Monday, January 28, 2008
A lot has been written ...
Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins and Harris
... about a group of recent best-selling authors that, back in November 2006, Wired Magazine dubbed "the new atheists". Principally, they are the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), the neuroscientist Sam Harris (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation), the philosopher Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell) and the journalist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great and The Portable Atheist).
These authors have not just sold a lot of books (over 1.5 million for the English language edition of The God Delusion alone). Dawkins runs a website with a lot of traffic and has started a charitable foundation in the US and the UK. Harris has smaller, but similar projects. Hitchens takes on all comers in his inimitably confrontational style. Google any of their names or the phrases "new atheist" or "new atheism" and you'll see a torrent of arguments, for and against. The “new atheists” are clearly trying to start and sustain an intellectual movement.
What is strange is that, when one actually reads them, one gets the feeling that the real target of the "new atheists" isn't religion at all.
Indeed, they all explicitly say they have little or no problem with deism, or Spinozian pantheism or what Dawkins calls "Einstein-ian religion". Harris, Dennett and Hitchens (and possibly Dawkins) have indicated that they wouldn't necessarily want to see the synagogues, churches and mosques emptied, though they would want to see them abandon their “metaphysical bullshit” (see this video towards the end).
It seems that the new atheists’ real problem is with dogma, and specifically with the dogma of religious faith - with the belief that it is acceptable, even admirable, to believe propositions without logically sound reasons based on good evidence. They aren't really the “new atheists” at all, but the “new anti-dogmatists”.
The rest after the click ...
One of my favorite bumper stickers from some time ago: "My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma"
I've always been uncomfortable being labeled or labeling myself as an "atheist". I've never needed a word to describe my disbelief in the proposition that the earth if flat or my disbelief in astrology the way the term "atheist" is used to express an inability to accept propositions for which there is no evidence ... and for which there is ample evidence to the contrary. I've never felt compelled to proclaim my inability to accept fairies or Santa Clause or the existence of the Easter Bunny. Why would I need a word to indicate that I am unwilling to accept what must be taken as true by way of irrational faith.
I prefer to simply state that I am willing to believe things for which there is supporting evidence. I believe in logic and in reason and propositions for which there are supporting, provable, testable facts.