god versus the debbil...
Gus discuses the following article:
Why I am Not an Atheist: Better Apathetic Godlessness than Illiberal Scientism
by Thomas Wells
The New Atheist movement that developed from the mid-naughties around the self-styled "four horsemen of the apocalypse" - Hitchens, Dennett, Harris and Dawkins - had a tremendous public impact. Godlessness has never had a higher public profile. How wonderful for unbelievers like me?
Hardly. I am as embarrassed by the New Atheists as many Christians are embarrassed by the evangelical fundamentalists who appoint themselves the representatives of Christianity. It has often been noted that the New Atheist movement has contributed no original arguments or ideas to the debate about religion. But the situation is worse than this.
The main achievement of New Atheism - what defines it as a more or less coherent movement - is its promulgation of a particular version of atheism that is quasi-religious, scientistic and sectarian. New Atheism been so successful in redefining what atheism means that I find I must reject it as an identity. My unbelief is apathetic and simply follows from my materialism - I don't see why I should care about the non-existence of gods.
What the New Atheists call "rationality" is an impoverished way of understanding the world that excludes meanings and values. At the political level, the struggle for secularism requires more liberalism, not more atheism.
The metaphysical problem: Too much God
New Atheism isn't nearly godless enough for me. These atheists seem somewhat obsessed with the quite unremarkable fact that god doesn't exist, like an ex they claim to be over but can't stop talking about. Indeed, it seems so central to their personal identity that I find it hard to tell the difference between them and the official religionists. I appreciate that many atheists will find this claim very disagreeable. If so, that just demonstrates my point. Atheism should not look like another option on a "select your religion" drop-down menu; it should be beyond religion.
Take the role of Truth. The followers of religions attach great practical significance to the fact that they are true - it's what makes that religion worth following rather than another. But atheism should be the opposite. The idea that god doesn't exist should not gain any significance for being true. So it is disquieting that one cannot straightforwardly distinguish New Atheists from religionists in terms of "unbelievers" versus "believers." These atheists are believers. They not only hold specific religious beliefs - about the existence of God, the divine nature of the universe, the proper interpretation of sacred texts, and so on - they hold them with passion and fervour.
Of course, New Atheists have the right to publicly criticise religion, and also to press for the realisation of secular constitutional principles at the social as well as government levels. But they should keep those two exercises distinct. I worry that because New Atheism was born in battle it has developed a battle-field mentality of righteous anger for its cause and contempt for all who refuse to join it. That is the essence of sectarianism. It is not an appropriate attitude or strategy for the deliberately de-militarised space of liberal politics, intended for civilians and dependent on mutual civility.
Gus sees New Atheism differently:
Like religious formats, there are varied forms of atheism, all mostly attached to a "reason" of sorts to subscribe to, or explain, atheism. Atheism is not a religion though. In this context, New Atheism tries to be more scientific about its "reason". There is nothing wrong with this.
As the author, Thomas Wells, mentions, one can also be a lazy atheist — that is to say subscribing to "apathetic godlessness". One can believe there is no god without having a reason for this philosophical position. There is no shame with this and I know a few people who strut the stage of life in this fashion.
But as religions and their subsidiaries are working hard to make a dent into the secularity of social interactions to regain some past glory in most countries, we might need to rattle the cage a bit.
New Atheism rattles the cage. We need New Atheism to fight, say, an Abbott and his crew of bigots, who erode the gains secularity has made under the sun. Lazy atheism won't cut the cheese there, except in our own little space and I suppose we do not have to convert people. But if you think that Abbott bringing back Knights and Dames is a silly little game that happened because "one day" he though about it after having denied he would, don't be fooled. It's a highly calculated move that involves white-lying, white-anting and moving fast when nobody's looking, while appearing grinningly demure and ingenue. This specific tactic is part of making sure the divine regains a foot-hold in the Australian government's political innards.
New Atheism needs some mighty weaponry to combat this mystical "disease" and to fight the royal rekindled "meaning" of social structure.
New Atheism's two main weapons are science with its observable evidence and the strong rejection of arcane mysterious religious illogical dogma. Should one think that this is "Illiberal Scientism", well, so be it. Science and religion do not mix.
