Whilst I am hoping to find some people who will state their cases and explain what they think their position is called and what it believes (or perhaps doesn't), one of the conversations I have had this week was from a someone who was a devotee of Dawkins. They used the man's name repeatedly and spoke of the 'irrational beliefs' and 'delusions' of the 'religious'. They (note: it was them, not me!!) sneered at the philosophical emptiness of the old style atheists, putting them down as merely playing at being atheists.
New atheists, my companion said, 'Weren't interested in conversation but were, 'concerned with ridding the world of the religious faith groups and bringing about a new world order through social, political and educational means. 'We need to teach our kids that there's only us and that the God thing merely brings separation and causes wars, famine and poverty.'
It is obvious that somewhere in the mix is something fuelled by the actions of fundamentalist believers and the twin towers for they, and other acts of violence, all featured in the conversation. It was also obvious that whilst we might be able to find some commonality between those who consider themselves to be new atheists, there are also very many differences (and for me one of these is that many of those who appeared to embrace it were very much of the red top tabloid variety!).
This is not meant as a put down but as a reference to the simplistic and unquestioning acceptance of some who fail to examine or challenge those whom they quote; and the manner in which the adoption of the 'blame culture' tactics whereby all the world's ill can be laid at the door of a few groups:
those who have,
the politicians, and
(Interestingly what appears to the common element in all three is 'God' (really - don't see that but perhaps I wouldn't).
So who are the patriarchs of the new atheist movement ('old atheists' have Russell, Huxley and the like)?
Well, to name but a few there are: Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Robert Park and many other major and minor prophets besides. What is interesting is that I don't see any clear thinkers in terms of philosophy or logic and there's a 'scientific' element (real and pseudo) behind everything which makes me think that perhaps we'd be better off relabelling 'new atheist' as 'enlightenment or renaissance II' (the first being 'if we can understand it we can control it', the second being 'if we use science we can deny it'?).
As the conversation progressed I was told that: 'The old atheists merely appear content to deny the existence of God and consider all the arguments, proofs and statements regarding God as ultimately false - and having thought thus, God disappears in a puff of logic! Not so the new brigade who want more. Their faith in science puts paid to the old faith in God.'
Another interesting observation in the conversation was the view: That just as Christianity trumped the pagan beliefs so too has scientificism (is that really a word?) trumped faith. This is a new world order: one that will see an end to famine, war and inequality for science can be the measure by which justice and order are made real and, 'Science is the only real way of knowing – everything else is just superstitious nonsense'
So perhaps I'm getting a clearer picture of what new atheism is (well in one person's view anyway) in that it is the new Messiah, 'Truth', that will lead us into understanding, knowledge and freedom from the cancer of faith and the multiplicity of gods that call for our attention, obeisance and defence in battle when deemed necessary (For as I was told: 'Remember the crusades and the inquisition, the result of religion!').
'Without faith, we will be better as well as wiser. Conflict is a result of misunderstanding, of which Faith is the paradigm.' (I think this is a paraphrase of Hitchens or Dawkins - can't find the direct quote so would lean towards Dawkins - clarification most welcome).
A nicer way of explaining away wars and conflicts (note I didn't say ALL) and selling the new atheism as the panacea to all ills and the vanquishing force against the evils of faith and religion (I see faith and religion as different things but others appear to see them as synonymous and interchangeable - What is certain is that the intended interpretation is that without 'faith' we will be well, peaceful and of one accord).
What concerns me is that I can see within the conversation that some think a faith in a lack of faith might lead to a new (atheist) world order. I think I'd rather have a faith-based, moral and ethical society (for there is much of that in the faith communities) rather than a function or scientific one!
Perhaps I am unsettled by the hints of things past that made me think we were looking to revisit the past with this striving for the utopic future it promises.
But that might just be me.
Twenty minutes of banging the keyboard, drinking tea and eating toast complete - over to you.
ps. I have modified this post to show where the comments were from my companion and the underlined segment is intended to show the ownership of the comments relating to the old order of atheism.