Oh, FFS, here we go again…

Yes, it’s that time of the month where someone decides to have a go at the “New Atheists”. I’ll simply link to it for your interest, but it was this comment from (yet another ignorant and “oh woe is me!” christian) that somewhat piqued my relatively low-key ire.

They wrote:

This study convinces me even more that New Atheism has all the qualifications of a being its own religion. It seems to be becoming more organized and the tenets of its “faith” more scripted or set in place, with even four? main “bishops”; ie. Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.

Reading Dawkin’s quote and your description of his love for and faith in the great Cosmos, I’m struck with how “worshipful” his devotion is to the Universe.

You wrote, “He approaches science poetically, demonstrating that it can enrich our lives and aid us in a search for meaning and purpose. “The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear,” Dawkins explains.
It is this belief in the power of science to open our eyes to the awe-inspiring splendor and mystery of the Cosmos and its contents that drives Dawkins’ passion for evolutionary biology and his criticism of religion.”

To me this is just one religion criticizing the others. “Nothing is new under the sun.”

In my opinion, the intolerance of the new atheist is only a result of his/her commitment to their own set of beliefs and their worship of what is seen rather than what is unseen. The resentment to Christianity, in particular, definitely stems from the spiritual side of things, even from those who deny its existence. Have you ever met a religion which doesn’t resent Christianity?

I felt a need to respond, so I wrote:

Whatever “New Atheism” is (and it’s patently obvious that this isn’t a label that atheists apply to themselves except in the context of rebuttals to arguments like this), a “religion” it certainly isn’t.

Organised? If by that you mean that there are discussion fora, community web sites, (arguably) sceptical conferences, then yes. If you mean that we all gather in a bunch of rooms every so-often and pat ourselves on the back, you’re onto a wrong ‘un.

Tenets? What on earth is a tenet of atheism (or “New Atheism”, whatever)? Even the most elastic definition I could find (dictionary.com) defines a ‘tenet’ as “any opinion, principle, doctrine, dogma, etc., esp. one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement.”

The closest tenet of so-called “New Atheism” then could be the collective position (as per the original definition of “atheism”, rather than the populist strawman definition) that we don’t believe in gods. Any gods. All gods. Not just the christian gods.

Bishops? Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Grayling? Really? They hold services every now and then and tell us exactly what to think based on their pontifications of our holy books? Oops, we don’t have any.

Faith? What faith? Atheism is a respondent position, not an accusatory one. It’s a position based on the question “do you believe in the existence of any gods?” and if the answer is anything other than “yes”, then one is, by definition, an atheist.

Worship? An appreciation of the fact that we’re alive in the here and now and can look at the universe with a sense of wonder and try to figure it how it works? Please.

You’ve also completely ignored to tell us what the rest of our supposed religion’s trappings are. So, please tell us what our “holy book” is, what our “rituals” and “traditions” are, where our “churches” are, what our “dogmas” are, who our “popes” and “saints” are, how we “pray” and what we “pray” for.

I’m surprised you didn’t go the whole hog and call us “militant” while you’re at it. By ‘militant’ you would of course means “doesn’t shut up when told to”, rather than the usual definition of militant meaning going out with a gun and shooting someone, or carrying a belt of plastique into a crowded market place. You know, the usual use of the word ‘militant’, it’s even one you can find on Fox News! But then conflation and equivocation is a traditional refuge of the unreasonable mind.

It’s typical of people like you to call atheism a “religion” and then deride it. Just in case you don’t get it, this fails for at least two reasons:

1) it’s a strawman argument and anyone with even an ounce of common sense can see through it; and
2) by calling it a religion and then decrying it as such lends absolutely no credibility to any religion, especially that of the arguer.

There are other reasons, but I’m not entirely convinced that you’d understand why your accusation fails for the two reasons above, and frankly it’d be a waste of time.

“New Atheism” is nothing if not responding to the unjustified demand of “you can’t criticise religion (especially mine!)” with the flat answer of “yes, I can, why can’t I?”.

Atheists, “New” or otherwise, can hold any number of positions including an appreciation, an indifference or a hostility to classic organised religions, including (but certainly not exclusively) christianity.

[Comment broken here due to length.]

To claim that we resent christianity en masse is to a) completely fail to understand the basic position of an atheist (see above fro hints); b) play the “persecution” card (don’t worry, we know it’s in the christian scripture, so we expect it) and c) demonstrate that you appear to think that everyone who is an atheist used to be a christian (but obviouslynot a True Christian™) which is not only untrue but absurd and only serves to show a startlingly narrow experience and mindset.

Your basic argument (and pay attention because there’s a big point here, but I’ll write slowly so that you can keep up) seems to come down to “New Atheism has all the qualifications of a being its own religion … [because] [h]ave you ever met a religion which doesn’t resent Christianity”.

Completely risible.

And I laugh at you (no, not because you’re a christian before you decide to replay the same persecution card) but because you can’t seem to reason your way out of a wet paper sack, even with the aid of a chain-saw and an angry claustrophobic ferret.

I can’t help feeling that it’s like smacking a 4 year old for something it doesn’t understand it’s done wrong.

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