A common theme of the New Atheist narrative is the belief the world would be a much better place without religion. This belief is connected to the New Atheist’s extreme perceptions of religion as “one of the world’s greatest evils.” And it drives their missionary-like zeal in trying to suppress religion and convert people to Atheism.
I have never encountered any good evidence to support the belief the world would be a much better place without religion. Yet there is plenty of evidence that indicates it is false. One line of evidence comes from the atheist blogosphere itself. As we have seen over the years, atheists on the internet are constantly at war with each over, all because of something that once happened on an elevator. If the world would be a much better place without religion, the atheist blogosphere, which is a world without religion, should be a beacon of light. It should be the one place where we can find hope and reason to be optimistic about the future. But it is clearly not.
Another line of evidence comes from academia. While academia is not purely atheistic, I think one could make solid arguments for it being much more secular than the rest of society. At the very least, one would have a hard time blaming any problems within academia on the eevils of religion. So what’s the problem with academia?
New Atheist activist Jerry Coyne explains it:
Sadly, the decline in free speech at American universities, and the proliferation of ludicrous “trigger warning” mandates for books and courses, are topics covered largely by the right-wing media, so often I must hold my nose as I examine their sources. But even a right-wing venue can get stuff right, as Legal Insurrection does on the latest bit of nonsense from American campuses
Coyne worries that the universities, with their obsessions over “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are heading down the road to Literature Fascism.
She notes that our unversities are becoming “a place of fear and intimidation” and has written a new book outlining the evidence to support her claims.
The root of nearly every free-speech infringement on campuses across the country is that someone—almost always a liberal—has been offended or has sniffed out a potential offense in the making. Then, the silencing campaign begins. The offender must be punished, not just for justice’s sake, but also to send the message to anyone else on campus that should he or she stray off the leftist script, they too might find themselves investigated, harassed, ostracized, or even expelled. If the illiberal left can preemptively silence opposing speakers or opposing groups— such as getting a speech or event canceled, or denying campus recognition for a group—even better.
Clearly, a “world without religion” does not entail a world where free speech and free thought are more likely to exist when secular universities are becoming the place that is most hostile to free speech and free thought.
Look at it this way. We live in a world where there is great diversity of thought. In addition to atheism, agnosticism, and secularism, there are all kinds of religions, and all sorts of degrees of religiosity. Such diversity is healthy for our species. Different viewpoints challenge us and also help the more extreme versions of our own worldviews from going unchecked. Yet what the New Atheists propose is the elimination of this diversity, such that only atheists exist, perhaps allowing for small pockets of closeted religiosity. What the New Atheists propose for our future is thus that of intellectual inbreeding. And it is intellectual inbreeding that can spawn all sorts of freakish ideas – such as turning a university into a place where people are afraid to speak their mind.