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The High Priests of Contemporary Atheism

Truly gone are the days of Epicurus.

Gone are the discussions about Free Will and the existence of Evil. Recently, some vocal atheists apper to be thinking it is time for puerile opinions instead.

Sure, many “persons without God” (including agnosticists such as Breaking the Spell”’s author Daniel C. Dennett) have a healthy respect for the experiences and beliefs of fellow human beings, be them atheists or not.

But then what can one say when an otherwise brilliant thinker like Richard Dawkins publishes without a grain of self-awareness the “Ultimate 747” argument, a so-called “definitive proof” that God does not exist?

It is a sort of an updated “who created the Creator” question that anybody with a brain can beautifully, simply and quite obviously take apart (hint: the Creator doesn’t have to be part of the Creation).

In Italy, philosophy Professor Maurizio Ferraris finds it worthwhile to spend his time arguing that Jesus is akin to Santa Claus, whilst mathematician extraordinaire Piergiorgio Odifreddi can’t even think of belief in God as anything else than irrational superstition.

Things look like going even more downhill now, with Christopher Hitchens’ new book “God is Not Great”: apparently, a masterpiece with pearls of wisdom such as asking if the Jews did not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments.

Obviously, the problem is not with Hitchens, a professional polemicist that utters outrageous statements for a living (sort of a male Ann Coulter with just a tad less smell of sulphur). The problem is not even with Dawkins’ anti-fundamentalist crusade that truly throw the baby (Faith) with the bathwater (religious establishments).

There is a much larger issue at hand: the blind acceptance of their half-backed arguments by people evidently in need to justify their atheism to themselves.

Take for example Michael Kinsley’s review of Hitchen’s book (With brio and anger, an atheist takes on religion”, International Herald Tribune , May 12, 2007).

Mr Kinsley finds “entertaining” some blatantly silly questions such as “How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all?” (Answer: please do read at least one Gospel, once).

Worse, Mr Kinsley is “satisfied” with (yet another?) “disproving” of the existence of God. Wow…it’s nice to know that age-old questions can finally be set aside: why don’t Messrs. Hitchens and Kinsley explain to us the Meaning of Life too?

Mr Kinsley is also quite happy to repeat Mr Hitchens’ thoughts on religious ecumenism. “if any one of the major faiths is true, then the others must be false in important respects – an obvious point often forgotten in the warm haze of ecumenism”. Boy, have they “obviously” squared the circle or what?

Do people like Kinsley and Hitchens realize how deeply, reactionarily catholic (with small “c”) is such a limited view of Faith (one God, one Truth, one World)?

How much was the Mahatma a “moron, lunatic or liar” then? That’s their definition of a modern believer. After all he did say “Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man” and “One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.”

Doesn’t anybody remember Quintus Aurelius Symmachus? One of the last pagans in ancient Rome, Symmachus protested the removal of the Altar of Victory from the floor of the Roman Senate by a Christian Emperor by saying “We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth?”.

(No need to waste your breath on our activist atheists, o civis Symmachus! They wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about).

Anyway, there is just the faintest of hope of some reasoning capability left in the activist atheist’s mind. Mr Hitchens writes that a sustained argument about the (non-)existence of God shouldn’t be either necessary, nor sufficient. I am sure only the most fundamentalist believers and atheists will disagree with that.

What is for atheists then the point of writing books belittling something they do not have?

Perhaps, just perhaps, one day people like Mr Hitchens and Mr Dawkins will realize that they may as well uselessly ponder on mysteries such as why a wonderful person as my wife ever fell in love with a less-than-perfect guy like me. Good luck with that!

Is this really what millennia of debates between believers and atheists have gone down to? Somebody will rightly point out that there are plenty of idiots that believe their Faith should be expressed by insulting, outlawing, threatening and killing others.

Yes, there are!

But two wrongs don’t make one right: weren’t Dawkins et al. supposed to be the Brights, the superiorly intelligent humans capable of shedding silly arguments and superstition from their lives, and from the lives of anybody that would follow them?

Why are they then switching off their brains whenever the conversational topic is Religion?

If theirs is the Light, we live in a very dim world indeed.

Like the Conquistadores in the Americas, these Brights are fighting to destroy what they can’t understand in the belief of improving the human lot. The bringing down of anything spiritual, it has become their spiritual quest. The attitude of the vast majority of their fellow humans, they consider it a primitive relic unworthy of their own perfection. Several thousand years of contributions in logic and philosophy, that doesn’t mean a thing to them.

