New Atheism offers better philosophy, faith than religion

As science advanced over time, the God hypothesis became increasingly less necessary as a way to explain the occurrence of natural events. This caused religiosity to decline, especially among educated people. As secular states developed and freedom of expression emerged as a human right, criticism of religion — both by philosophers and scientists — became widespread.

In this sense, the so-called New Atheists movement — led by Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens — is not new. It was, however, started because of the way the power of religion started to be utilized — the terrorist attacks of 9/11 wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for blind faith in the concept of a rewarding afterlife.

The New Atheists present a modern supporting framework for individuals who are able to overcome the frightening concept of eternal punishment, which is often presented to them during a religious childhood. The movement also helps people realize that adages like “anything is possible” or “God works in mysterious ways” are merely shortcuts, ways of avoiding more intellectual explanations. Many books written by New Atheists provide excellent guidance out of the mazes and away from the traps of faith in its pure form.

However, despite recent attempts such as Dawkins’ “The Magic of Reality” and Harris’ “Free Will,” the New Atheists don’t have the same level of success they used to with laying the foundations of a fulfilling atheist life.

As it turns out, the pursuit of happiness is a journey far more complex than understanding the way the brain works. Throughout history, besides supernatural affairs, many aspects related to the self and life in society were taken care of by religion. It often provided valuable answers in the individual and collective realms, including the practice of meditation and the act of gathering to celebrate a common purpose.

As technology becomes increasingly powerful in a highly interconnected world and cultures clash on an unprecedented scale, it becomes too dangerous to leave guidance on these complicated topics to people who base their rationale on dogmas and supposedly sacred books from the ages of tribalism, dreams and entities that are indistinguishable from imaginary friends.

This gap has been recognized. We can see the emergence of interesting movements, such as secular humanism. Thinkers such as Alain de Botton are starting to approach the topic. Unfortunately, there is not yet a solid, structured proposal, and the average atheist is in great part left to find his way through life alone, having to learn and test alternatives by himself.

This is partly because the territory of the mind is largely unknown, and an honest, confident answer cannot be formulated yet. It is promising that New Atheists treat the topic carefully, but we need more people — newer atheists — to start thinking and acting toward that goal. Because, as the cliché goes, life is too short — a fact we atheists are very aware of.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 25 print edition. Marcelo Cicconet is a staff columnist. Email him at opinion@nyunews.com.

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8 Responses to “New Atheism offers better philosophy, faith than religion”

  1. marktime on February 25th, 2013 9:20 am

    The usual dogma of the athiest. First error is to generalise religion, mixing the events of 9/11 and quotes from the Christian Bible as if they are the same when they self evidently are not. Second, that the Bible (the sacred text I think you are refering to) was written by primative people. The Bible offers insights into human nature and literature of such a high order that it has never been equalled. Educated people know this. Lastly science has made no helpful contribution to human nature.

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    Panikos Reply:

    There does need to be some clear thinking about such issues. To be honest I’m afraid of us creating a group for that purpose. It’s too easy to replace one belief with another. Perhaps the aim should be to encourage individuals to publish their thoughts without creating a any kind of structure around them.

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    Tim Riches Reply:

    Marktime, this is a thoughtful, well-written article. Faith is what links 9/11 and your Bible together. Everyone knows what the last words of the pilots were, and faith is what got them there: The permission religious people give each other to believe incredible things on bad evidence. The Bible isn’t really evidence at all, it is the claim. Try to avoid making bold assertions about the quality of a book so widely read. Isn’t it strange that God made Shakespeare a better writer than himself?

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    Steve Greene Reply:

    ‘Marktime’ – you make an excellent point when you write, “The Bible offers insights into human nature and literature of such a high order that it has never been equalled.” Such as, for example, the book of Joshua where the tribal god Yahweh (the god of the Israelite tribe) is described as commanding them to engage in the mass murder of inhabitants, slaughtering all the children, women, and men (aka, genocide), in order to take over the land on their campaign of territorial conquest.

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  2. Panikos on February 25th, 2013 12:05 pm

    marktime, all religions are essentially the same. 1 imaginary daddy + 1 book of rules and some priests.
    You say “the Bible was written by primitive people. The Bible offers insights into human nature and literature of such a high order that it has never been equaled” Do you not see the contradiction?
    “Lastly science has made no helpful contribution to human nature”. I think you meant technology didn’t. Science is all of it. All the things we learned & it’s made a contribution to…

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  3. Phil on February 25th, 2013 12:33 pm

    @marktime I like how you posted your claim that science has never made a helpful contribution to humanity while using a computer or smartphone connected to the Internet. Right after you called yourself educated. How many things have you used today that are only available because of the scientific advancements of the past century? Science has flown us to the moon and given us antibiotics and technology. Religion has caused wars and given us groups like the westboro baptist church. Educated…

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  4. Craig Davis on February 25th, 2013 4:41 pm

    Good article. It’s nice to see an enlightened opinion occasionally.

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  5. Chris Miles on February 27th, 2013 8:07 am

    After watching my fellow humans acting with such a lack of awareness about some very obvious observations to be made in everyday life regarding the real /unreal, true /false, good/bad , God /no God, I have to say I do not hold humans in the high regard with which we view ourselves. I am concerned and a little confused as to how we could be so misguided and have come to the conclusion that we must be rather dumb animals. Oh, God what should I do?

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