New atheism movement and Dan Brown
Posted: 20 February 2018 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Yesterday i read a review of a book Origin by Dan Brown, written by Andrej Zeman.

Mr Zeman studied religionistics, bible studies in London, and history of philosophy, science and religion in University of Edinburgh, while he cooperates with archeologists in Israel, and he specializes to era of historical Jesus and 2nd Temple. He also specialzes for the dialogue between science and religion.

In his review he completely forgot that Dan Brown writes fiction, and started to criticize him for scientific innacuracies. Putting that aside he really pointed down certain issues within “Origin”, however those statements were done by certain characters, not by Dan Brown himself.

Yet… when it comes to describing the atheist character in the book, he immediatelly accepted all the myths about New Atheism movement, and added some of his own criticism of the movement - to be more precise, his own opinion about New Atheism. Here he made string of misinterpretations - mainly of “God is not Great” where he took czech translation. There was sentence “Religion poisons everything” translated as “Religion destroys everything”.

I found myself in a situation where I have to translate or explain “New atheism” movement to people (in Slovakia) who were for decades exposed to dogmatic marxistic form of atheism. This form of atheism simply stated “there is no need for religion”. Yet this ideology was burned out at that time and was completely empty, not providing any real answers about (for example) morality. It wasnt maintained by philosophers, it was maintained by political ideologists.

Due this i decided to go an extra mile and confront my own impressions about

After few years of observing work of Richard Dawkins as a scientist and advocate of evolution, Christopher Hitchens as intellectual and checking some work of Daniel Dennet i realized that “New Atheism” represents humanism, scientific approach and secularism, with quite abrasive criticism of religion. Contrary to marxistic atheism “New atheism” offers answers about origin of morality, which basically denies theological argument about “moral vacuum” of atheism.

Is my understanding of New atheism correct?

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Posted: 20 February 2018 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I think that the three people you mention probably wouldn’t be very happy with being tagged as “New Atheists”. That’s just a label that people have associated with them, which people do all the time, but the label doesn’t lead to greater understanding.

As for morals, atheism in of itself has nothing to do with morals; it’s just a rejection of theism. Atheists therefore would get there morals from somewhere else than religion, a concept that a lot of religious people have a hard time with because most religions around the world include in their indoctrination (falsely) that they are the source of morals. This leads people to conclude that atheists must be amoral or that the concept of atheism in of itself somehow has moral concepts, and the idea that morals can exist outside of these frameworks takes a while to sink in for some people.

Christopher Hitchens was a particularly gifted speaker and writer on moral issues, but I don’t think he was that way due to his atheism. I think he was that way because of his upbringing, family values, experiences, talents, etc. I’m not sure if he’s spoken specifically of this idea, but I suspect that his atheism follow from his morals, not the other way around.

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Posted: 20 February 2018 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thats why i used quotes when speaking about “new atheism”. Mr. Zeman used that term and I would expect that his teachers in University of Edinburgh were might be aware of their work, might not like it.

When i started to write my article, I rather used term modern atheism to describe last few decades and for most of the time I kept “new atheism” in quotes like here, and yes i agree its just a label. Mr. Zeman came with stretched theory that “New atheism” started after 9/11, and its “new” and I cite the article “its new not because it would offer new and innovative arguments (for which is often criticized) but because of its offensive tone against other religions”. He also linked common cricitism of fundamentalism and dogmatism with “new atheism”, which to me personally proves he has little to no idea about it.

This is obviously wrong. There is nothing “New” on atheism or apostasy, and both were offensive to religions for millenia, simply by their existence. Its “new” because of new arguments, even in case when Christopher Hichens, in his high level of literacy was able and capable to bring many many quotes from 18th, 19th centuries, and even from ancient Greece.

What I am about to confront is a… personal opinion of a magister in religionism (a scientific study of religions). He clearly mistook atheist arguments of fictional character, with agnostic stance of real Dan Brown, while presenting his view of “New Atheism” as the empty destructive atheism which does not have any support in english speaking world. Putting certain sentences from whole book and use them to describe whole philosophy (or religion) is something I would not expect from someone with his credentials.

