Wednesday, August 21, 2019

On Sneering New Atheists

My Friend:

...My main point, I think, is just that religion involves its adherents in an entire imaginative and yes, communal, world, and isn't a simple collection of superstitions that is often all those outside such a world can see...


I wonder how many thinking atheists, and I’m thinking especially of the new ones, see religious belief simply as a collection of superstitions and don’t see a communal world comprised by its adherents, adherents who don’t believe or think the world they’re devoted to is imaginative but think and believe it’s real. I’ve read more about the new atheists than I’ve actually read them though I have read some of Harris and Dawkins and have listened to and read bits of most of them from time to time, not so much lately, mind you. There is a sneering in them, especially Dawkins and Hitchens, at those enraptured by magical thinking, and the most for its proselytizers. But I don’t think they discount or glide over the communal glue religion provides. And Dawkins particularly in analogue to Reform Judaism prizes the that kind of ritual and ceremonial bonding but wants it grounded in something apart from a literal belief in divinity. Pinker too, who in my impression doesn’t sneer, he’s much too genial, makes a big point of that communal experience in enriching life while being steadfast in his non belief (and in his argument that things have been overall steadily improving given the replacement of religious thinking by problem solving rooted in enlightenment values maybe best encapsulated by the scientific method—rationality, deliberation, evidence, or as he puts it, “reason, science, humanism and progress.)

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