Article of the Week: What Scares the New Atheists
Please ignore the title of the article, while you are reading this post. I will explain the reason at the end.
The article I have chosen for this week is one which critically examines atheism, or at least the version of it that gets practised by the most aggressive, vocal proponents of the idea. It doesn’t get into the usual debate of religion vs. atheism, or what religion/atheists can or cannot explain about our world. Rather it tries to see atheism for what it is – well intentioned, like most religions in their idea forms would be, but with its own set of flaws, inaccuracies and irrational reverence for its current ideologies.
The author starts by reminding us of the early 20th century atheists who denounced religion for all its irrationality, but upheld the racist ideas of their time, not merely in passing, but by elevating them to the exalted status of being scientific.
It is a warning to the “missionary” atheists of today “aiming to convert humankind to a particular version of unbelief.” The particular version of unbelief treats liberal values in the same scientific vein as its predecessor treated the theory of racial superiority.
The attack is not on the liberal values, but the author contends that there is no reliable connection between atheism, science and liberal values. Atheists’ ideologies have often been used by despotic regimes, claimed to be based in science. Can there be a “science of good and evil” as these atheists would like to believe? Can science validate values such as human equality and personal autonomy? As it happens, these quintessential liberal values have their origin in religion.
Although the focus of the article is on explaining how the fear of religious resurgence is driving atheists to a panicky, extreme response, for me that is not the most important takeaway from it. I don’t, in fact, know if I agree or disagree with this. That’s why I asked you to ignore the title of the article for the time being. What is fascinating for me is putting atheism in its proper historical and current context, which can propel atheists to think about their “obvious” truths and motivations more critically. While they may be good, they aren’t necessarily “scientifically” obvious.
Read the complete article on The Guardian here.
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