He is clearly opinionated in a negative way towards atheism, he targets religious sentiments which are attuned against dogmatic atheism, and I target to refuse his arguments. Saying to believer that he might wasted his life on a myth is other thing, saying to scientist who studied multiple religions that hey wasted his potential on myths is a different level.

From my perspective, people i mentioned early tend to answer certain questions (origin of life, origin of morals) in a scientific or philosophical ways without need of supernatural being, and what they really brought new to atheism is association with defense of science (evolution in particular) and humanism.

Christopher Hitches spoke on some occasions that “how dare religious people say I am without morals”. For example he pointed out that before hebrews arrived to mount Sinai, theft, rape and purgery were not OK. Pointing out on parents as a source of morals is sort of humanistic approach, pointing out on evolution (The Selfish Gene?) is scientific approach.

[ Edited: 20 February 2018 06:49 AM by Offler ]
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Posted: 20 February 2018 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I started skimming your post after a while Offler, but you make some good points. “New Atheism” is not just the simple statement of lack of belief of any god. It’s a body of work that refutes religious arguments for where morality comes from, where humans came from, where the universe came from and even if they hold any kind of moral high ground or have valid arguments for the most basic philosophical positions of the mere possibility of a supernatural anything.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/n-atheis/

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Posted: 20 February 2018 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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So far I can comment mainly work of Christopher Hitchens (seen dozens of his speeches, read God is not great) and some work of Richard Dawkins (myself being unsuccesful scholar of paleontology) as i understand a lot his work on level of education, his scientific work and later explaining non-dogmatic atheism.

(I really have trouble to explain that atheism was a mandatory thing during communism, people who said that they are believers of any sort could end up with bad resume as “non-progressive, backward thinking” and not able to get another job).

Those gentlemen actually gave explanation why they dont believe in supernatural creator, and those explanations make a lot of sense, not only in philosophical point of view, but also scientifically.

However i feel that “new atheism” is a degrading label, used mainly by their opponnents, while Mr Zeman clearly stated “its new only because its more aggresive, with no new arguments”.

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Posted: 20 February 2018 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Offler - I agree with you. I think you have some well thought-out observations. :)

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Posted: 22 February 2018 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 20 February 2018 04:22 PM

Offler - I agree with you. I think you have some well thought-out observations. :)

Hey, i was looking for criticism here :)

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Posted: 22 February 2018 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This subject is way pass where the public will go on the subject in my opinion. So, the question I have is how far can you take theism?
My idea is that that in the end there is no difference between any kind of Atheism and Theism when it comes to the driving force. And the driving force is “knowledge”. Whether you seek the knowledge, or you accept it is already done for you by a higher being. This would be a character of the human genes. You are born this way and can’t help it. I base this on the history of mankind and how Theism evolved and how Atheism analyzes the subject. 
 
Isn’t what you are telling me that “New atheism” is offering a little more knowledge about atheism and how it works? In a decade or two artificial intelligence will reach a point where it can answer most of the questions a person can come up with. At that point Theism should move to Atheism if Atheism can find the knowledge to satisfy the driving force for the need or want of afterlife. Which when you boil it down is knowledge the Theisms have that atheism does not.

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Posted: 23 February 2018 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I am mainly saying that in my country, people were exposed for 41 years to dogmatic atheism.

Communists in Czechoslovakia in 1920’s took the ideas of Marx and Lenin, doing little to no changes to them. Philosophy presented by Marx was giving an idea of utopistic society, while contemplating on how are resources required for citizens gathered, processed and distributed for common good. His approach to all religions was that it was “scream of the oppressed” and it wont be necessary to keep any kind of religion in socialistic or communist society. When communists took power on february 1948, they started to arrest clergymen, nuns and monks. Churches was not completley erased, as few priests were working with regime to identify “non-progressive citizens”.

