Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A friend wanted to know when I am going to blog on ...

... this column by Peter Berkowitz in the Wall Steet Journal on the "new, new atheism", because everyone else has:
... Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the rest have some fair claim to novelty. But not where it really counts. They contend that from the vantage point of the 21st century, and thanks to the moral progress of mankind and the achievements of natural science, we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist and organized religion is a fraud. The disproportion between the bluster and bravado of their rhetoric and the limitations of their major arguments is astonishing.
There, I just did.

Yes, as Berkowitz notes, the remarkable part is that they have nothing much new to say. As Mario and I discovered when we looked into the research underpinnings of a lot of arguments for the new atheism, a lot of the research is pretty shoddy too. We go into that part in some detail in The Spiritual Brain.

Berkowitz also comments,
Playing into the anger and enmities that debase our politics today, the new new atheism blurs the deep commitment to the freedom and equality of individuals that binds atheists and believers in America. At the same time, by treating all religion as one great evil pathology, today's bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America's destruction.

I'm sure glad he said that. Muslim friends have pointed out to me on a number of occasions that the Islamist fanatics are not spiritually minded people. They don't interact with the spiritual dimensions of Islam; they are, instead, obsessed with trivia like whether they should grow a beard (when they are not in a complete meltdown about everything they hate). For too long, those people have been able to get away with the pretence that they are better interpreters of Islam than other Muslims are. And the unfocused book-length rants of the atheist authors helps maintain the deception among non-Muslims.

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