I’m losing count

Mark Vernon went to the “let’s pretend we get to tell atheists what to do next” debate (debate? it doesn’t sound like a debate – more like a self-congratulatory chat) and explains about it for CisF Belief. It is, predictably, very smug predictable stuff. It assumes from the outset that gnu atheism is obviously stupid and bad and wrong and laughable, and proceeds from there.

Marilynne Robinson was articulate on how the New Atheism erases the human by treating us as crudely material entities…She had a great quip. The theist looks at phenomena like the fine tuning and thinks, amazing. The (old) atheist looks at phenomena like the fine tuning and thinks, amazing. The New Atheist looks at phenomena like the fine tuning and thinks, well that’s that answered then.

See what I mean? What’s great about that? It’s not funny, and it’s meaningless. There’s no such thing as “The New Atheist” in the sense it’s used there – there’s nothing about putative new atheists that can be generalized in such a way that that “quip” describes anything real. It’s only a combination of contempt and smugness that makes Robinson and Vernon think otherwise.

And this points to one of the most irritating aspects of the backlash against gnu atheism, which is that a favorite trope about them/us is about the tribalism, the community-thinking, the demonization of The Other. Well of course there is plenty of that, as there is with any kind of agreement or “movement” or other commonality – there is always the risk of thinking to well of self and group and too ill of everyone else, but you sort of have to take that risk if you want to accomplish anything at all (apart from meditation).

And in any case – why do new atheist-haters focus so sharply on that among new atheists and ignore it in themselves and their allies? Look at Mark Vernon for a classic example, along with the parties to that “debate.” The whole thing looks like an exercise in brainless finger-pointing and “ew” shouting.

Even Vernon noticed that.

All in all, the implicit message was that the New Atheism is anti-humanist…Such analysis was only to be expected, given the speakers. But I did wonder why the New Humanist had no defender of New Atheism on the panel. The editor does seem to be having doubts about whether the defence is worth listening to.

Little wonder many in the audience started to shift in their seats and a certain frustration emerged during the questions.

Well quite. Why, exactly, is the New Humanist staging a pseudo-debate in which three people throw yet more crap at other atheists?

Your guess is as good as mine.

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