This dogmatic form of atheism, never attempted to answer the philosophical questions about meaning of life,  or about origin of morals. As it was enforced by laws and cruel criminalization of religious beliefs it never got into open discussion with opponnents. Science was presented as absolute truth, however ideological goals were preferrred over scientific or objective truth. When communism fallen in Czechoslovakia, religions and various non-scientific beliefs started to coming back. Astrology, homeopaty, spiritual healing - James Randi did a great documentary about it in Moscow. In Slovakia it just took more years until those charlatans became so visible.

Positive thing is that most of the society here (even when states religious belief) is using critical thinking rather than argumentation about God’s will, sin or hell.

Negative is, that people who did not joined any religion or sect, and are either agnostic or atheist do not have any arguments or even topics to discuss about their own position. Also are not used into discussion.

My generation is the first which has contact with modern atheism (via marvel of internet, and Youtube videos of Christopher Hitchens). Religious people here, have (unsurprisingly) exactly same arguments against atheistic view in a manner of “moral relativism” and/or “atheism is empty” or “science is trying to replace god”. In this sense they are still attuned to dogmatic atheism of communist era. At one hand i see potential for people who are agnostic or atheists to learn how to argue, on the other hand i feel a lot of responsibility.

I knew Richard Dawkins for a while as evolutionary biologist, yet I was not fully aware of his stance on religion. I was studying back in 2004-05, and i wasnt interested in philosophy or religions at that time. His BBC documentaries did not arrived here to be broadcasted. Public television was not interested in such dividing the public or attacking churches or religious beliefs, as people were very critical to communist regime. The tide started to turn in 2012, when members of Christian Democratic Party (KDH) attempted to ban metal festival, and at the same time Alliance for the Family (AZR) started to spread a myth that EU is trying to destroy “traditional family”. Opressed became the opressor. I want to oppose them, in a way which were best described by the “Four horsemen”.

To simplify it, yes arguments presented by Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins and Harris are completely new to people who might be non-religious in my country. From my point of view its a great deal of argumentation.

[ Edited: 23 February 2018 01:02 PM by Offler ]
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Posted: 02 March 2018 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 20 February 2018 05:38 AM

This leads people to conclude that atheists must be amoral o

Rather ironic considering how many Evangelicals have rallied around trump, even the great Billy Graham jr. proclaims God anointed trumpkin.
the pig


yeah both of ‘em.

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Posted: 03 March 2018 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Citizenschallenge-v.3 - 02 March 2018 07:55 AM
TromboneAndrew - 20 February 2018 05:38 AM

This leads people to conclude that atheists must be amoral o

Rather ironic considering how many Evangelicals have rallied around trump, even the great Billy Graham jr. proclaims God anointed trumpkin.
the pig


yeah both of ‘em.

And the percentage of Christians in US prisons is greater than their percentage in the population. Meanwhile the percentage of atheists in prison is less than their percentage of the population. So who’s immoral?

Lois

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Posted: 05 March 2018 02:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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LoisL - 03 March 2018 09:24 PM

And the percentage of Christians in US prisons is greater than their percentage in the population. Meanwhile the percentage of atheists in prison is less than their percentage of the population. So who’s immoral?

Lois

I would not use this as an example, because the other factor can be racism, while non-caucasians tend to me more religious. As far I am aware, this is both true in Slovakia (for the roma minority) and USA (for afroamericans). Also “religion is under siege” fallacy might benefit from such statement.

The shortcut “atheist = amoral” is not present in Slovakia. Religion or any sort of conviction is considered to be “private choice”. And I have to stress the “choice” part. Actually we have a term “svätuškár” which is used for people who are overly religious, do visit church a lot, but do not show any other sign of a good christian. But this term wasnt invented by atheists, rather by people who take their religion seriously and they oppose this kind of fakery.

[ Edited: 05 March 2018 02:55 AM by Offler ]
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Posted: 11 March 2018 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Very interesting project, you are undertaking. Do you think the nontheism group is going to end up taking sides at some point? My guess is that the only response from them will be in the vote. Any move you take using old data is going to be perceived as backing old communist ideas. I can not give you any help in what you are asking for because I have no knowledge or research on what you are looking for.
 