Having discovered the “definitive arguments” for the double impossibility of proving the non-existence of any Divinity, they put themselves outside of human history. And they even gather around their books of wisdom, to accept with little sense of critique anything that is said to belittle the very idea that human being can believe in God.

It’s a hubris extravaganza.

Contemporary (activist) atheists truly set themselves in competition with God: here’s a hint of why they find so compelling to make however flawed an argument against the scandal represented by anybody not believing in their “religion of atheism”.

4 replies on “The High Priests of Contemporary Atheism”

thank you Hakima.
At the end of the day the problem is indeed with the people (believers or atheists) that try to convince/coerce either by proselitizing or by making ridicule of whomever think differently.
There must be some kind of “separation principle”: in matters of faith (or lack thereof) the approach to the others’ beliefs can only be either thoughtful and understanding or pointless and stupid. There’s no middle ground.
In fact, the issue is not with any individual considering God and the Tooth Fairy as equivalent. The problem is if that individual writes that only “morons, lunatics and liars don’t consider God as equivalent to the Tooth Fairy”.
As for not having faith, that’s no deficiency at all: if you are a balanced and ethical person, then a believer can only admire you situation. (Mt. 9,11-12) and all that: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick”
By the way, “Brights” has been coined by Richard Dawkins to indicate “atheists”. It was an attempt at imitating the use of “gay” for homosexuals instead of just indicating happiness. I may say, an attempt gone spectacularly wrong.
Finally regarding the debates, this is the age when only those making the grossest remarks get airtime and newspaper coverage. So Hitchens is in, Dennett is out…

I read the article with great interest as it is touching in things I am thinking about.

My question by now is: why are atheists so intolerant when it comes to believing in a God and more importantly why are they so concerned in speaking out loud this belief, cause ultimately, that is what it is, a belief.

Could it maybe just be that atheism has developed into a Godless religion itself. The way atheists promote themselves and their beliefs sure make it seem like that.

And for that matter a very intolerant religion. I don’t hear Christians, Bhudists, Muslims go on the warpath against atheism.

So why are atheists so concerned with others’ believes? Could it maybe be that they are getting at the end of their belief system, could it maybe be that they are slowly starting to realise that where religion in their view is not offering the answers, neither is Darwinism and other sciences?

I think a lot is said in the title of this blog already.

For interested readers: in New Zealand recently a book came on the market called Eve’s Bite by journalist and author Ian Wishart.

A review can be found on my blog at

Firstly, we atheists do not all call ourselves “brights.” Quite apart from the frightful implied presumption, from the point of view of the faithful, we would all be “non-brights” wouldn’t we, seeing as we haven’t seen the light? In fact, we’d be “in the darks..”
Secondly, though, I think it is a valid point that if you do not believe, that is a sort of stumbling block to being able to sort out the pros and cons of the different faiths. So, if I think that I should at least be able to see (or potentially see) things in which I believe, then my logic must place the tooth fairy and god in the same box.
Thirdly, why should the debates have died away, if there are still things to be said? Or if new people keep discovering the old debates and want to add to them (as you yourself have just done, might I add)?
Fourthly, as an atheist, I’ve really come to the conclusion that I just don’t get faith. I’m quite happy for that to count as some deep deficiency in me, to the extent that it doesn’t seem to hamper my ability to do other things otherwise, nor can I see that it gives a particular advantage to anyone else. So that’s fine. I’m not a physicist either, but again, that is not a serious deficiency, as far as I can see, since I don’t particularly want to do physics. Nor do I have anything against those who do.
Finally, I do however, strenuously object to anyone insisting that I follow them along as they investigate the various meanings of their faith. That also seems to me to be a gross presumption, not to mention realistically impossible. If I agreed with everyone who is passionate about their beliefs, I’d spend my days switching between Islam, Judaism, Christianity, etc. and I would be forced to give equal credence to all of them. The less exhausting option is to be an equal opportunity unbeliever. This leaves all religions equal, which has a pleasing symmetry, and leaves the faithful free to do whatever they feel they must, but I must insist on my right to be left out of all that business. I insist also on my right to tell you why I want to be left out of your affairs, and indeed, why I think your affairs are not that important, generally speaking. This obtains even when I can see how critical they must be to you.
(On the order of, “yes, yes, I know all about The Prophet and his horse, etc., how utterly fascinating, but what about the rather more pressing question of equal rights for women?”)
Really, we all need to start being somewhat sensible about these things. I often feel as if all the grown ups have left the building.

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