In the fiery wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks a philosophy called new atheism made its grand debut, although since then it has earned the distinction of something of a secular religion.
The ensuing outrage against the Islamic Jihadist attacks were directed to fuel anti-fundamentalist religious sentiment, especially against Christianity the dominant faith of the west.
It must be stressed the only religion that’s the enemy of new atheism comes by the way of a Book of Rules rooted in the metaphysical, not the one that mirrors the secular perspective and appropriates the name Church.
The new atheists are politically neo liberal, meaning they support progressive social justice activism while embracing an obsessive belief in the power of science to the nth empirical and verifiable degree, hastily cobbled together with the burden of proof argument applicable in law.
A book by atheist British philosopher John Gray published in 2018 titled The Seven Types of Atheism deserves a read in a time of unprecedented political, economic and social upheaval.
Gray illustrates the myths of superiority, progress and triumph that lie at the heart of New Atheism in a contest with religion over which side ultimately prevails.
He says; the vocal fervor of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline — but in fact flourishing.
Not forgetting we’re in an age where there’s this rush to assign blame by those claiming to have been misused by society, by others, by the universe, by whole groups of people, and most of all by religion, in typical “I wuz robbed” fashion.
Listen to Sam Harris post 9/11; ……one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish.
He continues; the days of our religious identities are clearly numbered.
Whether the days of civilization itself are numbered would seem to depend, rather too much, on how soon we realize this.
So possibly he’s hinting it’s a race against time with no guarantee this Secularist Utopia will even succeed.
Note as well Harris’s messianic type call to a redemptive moral vision ironically striking a strong religious chord.
New atheists consider Harris’s take not pie in the sky but the pinnacle of human moral development and the only one grounded in scientific evidence.
The trouble is the west is in retreat, unlike the 18–19th centuries when the atheist view held a certain imperial, intellectual sway, so underneath the fervor of the new atheists assault on religion there is an unmistakable mood of fear and anxiety.
To a significant extent, the new atheism is the expression of a liberal moral panic.
As an atheist, why does it make sense to believe in some sort of telos, a purpose toward which society magically progresses or is deliberately pushed?
According to Gray, this has more to do with wishful thinking, than with following the evidence where it leads.
Gray says; I think we’ve let our understandable outrage at the persistence of things like terrorism, misogyny and war convince us that humanity will get beyond sectarianism and cynicism if it just embraces the values we, as enlightened Westerners, espouse.
The enlightened west’s dilemma in a nutshell: How could humankind not want to be as we imagine ourselves to be?
To suggest that large numbers hate and despise values such as toleration and personal autonomy is, for many people nowadays, an intolerable slur on the species.
This is, in fact, the quintessential illusion of ruling liberalism: the belief human beings are born peaceful and freedom-loving, only becoming something different because of oppressive conditioning.
If history teaches us anything it’s this; peaceful coexistence and the practice of toleration are the exception not the rule.
Most of all new atheism fears beliefs about the superiority of their values and scientific rationality is not hard-wired into the human brain.