I am assuming you are dealing with the Eastern Orthodox church. Bartholomew’s book the “Encountering the Mystery” was said to be designed to appeal to the secular progressives. Never read it, but it may be worth checking out.
 
Strictly, my point of view only. And coming from a background in business. If I had to choose a side to be on. It would be the winning side. And that would be your side. You got all the new data of a changing science going in your direction.
 
I would stay away from the arguments approach. I know, that is the direction you want to go. Even if you win, at most you have is a movement. I would not worry about the metal festival or what the AZR is up to. Build your foundation first. For example, I am an Atheist. Really more of a nontheism. But I like the singing and social aspects of the small county faith based gatherings. I do not hide the fact that I am an Atheist. It is more of a generation thing at church. The only ones that seem even a little bit brother are people in my upper age group. The rest call me if I don’t show up and they want me there. Point being is that people want to understand me, and they ask me questions about being an atheist. And being an atheist is not being against religion. It is not believing in deities.
 
“Science was presented as absolute truth, however ideological goals were preferred over scientific or objective truth.” Sounds like you got what you need. Just get rid of the ideological goals. Stick to facts and science. We have in the last fifty years, more new found past knowledge that has been made public about religion than in the last thousand years. And in the last year new data has been coming out at a fantastic rate. For example, last week the timeline for migration out of Africa was changed from 50K to 220K years ago. That alone is a major change in science. Take the Hamitic Hypothesis for example, it doesn’t work very well in the 50K, but works fine in the 220K timeline. I would stick to and enforce the epistemology of the subject.

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Posted: 19 March 2018 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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MikeYohe - 11 March 2018 10:16 AM

Very interesting project, you are undertaking. Do you think the nontheism group is going to end up taking sides at some point? My guess is that the only response from them will be in the vote. Any move you take using old data is going to be perceived as backing old communist ideas. I can not give you any help in what you are asking for because I have no knowledge or research on what you are looking for.

Some ex-communists, or marxists are stressing their version of atheism, and i might have a lot of trouble to differ from them. Best way how to do it is “Celestial North Korea”, as some of politicians actually show neutral or adorable views of that ghastly regime. Also my view is to “live and let live”. As Hitchens did, I really enjoy beauty of the churches, i see them as a cultural treasure.

 
I am assuming you are dealing with the Eastern Orthodox church. Bartholomew’s book the “Encountering the Mystery” was said to be designed to appeal to the secular progressives. Never read it, but it may be worth checking out.

People from Czech, Slovak republic, Poland and Hungary recognize themselves to be in “Central Europe”, and its mainly for historical and cultural reasons. Historical are that those countries were part either of Germany, or Austro-Hungarian empire, we share culture, cuisine and even religion is being common. You would find here many catholics, protestants, and some newer “semi christian” denominations. Very few Eastern orthodox. Eastern Orthodox church begins to have influence more to the east - with Ukraine, while Serbia and Greece are the exception to the rule for historical reasons (Byzantian empire).

If you see catholics and protestants (Augsburg denomination), along with sausages and sauerkraut, you are most likely in Central Europe :)


But to my point… catholics and protestants. Some of them cautious about modern times, some of them sticking to ideas which modern society considers medieval. I would accept ideas which are against abortion, but they came up with conspiracy theories that EU is about to destroy “traditional family”, by teaching “Gender Ideology”. “Gender Idelogy” is a strawman created by mr. Anton Chromik and MUDr Eva Grey and Dr Rakús. In short its an appeal against broadening of rights of sexual minorities. (They cannot strip them of their current rights, but they dont want to grant them new).

And as I mentioned earlier, often i found myself in conflict with local christian politicians who accuse either metal bands, music festivals or even carnivals of spreading satanism. I had really good run last year, when band Arch Enemy (openly atheist band) was accused of satanism by dean of local christian college. He made his statement by analyzing lyrics. It was done in a manner that it could be recognized as a “defamation based on religion (satanism) or non-religion) against a group”, so when I wrote an open letter to the responsible politicians, they rather retracted their attempt to ban the festival.

