New Atheist Breaks Away from New Atheism

Over at his blog, Eric MacDonald, who used to be a New Atheist, explains why he is leaving New Atheism. He has come to recognize some of the things many of us have long been warning about.

First, he recognizes that New Atheists often erect, and then proceed to slay, strawman versions of religion:

However, as time went on I found myself at loggerheads with much that sailed under the banner of the New Atheism, finding its conception of religion so contrary to anything that I would have said about my faith in earlier years that I find myself no longer able to associate myself with this movement. Much that new atheists say about religion is simply so much straw.

Second, it looks like he could no longer tolerate the level of invective that spews from New Atheists (and it looks like Peter Boghossian’s book helped open his eyes to this):

There seems to be a belief that theology must simply be delusional, because there is no objective supernatural existent corresponding to the word ‘god’ — or at least that no “slam-dunk” arguments can be produced for such an existent. Consequently, it has become fairly normative to believe that religion has to do with “confected” entities, and religious thought itself not only delusional but even pathological. (Boghossian — in his book on making atheists — repeats the accusation that faith is pathological in his book so often that one is reminded of the George Orwell’s 1984, or the common practice in the Soviet Union of placing dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. There is a deeply threatening aspect to the belief that those whose ideas you oppose are somehow mentally ill, or victims of pathological ways of thinking in need of a cure.)

Third, he came to recognize the dogmatic, ideological dimension of New Atheism:

Empirical science is not the only source of truth or understanding. Indeed, I believe that the new atheism is quickly attaching itself to beliefs that are as dogmatic and irrational as many religious dogmas, and to a kind of ideological certitude that may be as dangerous as the ideologies of the past that caused so much harm in the course of what Robert Conquest has called The Ravaged Century.

I’ve long warned that the New Atheists were radical extremists and not all atheists are New Atheists. We can tell because many atheists refuse to join their movement and the movement itself, after almost 10 years, has made very little inroads into academia.

And now we can see that some people associated with New Atheism are beginning to break away from it.

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5 Responses to New Atheist Breaks Away from New Atheism

  1. Crude says:

    Ouch. I’ve actually heard of this guy.

  2. Andrew says:

    That said, Eric himself is conflicted:
    – he wants to declare that some things are wrong
    – he wants to support those searching out philosophy of meaning, at least as a process of inquiry
    – and yet he doesn’t believe in Truth

    Without Truth, there is only “what I prefer”. Scientism does not judge *you*; it provides bland fact on which you can layer whatever meaning you wish. To invite deep questions of meaning is to loose one’s grip and begin the slow tumble back into the abyss of Truth.

    On the up side, engaging in a process of eternal questioning makes it much easier to obscure that you’re already living according to your own answers.

    True humility begins with the understanding that I am responsible to reality, and it doesn’t owe me anything except what it chooses to give me. (As a theist, substitute “He” for “it”).

  3. Dhay says:

    Eric MacDonald’s break with the New Atheism in general, and with Jerry Coyne in particular, now (July 2015) seems complete:

    … By the way, comments that I may have made in anger about religion and theology, though some seem determined to throw them back into my face, are scarcely more well thought through than Jerry Coyne’s atheism, I regret to say. That’s why I took my posts down. They were not written in stone. If atheism can’t come up with a liveable world view, it may as well face the fact that it is just a publishing fad, no more. Indeed, from the shape of things, it seems to be already on the decline. And, by the by, we have no idea what a religionless world would be like. Indeed, I think it may be more trouble than people so casually assume.

    Part of comment reply dated 30 June 2015 at 14:32

    Got that: “… are scarcely more well thought through than Jerry Coyne’s atheism …”

    This is from Coyne’s former Theology tutor.

  4. Crude says:

    Interesting. Thanks for the followup, Dhay.

  5. Michael says:

    Yes, very interesting.

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