I know, some scientists still try to mix science with their religious beliefs, mostly out of fear and/or habit rather than proper rational thought. Religion makes no sense at all. Science makes sense relatively. But after years being guided and comforted by religion, it is difficult for anyone, even for some most ardent thinker, to dump religion. The mechanism of brainwashing is very strong.
The main argument of New Atheism presently is that religions are far too heavy on most of our political and social systems, and at most time, religions try to prove superiority of importance and of purpose with "meaning" (that makes no sense, but it is accepted to be "mysterious") and "love" (which is also a nonsensical position in this context). Many atrocities are performed under this or that religious belief umbrella. Unfortunately, we are not fully allowed to dispute the freedom of religious beliefs — a religious freedom which in most cases end up to the detriment of many people, including women and young girls. Those atheists who fight these hidden or overt hideous religious dogmas can appear to be "illiberal" — but they have no choice in this. They have to be fierce about the non-value of the freedom of religious belief in most of the contexts than encroach on secularity.
Science is a good start to debunk many of the silly-gisms of religion. Science does provide an essential platform to manage our future with a much better understanding of ourselves — and of our place in this weird universe — rather than continue with oppressive illusions of dogma. Though science is mostly a tool, it can influence our visions and be part of our dreams.
Religion has played a historical role — but not exclusive — in the constructs of societies, yet it has done so through a range of hypocritical positions and false views — added to a very weird and venerated inflated narrative — that have been created to control the debate, in order to stifle dissent and to destroy the notion of no-god. Don't be fooled, even if YOU are apathetically godless, they will take your family, especially your kids, prisoner... You will become estranged from them.
We all remember Galileo and yet history has forgotten most of the other dissenters or even the quiet disbelievers, of which there were many, including strong non-believers. The religious mobs, especially the three Abrahamic organisations, were at most times behaving like a Taliban, that is to say they were rejecting and punishing anyone who did not believe according to their particular dogma... There were "religious wars" that intermixed with unsavoury alliances, as well as being manipulated through ethnic divides, establishment of fodder classes all in order to foster a specific result of religious dominating illusion used by ruthless kings as a simple tool of conquest.
But for many soft non-believers like the writer above, it is fashionable to lump strong-minded atheists as "believers in a non-god", that for example having an opinion, about the sacred text being a lot of shit, is like being a believer in reverse. Let's be clear, should an atheist like me make a statement in regard to the 'sacred" text, it is not a fully-defining statement of who I am. Atheism is a lot more than living without a god — or fighting the people who believe in god, which is only done when these people encroach on our secular rights...
The concept of choice for a religious person is strongly distorted by the concept of sin. For atheists there is no such thing as a sin (not the devil), but a responsibility, relative to our choices and the reaction of those choices instilled in people who can decide with their own prejudices or idiosyncrasies to see differently what we think we are doing.
Atheism demands far more responsibility of action in this life because there is no redemption possible for being a dork or a goodie, a dangerous idiot or a "saint". For an atheist, the only "true" options are to care or not to care. Should we decide to be good, under rules of secular interaction, we can detect and avoid behaviour that could intrude on other people's right. It's a choice, not a divine commandment... And when people walk on our toes, we tell them. That has been the purpose of the New Atheism.
Meanwhile in god versus the debbil...:
VATICAN CITY — A darling of liberal Catholics and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, Pope Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone.
Yet, in his words and deeds, the new pope is locked in an epic battle with the oldest enemy of God and creation:
After his little more than a year atop the Throne of St. Peter, Francis’s teachings on Satan are already regarded as the most old school of any pope since at least Paul VI, whose papacy in the 1960s and 1970s fully embraced the notion of hellish forces plotting to deliver mankind unto damnation.
Largely under the radar, theologians and Vatican insiders say, Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces of evil at his beck and call.
Last year, for instance, Francis laid hands on a man in a wheelchair who claimed to be possessed by demons, in what many saw as an impromptu act of cleansing. A few months later, he praised a group long viewed by some as the crazy uncles of the Roman Catholic Church — the International Association of Exorcists — for “helping people who suffer and are in need of liberation.”
“ ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century,’ ” Francis, quoting those who have noted his frequent mentions of the Devil, said last month while presiding over Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House. He warned those gathered on that chilly morning to be vigilant and not be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world. “Look out because the Devil is present,” he said.
Since its foundation, the church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will.
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