Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Church of Atheism

In response to my post regarding the strident, ill-informed and fact abusing assaults on religion, particularly Christianity, a reader has sent me the following article from the Houston Chronicle. It explains a great deal as far as I can see ...

In September 2001, Sam Harris was an unknown doctoral student who didn't believe in God. But after the World Trade Center crumbled on 9/11 he put his studies aside to write a book that became an instant best seller--and changed the way atheists, and perhaps Moslems--are perceived in this country.  
Published in 2004, Harris's "The End of Faith" launched the so-called "New Atheist" movement, a make-no-apologies ideology that maintains that religion is not just flawed, but evil. In the book Harris frequently uses the image of a Muslim bomber to highlight the dangers of religion, depicting Islam as a "cult of death" and a "machinery of intolerance and suicidal grandiosity."  
Within two years Harris was joined on the best-seller list by Richard Dawkins, Chritopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, who all took religion to task for most, if not all, of the world's ills. Collectively, the men whose books sold millions of copies around the world came to be known as the apocalyptic-sounding Four Horsement. Now, 10 years after the 9/11 attacks that launched the movement, freethinkers are taking stock of the New Atheists' contributions to their community, which includes atheists, humanists and other nonreligionists.  
Many laud their defense of what they see as a truthful but unpopular stance. Others, meanwhile, say their heavy-handedness with people of faith--especially Muslims-- has caused irreparable harm.  
"9/11ushered in a big change, in that it put Islam squarely in the center of the discussion," said Tom Flynn, director of the Center for Inquiry, and a supporter of the New Atheists. "Previous freethinkers would have said that religion is horrible, look at the Crusades, look at the Inquisition. This opened up the possibility of directing strong arguments against religions other than Christianity." 
Flynn points out that atheists have long called for an end to religion. What's "new" about the New Atheists is their stridency and refusal to compromise. "I think religion should be treated with contempt,and I claim the right," Hitchens told a Toronto audience in 2007. Freethinkers who are in dialogue with people of faith are "accommodationists" the New Atheists have charged, and "enemies" of the movement. 
That rift has had real consequences. In 2011 Paul Kurtz was ousted as founding leader of the Council for Secular Humanists and the Center for Inquiry in what he described as a "palace coup." Talk amongst the freethinkers was that Kurtz was too accommodationist. 
Harris declined to be interviewed for this article, and Dawkins and Donnett could not be reached. Hitchens, who is battling cancer, is too ill to conduct interviews. 
But the New Atheists have also done good, observers say. Fred Edwards, head of the United Coalition for Reason, an umbrella group of freethought organizations, describes 2004 as the "year the dam broke." 
"My job exists because of all the new local groups that emerged in the wake of the rise of the New Atheism." 
One such beneficiary is the Freedom from Religion Foundation which was mentioned in Dawkins' The God Delusion. In 2004, it had fewer than 6,000 members. By 2007, membership had doubled, and this year topped 17,000. 
While multiple factors have affected Americans' negative views of Islam after 9/11 many American Muslims partially blame the New Atheists. A 2010 poll found that only 30 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Islam, down from 41 percent in 2005, a year after Harris' book. 
"I would say they have harmed," Omid Safi, a Muslim and a professor of relgious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "They direct much of their venom against Muslims, and I have seen some of their material used by Islamophobes." 

So it appears the new "religion" is no religion and the Prophets of it profit mightily. I find it interesting that Prof. Dawkins is paid a very generous stipend by the Oxford College he disgraces. The College was founded by the Church he now attacks and despises and his stipend comes from Trusts and Foundations established by the Church, Christians and people who believed in God, for the furtherance of scientific understanding and Christian learning.

I'm pretty sure there will be a clause in them somewhere that forbids the expenditure on the propagation of anti-Christian venom, or atheism.

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