The more I have reflected on the “New Atheism” article, the more I have realized just how bankrupt atheism is right now. Let me explain using some lecture notes from a class I took a few years back on postmodernism.
At the beginning of the 1900’s there was much optimism about man. Evolution had taken over the academic world and people began to speculate not only on human evolution physically, but also sociologically and from a moral standpoint. One can find influence of this movement among the more mainline religious denominations (that believe that people are basically good – Christian doctrine has traditionally taught that perople are unable to overcome sin). Given time, people could figure out the world, solve the problems that plagued all societies, and rationally put forward a new world order. Perhaps the most popular movement to come out of this renewed sense of optimism is communism and its little brother, socialism. Modernity has the sort of “progress oriented” optimism at its core.
These optimistic dreams were dimmed in 1913, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed on the streets of Sarajevo, giving way to Word War I. “Well,” the optimists claimed, “this is only an abberation. Better days are ahead.” Then along came World War II – a very bloody affair certain to dampen the spirits of the most positive of thinkers. Modernity was still a force to be reckoned with, now focusing more on the technological and economic advances than the moral ones. Modernity began to squeeze morality out of the public square.
Then, along comes our friend postmodernity. What is it? Well – it’s not modernity! That is, at least to me, the major message of the postmoderns: “We ain’t your daddy’s cadilac.” Postmodern thinking accepts the pessimism that is incompatible with modernity. They are moral contrarians to the optimistic hippies of the 1960’s. “It’s not getting better,” they would say, “… what does better mean, anyway?”
Well, the Wired article on atheism gives us the modernity line. It makes the argument that morality is evolving and that the outcome will be naturalism. Hooey on that. If the 20th century has taught us anything, it’s that the postmoderns were correct: we are morally bankrupt and there is little cause for optimism.
What makes these “new atheists” dangerous is there fundamentalism. They make the case that not only are they right, but others should not be free to propagate their non-atheist ideas. To quote from the article, “he (Dennet) argues that neutral, scientifically informed education about every religion in the world should be mandatory in school.” Wow! So much for parental rights. Sounds a bit like Marx to me.