Slovakia does not have any laws against religious sects of any kind, and religious freedom is ok. From time to time Christians tend to think that satanism, blasphemy are illegal, or attempt to victmize themselves on religious base.

 

Strictly, my point of view only. And coming from a background in business. If I had to choose a side to be on. It would be the winning side. And that would be your side. You got all the new data of a changing science going in your direction.

Belief and logic… I can barely discuss with people who believe they are winning in the afterlife. Their actions and recklesness have signs of a strange form of nihilism. “We dont care here and now, we care in the afterlife”.


I would stay away from the arguments approach. I know, that is the direction you want to go. Even if you win, at most you have is a movement. I would not worry about the metal festival or what the AZR is up to. Build your foundation first. For example, I am an Atheist. Really more of a nontheism. But I like the singing and social aspects of the small county faith based gatherings. I do not hide the fact that I am an Atheist. It is more of a generation thing at church. The only ones that seem even a little bit brother are people in my upper age group. The rest call me if I don’t show up and they want me there. Point being is that people want to understand me, and they ask me questions about being an atheist. And being an atheist is not being against religion. It is not believing in deities.

Well, people here dont ask, they might had an “atheist experience” of their own.


“Science was presented as absolute truth, however ideological goals were preferred over scientific or objective truth.” Sounds like you got what you need. Just get rid of the ideological goals. Stick to facts and science. We have in the last fifty years, more new found past knowledge that has been made public about religion than in the last thousand years. And in the last year new data has been coming out at a fantastic rate. For example, last week the timeline for migration out of Africa was changed from 50K to 220K years ago. That alone is a major change in science. Take the Hamitic Hypothesis for example, it doesn’t work very well in the 50K, but works fine in the 220K timeline. I would stick to and enforce the epistemology of the subject.

The experience which religious ppl had with “state driven atheism” wasnt positive at all. Now when they found out about Christopher Hitchens, and are already religious, they attempt simply to dismiss him as a leftist, or too aggresive.

Yes, Hitchens was aggresive, and i prefer more approach of Daniel Dennett in terms of making argument which is logical, but also strikes on emotional level. Thats actually where Hitchens succeeded, yet failed to some extent. When he was speaking about “Celestial North Korea” he got laughs, but what he expected was cold and silent audience which would understand that speaking of “Heaven” and literal Heaven, by people who are bound to support the idea are always biased, and always have more eartly motivations for making their statements. Dennett got laughs too, but at the times where he definitely expected them.


But none of those gentlemen actually has anything to do with the “marxist” atheism i described. Marx described “Heaven on Earth”, so there would be no place for man made religions. Ultimately it became as twisted as the idea of “Heaven in the sky” itself. I want to be clear that I speak about “Earth in Universe”

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Posted: 02 April 2018 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Ok, it seems I have found a way how to archieve two things at once…

1. You might know that Christopher Hitchens used purgatory as a perfect example why is atheistic approach more moral than religious one.
However concept of purgatory, heaven or hell has been changed some time ago by Pope John Paul II, and even when many catholics around me are blissfully unaware of that, i could not use that example. Instead i looked at concept of “Celestial North Korea” and atheistic views on the afterlife.
To narrow the problem of the afterrlife from perspective of the atheist is simply to say “I dont have hell to sent you to, i dont have heaven to promise to you” - which is a form of saying i am not making things up out of nothing, or attempting to manipulate other people using this idea.

2. As i pointed out earlier, marxist atheists dont cared about any supernatural claims, they just dismissed them.
Yet it seems it was waste of time. From my perspective it seems productive to spend time in defining how an atheist perceives his death and theoretical afterlife. And it has two benefits.

a) to differ from marxist atheist
b) to form more moral approach based on argumental dismissal of various superstisions - and indirectly atheism.
The supposedly byproduct - the argument - gives answers, even when not the ones which religious people expected.

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