I wouldn’t classify Zoltan Istvan as a leader in the New Atheist movement, but he is clearly someone who has swallowed New Atheist rhetoric and taken it to the next level. In a sense, he is one example of a 2nd Generation New Atheist, one example of a someone who has become even more extreme than his leaders. He shares in the common New Atheist idea that religion is evil and its adherents are mentally ill.But while Harris and Dawkins blame religion for terrorism, Istvan blames religion for the fact that we all die. In his mind, if it wasn’t for the obstruction of religious people, science would have long ago discovered immortality. So there! All death is blamed on religion.
And while Harris and Dawkins embrace scientism as the means to all truth, Istvan’s scientism goes further and casts science as the Savior. New Atheists have long preached about how a secular utopia would emerge if we could solve the Religion Problem and Istvan is one New Atheist who has stepped up to flesh out one particular vision of this utopia.
So it’s no surprise that Istvan would push radical New Atheism is yet another context. In the past, Richard Dawkins has tried to equate a religious upbringing with child abuse and early on in his role as Leader of the New Atheists, once sign and circulated a petition to make a religious upbringing illegal. Jerry Coyne has written on his popular atheist blog that the religious indoctrination of children should be illegal.
So along comes Zoltan Istvan, running for President of the United States. Istvan follows the lead of Dawkins/Coyne and fleshes out some more details about this Gnutopia. But first, he cites another atheist scientist who shares such extremist thinking:
“Religion should remain a private endeavor for adults,” says Giovanni Santostasi, PhD, who is a neuroscientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and runs the 10,000 person strong Facebook group Scientific Transhumanism. “An appropriate analogy of religion is that’s it’s kind of like porn—which means it’s not something one would expose a child to.”
Therefore, religion, religious materials should be as pornography. I think its illegal to show pornography to children, and clearly its illegal to involve children in pornography, and I feel that religious teaching is at least equally as harmful.
That said, should the police be bursting into homes of families with children and confiscating any materials that could be deemed religious as they do with child pornography? Should parents who expose children to religion be treated the same as parents who expose their children to pornography, or worse, children who are coerced to become involved in teaching religion to others, is that the same as child pornography? Why or why not?
Clearly, if the analogy is valid, atheists are in support of using the State to forcefully remove children from the homes of religious parents and then imprison then those parents.
Istvan then lays out his position:
Like some other atheists and transhumanists, I join in calling for regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let’s say, 16 years of age. Once a kid hits their mid-teens, let them have at it—if religion is something that interests them. 16-year-olds are enthusiastic, curious, and able to rationally start exploring their world, with or without the guidance of parents. But before that, they are too impressionable to repeatedly be subjected to ideas that are faith-based, unproven, and historically wrought with danger. Forcing religion onto minors is essentially a form of child abuse, which scars their ability to reason and also limits their ability to consider the world in an unbiased manner. A reasonable society should not have to indoctrinate its children; its children should discover and choose religious paths for themselves when they become adults, if they are to choose one at all.
Ah yes, the wonders of Gnutopia – a place where it will be illegal to give your child a religious upbringing because such an upbringing is deemed child abuse. Looks to me like Gnutopia is a totalitarian state – for the good of the species, that is.