A spiritualistic, secular society

In a previous post, Crude noted

One thing I’ve learned to watch out for is the atheism naturalism materialism shell game.

Take Denmark. I’ll now and then hear Denmark described as a very atheistic country, which is possible. The problem is that an atheist is not necessarily a naturalist. The 2005 Eurobarometer poll reported that 31% of Danish citizens responded that “they believe there is a god”, 49% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 19% that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force”. (Wiki ‘religion in denmark’ source.)


In fact, if you go to page 11 of the 2005 Eurobarometer poll (pdf file linked here), you find that 52% of Europeans believe in God, 27% believe in “some sort of spirit or life force,” and only 18% deny the existence of God, spirits, and life forces.  The country that has the highest incidence of naturalism is France, where about 1/3 people deny the existence of God, spirits, and life forces.  However, the country with the smallest percentage of people who believe in God is Estonia, with only 16% falling into that category.  Yet it also has the highest incidence of people who believe in spirits or life forces, with 54% falling into that category.

What these data show us is that even if Gnu atheism was to succeed in exorcising traditional Christian religion from society, there is no reason to think the post-Christian society would embrace scientism and naturalism.  The views of Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers seem destined to fringe status for as far as the eye can see.  Thus, the Gnu’s faith in creating some idealistic Enlightenment society is just that – faith.  Worse, it is a blind faith.  Worse, a blind faith that the Gnus themselves can’t live up to.

However, Gnu atheism is not just about scientism and naturalism.  Mixed into that are strong elements of anti-Christian bigotry and a celebration of hedonism.  And the Gnus can live up to these ideals.  What’s more,  it is not hard to envision a population abandoning the Christian worldview to replace it with some New Age type beliefs in spirits and life forces.  Such a society wouldn’t see itself as “religious” and would likely side with the Gnus when it comes to anti-Christian bigotry and a celebration of hedonism.  It would see itself as a spiritualistic, secular society.  We already see this type of alliance when it comes to the mythers, a community composed of hardcore Gnu atheists and nature-worshipping mystics and neo-pagans, and also see hints of it in Sam Harris himself.  Harris is loved and embraced by the Gnu atheists, yet doesn’t like to be called an atheist and advocates for mysticism.


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One Response to A spiritualistic, secular society

  1. Crude says:


    I’d argue it gets even more fuzzy when you consider guys like Carrier. Believing in a future where all people’s minds are uploaded to the Great Simulation Machine where we can all live for eternity may be ‘naturalist’ in a strained sense, but the idea that those would be anything but explicitly religious, supernatural futures is recent at best. It’s no surprise that the future Carrier describes is extremely similar to Frank Tipler’s, except Tipler just flat out called Great Simulator ‘God’.

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