further correspondence from him.
Reinhold Niebuhr warned that when we divide the world into good versus evil, darkness versus light, black versus white, “we take on the attributes of those we op-pose.” Seemingly, Boghossian, like so many of his New Atheist contemporaries, has adopted the binary vision that so worried Niebuhr.
The New Atheists have moved atheism from being merely a non-positive assertion to an ideology that positively wants to shrink religion to the size it can drown in a bathtub, to borrow a popular conservatism-ism. While “the four horsemen” have led the charge for this new strain of atheism, its genesis likely evolved earlier in George Smith’s A Case Against God. Smith saw atheism as a “world-saving vaccine”:
"When used to eradicate superstition and its detrimental effects, atheism is a benevolent, constructive approach. It clears the air, as it were, leaving the door open for positive principles and philosophies based, not on the supernatural, but on man’s ability to think and comprehend… Religion has had the disastrous effect on placing vitally important concepts, such as morality, happiness and love, in a supernatural realm inaccessible to man’s mind and knowledge."
Clearly, Smith’s statements are both a rejection of atheism’s passivity and an embrace of a new assertive reaction against religion. “Fundamentalist atheism then is a form of explicit atheism that defines religion as necessarily anti-science, a motivator of violence, and adverse to progress, thus it fuels the apocalyptic belief that religion is one, if not the greatest, threat to civilization, and, consequently, it must be eradicated,” writes Nall. This 21st century era religious eradication ideology is hardly a new way of thinking, given it’s the same ideology that drove the anti-religious genocides of the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Albania, and North Korea over the course of the last 100 years. And it’s the ideology that indeed drives the New Atheist movement in America today.
Anti-religion slogans are pumped into the New Atheist echo chamber like they were life-sustaining oxygen. “Religion is a virus,” “religion is child abuse,” “religion is a mental illness,” “save a planet, end religion,” and “religion is making you sick,” become chants, tweets, status updates, and reaffirming messages for those inculcated within the echo chamber itself. Outside of Harris, Dawkins, and a small handful of so and so scientists, the cheerleaders of these chants are not led by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, esteemed leaders of academic fields, historians, geo-political experts, counter-terrorism specialists, or qualified theologians – but rather it’s a mediocre rung of modestly educated, suburbanite bloggers and podcasters, and anyone else with an impressive number of twitter followers. Their arguments and platitudes are as ignorant or bigoted as those they mock.
The overarching point is that Harris, Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens are no more qualified to comment on religious interpretation or religious history than they are qualified to comment on global terrorism, but qualifications and expertise mean little to the New Atheists. They just want to be told what they want to be told: that religion is the cause of the world’s evil, and that atheism is the universal truth. Thus anyone who feeds this narrative becomes, in the mind of a New Atheist, a saint.
“Atheists like Harris, like the Christian fundamentalists, con-sider themselves the vanguard. They are the chosen few. They see and know the truth. They claim, like all of the elect through-out history, to be able to carry out the will of God or give us the tools that will advance human destiny. They have been given, by their own superiority and insight, the right to impose their vision on the rest of us. This vision is as seductive as it is absurd. And the absurdity is part of its attraction,” writes Hedges.
At New Atheist conventions, and on the blogs and podcasts – history, economics, and political realities are either lost and ignored, or spun to fit their anti-theistic worldview. At any major convention, you won’t hear a lecture on the history of Western colonialism in the Middle East and the African continent; how our “arms-for-oil” program causes crushing poverty and social chaos in those countries we have conquered economically; how U.S. led sanctions of Iraq in the 1990s starved more than half-million Iraqi children to death; nor a presentation on how it’s unlikely the civil rights movement would never have happened when it did without the activism of the Christian left. These are inconvenient truths that must be ignored, so that the call for religious eradication can be forever justified and forever championed.

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