A New Athiesm

by on 30 March, 2012

Tim-HumphriesTim Humphries considers new atheism:

 Much has been written over the years about Atheism and its constant opposition to Christianity and more specifically all forms of religion. Indeed the historical iconography of Atheism is dominated by the larger than life character of Charles Darwin. A quick search of Darwin's complete works  reveals a treasure trove of information including descriptions of geological phenomena, notes from the 'Beagle' voyage and other well constructed pieces that formed the conceptual underpinnings of Origin of Species and thus Natural Selection.

As a scientific and intellectual achievement Darwin stands unmatched in his voluminous exposition of a view of the natural world that challenges all thinking individuals to consider the ultimate question "what is the meaning of life?".

This repudiation of religion and the social, cultural and political forces of enlightenment which must be superseded by Atheistic reason, is a division that remains to this day. The compelling monograph's, manuscripts and discussion papers all point to the idea of a world and universe that operates within particular natural laws that cannot be escaped.

From the spectacularly heretical achievements of Galileo right down to the beginnings of the modern age, the idea of science and reason as inextricably connected courses through history, politics and tellingly through the philosophical and intellectual battles of religion, redefining every age.

What I find extraordinary is the fact that Atheism itself often proports to have most if not "all the answers" on the universe, origins and every other question through observable science. Whilst there is partial validity to the scientific elements, the fact remains there is much in this world and the wider universe that remains unexplained.

For instance if the moon as demonstrated by its proximity to earth has received several meteor strikes in the billion or so years to our time, why hasn't the earth been destroyed ten times over by a similar meteor strike?

How if the big bang theory is true can it be that the earth and the surrounding solar system were able to form from such a high level of energy and explode out and land in precisely the right position to sustain life? How can the arguments about chaos and random action from big bang or other sources of origin be explained in the light of the vast infinity of space?

Further without drawing God into the equation, how can infinity be explained at all? It is true that the vastness of infinity, string theory and parallel universes raise the specter of visionary science fiction television going boldly where no man has gone before. The truth remains that much is unexplainable.

Remarkably the 20th Century produced the era of Dawkins and Hitchens. I would argue that these two luminaries of the Atheist tradition formed and cemented a dogmatism within Atheism that blunts its influence to this day.

The recent emergence of internet based Atheist Stefan Molenuex and British intellectual Alain De Botton represent a seismic shift in what I call the 'Atheists Playbook'. Both men represent what can be described as soft and cuddly atheism that seeks to ameliorate the 'us and them' ideological battles. Though they do demonstrate strong views on the key issues, it must be noted that the "I'm right, you're wrong" approach of Dawkins and Hitchens is shifting to "we can agree, disagree and agree to disagree" on a whole range of issues, without degenerating into an ideologically charged argument over who is right and who is wrong.

This is a uniquely post-modernist phenomenon that must inevitably force the political and religious world to take note. Alain De Botton's latest book Religion for Atheists highlights this trend towards co-opting the moral and supernatural claims of religion towards secular aims. De Botton has seen an opportunity to trace the intellectual schema of religious ethics that informs judo-christian and other societies and has moved to attempt an insertion of this ethical framework into secular atheism. It is summed up best by his coy question "even if religion isn't true, can't we enjoy the best bits?".

The gauntlet has been thrown down. If secular atheism is seeing potential in a softer less pointed approach, replacing it with a a form of indirect plagiarism, surely the religious world of the West and East must also take up the cudgels to coyly and more strongly plagiarize the reason based elements of atheism to explain religious faith. The opportunity is there. I'd like to establish a Christian Materialist School of thought to raise the bar on faith and reason and its complementarity. Either way the battle between Religion and New Atheism has reached a new level.

Tim Humphries writes from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and can be contacted at mothyspace@gmail.com


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