Today I’ll expand on some of my ideas on New Atheism in the essay I wrote called “The Search for Truth.” It is to mention first that I am an atheist and classical liberal (a belief in individual liberty, free speech, free market capitalism, and limited government).
The major criticism of New Atheism is contesting the belief that religion is a completely evil thing, and once we eradicate religion from the face of the Earth we will move into a rational utopia. The major figures of New Atheism include Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
Criticizing New Atheism is a little difficult. Investigating where critics all come from can be overwhelming. There are atheist critics (such as Professor Massimo Pigliucci or Professor Michael Ruse) and theist critics (such as author David Berlinski or religious scholar Huston Smith). There are left leaning critics (such as Chris Hedges, CJ Werleman, or Reza Aslan) and right leaning critics with more classically liberal views (such as psychologist Jordan Peterson or political pundit Vox Day). Some write books on the subject, while others right articles. Most popular critics are academics. On top of these things, it is a particularly hostile group to criticize.
The thing that most distinctly defines the (radical) left leaning critics is that they are morally relativistic in terms of viewing all religions. The critics who have more classically liberal views are against moral relativism, are anti-Marxist, and take a politically incorrect approach.
I mentioned that one of the main criticisms of New atheism is that it is anti-intellectual. I give evidence of this from three intellectuals – Professor Massimo Pigliucci, Professor Dein Simon, and psychologist Jordan Peterson. Dein Simon’s article was quite good but was imperfect, specifically his morally relativistic lens. Jordan Peterson currently has over half a million YouTube subscribers and is extremely erudite.
Next I continued a discussion of whether we are rational creatures or not, starting with a quote from Jordan Peterson in a discussion he had with classical liberal Dave Rubin on his show. A popular criticism of New Atheism is criticizing the belief that we will move into a rational utopia if we gave up religion.
Neuroscientists like Joseph LeDoux (The Emotional Brain) and Antonio Damasio (Descartes Error) think that we are predominately irrational creatures. The Emotional Brain looks at the origins of human emotional life. Joseph LeDoux wrote in the conclusion of his book that “the brain states and bodily responses are the fundamental facts of an emotion, and the conscious feelings are the frills that have added icing to the emotional cake" (LeDoux, 302). Antonio Damasio’s Descartes Error investigated the central role of emotion in decision making and rationality.
I also mentioned David Brooks. I am aware that David Brooks is also a political commentator but I mentioned him in the context of the book he wrote The Social Animal, which explores the central role of emotions in decision making, rationality, and our lives.
Prominent religious scholar Mircea Eliade was also particularly fond of pointing out that he thought we are predominately irrational, especially in the of the end of the book The Sacred and the Profane where he examines religious behavior in general.
All the evidence suggests we are predominantly irrational creatures. It doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea to accept. We are animals that come out of the primordial soup of millions of years of evolution.
Lastly I briefly look at other basic criticisms of New Atheism which I picked up from popular political commentators such as Stefan Molyneux, Dave Cullen, Massimo Pigliucci, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Gavin McInnes, Dinesh D’Souza, and others.
I concluded by saying that I think New Atheism is narcissistic and inflated. Indeed, I think it lacks empathy at bare minimum. In the following sections I also established the validity of mythology and religion as an intellectual endeavor with supporting figures such as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and various academics. Finally, I aimed to establish the role of transcendence in the human condition which is often a disregarded idea.
That's all for today. If you enjoyed this article feel free to like/comment/share.
Until next time.
Ledoux, Joseph. The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
My essay (link): http://glenwillson.com/the-search-for-truth/