Sunday, November 24, 2013

Is New Atheism A Religion?

When I first heard the term "New Atheists" a few years ago, for a little while I assumed that I was one, because I vociferously criticize religion. However, religion isn't the ONLY thing I criticize, and soon after I began to hang with New Atheists I began to clash with them, because I criticize some of the things they say, including memes like calling the authors of the Bible "Bronze Age goat herders." (No evidence of written Hebrew before the Iron Age exists, most of the authors of the Bible were urban, and as if that weren't enough, the ancient Israelites raised more sheep than goats.) I had assumed that New Atheists would welcome corrections and a honing of their message. Not so much. I find this very ironic because so many of the New Atheists are scientists (including Dawkins, of course, who, unless I'm misinformed, came up with the Bronze Age goat herder meme), and, in their arguments with believers, they very often (and correctly) emphasize the importance of peer review. They don't seem to realize, or to care, that peer review also exists in disciplines such as history, archaeology and, yes, even Biblical studies. Point out the weakness in one of their slogans, and New Atheists are liable to accuse you of lending aid and comfort to the enemy. But my enemy is misinformation, nonsense and inaccuracy, even if it's being spread by other atheists.

PS: No, New Atheism is not a religion. What a silly thing to say. Of course it's not a religion. Neither is Communism, or sports, simply because they, like religion, involve large masses of people, charismatic leaders, occasional violence and simplistic slogans. (Just kidding about the violence in the case of New Atheism. As far as I know, it has not become violent. Yet.) Not only do I see a lot to criticize and oppose in religion, and in New Atheism, I can see a lot of problems in other atheist critiques of New Atheism as well, and a frequent one is this assertion that New Atheism is a religion. It's a silly accusation, and all it does is anger New Atheists without contributing anything to the discussion. (And as a rule they're already pretty angry.) As I've often said to New Atheists in re: religion: there's no need to exaggerate or distort, there's plenty to criticize here while remaining scrupulously accurate.

But who cares about things like scrupulous accuracy and logical consistency when there are points to be scored and zingers to be delivered, eh?

I do, that's who. Who will follow my charismatic lead in a mass movement of Anti-New Atheist Atheism? A little tip at this point: if you're breathlessly following me and painting quotes from me on signs and ostracizing those who dare to criticize me and preparing to march behind me, you're probably misunderstanding me. What I would most appreciate are readers who like what I say, and then criticize it, hone it and take it further. Not followers, but colleagues. People who can appreciate a good point being made without it shutting their brains off. Let's try to evolve, shall we?

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