Thursday, April 21, 2011

The poverty of New Atheism

Slogans such as 'Religion is the root of all evil' seem to be gaining widespread popularity. There is a growing group of people who see in religion the source of all evil, the reason for 9/11, the inspiration for the crusades, backwardness in much of the Islamic world, war, and so on. In short, religion can be used for blaming anything you dislike about our current (and past) world.
The prophets of this movement are well-known, Hitchens and Dawkins being the most prominent. They've made astonishing careers by publishing books in which they enlighten us by arguing very convincingly that fairy-tales aren't real. What's next, a book in which they argue our planet is round and revolves around the sun? Or perhaps invent a machine driven by steam-power?

So we've established that the god hypothesis is invalid, now what? Enlighten the religious and convert them to non-religiousness? Pointless, anyone who's ever tried that knows it's about as efficient as attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro. Who else? Atheists perhaps? Seems useless, considering they've already refuted the hypothesis.
The mother who comforts herself by believing she will be reunited with her dying child eventually? Yes, let's deliver her solemn lectures on the falsity of her beliefs. Surely that'll make the world a better place.
If these are the intended audiences, the effort is simply a waste of time and energy better spent on trying to improve the conditions in which religion may flourish.

Such conditions are well known and documented, as a bearded German guy had once said: 'Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless situation. It is the opium of the people'. In other words, when people are suffering, atomized by modern society and turned into mere cogs and wheels of an (post)industrial system lacking social bonds and any real meaning, it should not come as a surprise that they resort to fiction. They imagine a place in which they are free and careless, where people do not starve to death despite an overwhelming availability of food, where they can live peacefully with their fellow man instead of hating and fearing him. It is no coincidence indeed: the more miserable the conditions of a country, the more religious its citizens tend to be.
However, wealth alone doesn't abolish religiosity as the Scandinavian countries (among others) demonstrate, though it does seem to significantly reduce it. Putting aside for a moment the very plausible hypothesis that human beings are inherently 'spiritual' and have a tendency to glorify items with symbolic value such as books, stones, pillars, temples, crosses, flags and so on, and focusing on the environmental factors.

I believe that if one is serious in his attempts of reducing religion, it would make sense to combat the origin of it. Although economic misery can not be the sole factor explaining it's existence, it is without a doubt a very important one. If a man genuinely wishes to abolish religion in order to increase the overall well-being of humanity, he would logically have to spent a great deal of his time as an activist helping poor suffering people in need of help. This rather simple formula seems have escaped the attention of the ''New Atheist'' movement. It seems to me they are more interested in attacking and ridiculing people with religion, while propagating themselves as the rational and enlightened ones. It is questionable indeed whether they intend to improve the well-being of the religious, or are merely interested in self-glorification.

As has been said, it's the opium of the people, their painkiller. To take away their painkiller while they are in pain is nothing short of inhumane cruelty. It doesn't add to their happiness or well-being, neither does it help society in general. Does this mean they should be supplied with painkillers indefinitely? The answer is a resolute no. While opium can help ease the pain, it is in no way a cure. The goal is to cure them of that which is causing the pain so that they will not need painkillers.

Opium however, has a demonic side-effect, while it relieves people of their pain, it also distorts their awareness. A drugged person can easily be misled into doing all sorts of wrongs and it needs no argument that this is exactly what religion has been used for time and time again, and it will remain to be so 'til Kingdom cometh.

The atheists wish to relieve them of their blur and offer them clarity, but this also means having to face an often painful and brutal reality. The religious wish to ease their pain by sedating them, making them pay for it with their clarity.
It seems there are less and less people left to combat the cause of it all.


  1. Ultimately, I think, we need a bit of everything if we're to think about a gradual process towards religion being part of the minority. The only problem is that you can't really tackle this problem on a small scale. You'd have to have a massive amount of people working towards the greater good. Cause otherwise you just have seperate groups heading towards different goals.

    What I mean by this is we need both active 'atheist' (I really don't like the word cause it's so stereotyped by theists and by other atheists) discussions everywhere so that it becomes a "mainstream" project. Even if it's just to start proactive discussions. I'm pretty sure that atheists such as Dawkins, Hitchens or Matt Dilahunty from 'The Atheist Experience' are aware that they won't convert peple on the spot. But it is a good way of getting people talking.

    That being said there also needs to be other ideas in development, such as the one you present. Helping the worlds economy really shouldn't be done just to abolish religion. It should just be happening to make everybodys lifestyles better. But it would also, in my opinion, have a good impact on religious indoctrination.

    For now I think it's good that these theist/atheist debates are taking place just to get the ball rolling. Of course that doesn't go to say that all or even a big number of them are good. It's just a start, at least. Because to be honest, I really don't see any big plans towards bettering the world as a whole in economy. Every country has it's own greed.

  2. Look man, everyone got their shit right, some people some people are like "YO DAWG AINT NO GOD" with a 99% chance that they had to put up with a lot of shit in their life so how could there be a god, and if there is one this diety surely havent payed them enough attention. Life is amazing man, god is what he is, befriend him, put yo hands in the air and breathe life in yo!! HUGS! :D

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  4. Great first blogpost, I agree with your point that alot of atheists miss the "true" point and instead go on a warfare campaign against religion. The difference between Christianity vs Islam and Religious vs Nonreligious is extremly small with narrow views.

    At the same time I myself know how hard it can be as a nonbeliever to see how "Flyingmeatball" is socialy accepted and this is from my own experience in one of the lowest religious regions of the world.

  5. May i first of all congratulate you on your advanced homo erectus genetic material hence thy advanced thought process. I say old bean i must express my astonishment of your claim, thy is most exquisite indeed. As i quote my good mate 'Peter' " "YO DAWG AINT NO GOD" with a 99% chance that they had to put up with a lot of shit in their life so how could there be a god, and if there is one this diety surely havent payed them enough attention." We shall look thy under the fact that thy Peter has used Xzibit meme and march on with his claim - He states thee that no believing in god brings a lot of 'feces' excuse thy mental projection to your life, may be so...may be so, but why good friend Peter has over looked the fact of which if he states that a deity exist, then thy must also mean, deeply enough that and equal and opposite force exists aswell - the CURSEDDEVIL. So i much as you my good chap reading this i pu a meme in your meme so you can luagh while you laugh.

  6. Great first post; looking forward to reading more!

    The recent debate on religion, while definitely being needed, can really upset me sometimes. Many of these new-found atheist fanatics who have just seen the light seem to spread their knowledge purely for selfish reasons. Instead of being constructive, they are confrontational.

    A debate on what place religion should have (if any at all) in our secularised societies is, however, completely warranted.

    Historically, religion has been merged together with politics, science, philosophy and several other areas, to a varying extent in different cultures. It is clear that (most of) the world isn't interested in theocracies or answering scientific questions by quoting from Genesis.

    A lot of the functions religion used to have are now gone - moved to other institutions. Psychologists can fill the personal role of a priest, politicians can work on the bigger issues, and so on. This makes sense to me, and I bet Adam Smith would like it too. It's more efficient this way, and it definitely won't lead to any religious wars. It may lead to lots and lots of political wars, but hey. Can't have it all.

    We are no longer dependant of religion as a fundament for our societies to be built on - that's clear. But on a personal level, people still have the needs that were answered by religion. Those who claim they don't, I believe, have just replaced religion with something that isn't considered religious but fills the same functions. In most cases, religion is replaced by a multiude of things - friends, therapists, politicians, etc.

    Aside from these more direct needs, I think people need some sort of structure to base their interpretation of the world on, and to pin all their different ideas on. A source of guidance. Since religion (speaking from a Swedish perspective) has become so stigmatised - mostly thanks to the pious preachers who found salvation in atheism - people have to find that structure elsewhere. So they do, whether it be in atheism, academia, yoga, motorcycling, whatever.

    I think we need to remember that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

  7. Very well written, keep it going

  8. Purely selfish reasons? You reading minds again?

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  10. As stated before, very well written. Edwin, you can't be constructive with religious people. Anything you will say will be denied...

  11. Great post Kaweh. I find myself arguing a lot about this subject and you brought up some interesting points. Keep it up !

  12. 10/10 would show to grandchildren

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  14. Removed by request of poster.

  15. Thanks for all the positive feedback people, appreciated.

    @Trig: I agree it's a good thing that atheists got the discussion ball rolling, but it shouldn't stop rolling there which is what my fear is, that it'll stagnate.
    Also, I don't think that we would have to abolish religion for the sake of abolishing religion. If we can create a world in which religion has no political power, who cares what people believe in?

    @Petter: Hugs.

    @Niclas: You flyingmeatball fundamentalists should be put to death, spew your religious propaganda elsehwere!

    @Anonymous aka CURSEDDEVIL: You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve been further even more decided to use even go need to do look more as anyone can. Can you really be far even as decided half as much to use go wish for that? My guess is that when one really been far even as decided once to use even go want, it is then that he has really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like. It’s just common sense.

    @Edwin: While I agree that religion shouldn't be demonized by definition, it's danger as a political force must never be underestimated.

    @Niko: Thanks mate, will do.

    @God: That's exactly what I was trying to achieve, glad to see it worked!

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  17. God is just dog spelled backwards - Johnny 'Rotten' Lydon

    Nietzsche said, God is dead, and he was right, the modern world has no need for a god and using science and logic the modern man cannot accept religion as the answer to the most important questions. Thank you very much Charles Darwin.

    HOWEVER - I think - we need a certain faith to give our lives purpose (you mention pain, do you mean the hardship of life in general? I think THIS is the pain, a purposelessness). In this sense we are the ones who are lost and without meaning, not the man-with-faith.

    Nietzsche himself tried to formulate this new set of morals. He failed and he drove himself crazy trying.

    I think there are more lost people right now than at any time when all problems could be resulved by 'asking Il Papa'.

    What do you think??

    Nice blog Kaweh, keep going!

    (read Nietzsche!!)

  18. @Joris, I don't think religion's only purpose was to provide answers to questions. Simply providing answers to these questions as science has done, doesn't remove the need for religion, or the cause of it's origin.

    I for one don't need 'faith' to give my life meaning, and I'm certainly not alone in this.

    I think the question of meaning is a complex one that can't not be addressed so easily in a format such as this.

    Oh, and I've read Nietzsche's The Antichrist, it was a good criticism of Christianity and of it's function in a class-society, but he's a tad too fascist for my taste.

    He went crazy because of syphillis btw, not his philosophy.

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  21. There is a growing group of people who see in religion the source of all evil.

    The most Athiest I know do not believe this. I am not sure where you get this from.

  22. Then you don't you many atheists, or don't know them well enough.