Wednesday, February 23, 2011

atheist strategies

It used to be that no-one wanted to talk about God except christian evangelists. But now God has made a comeback, at least as the subject of best-selling books - by people who vehemently disbelieve in him. This is what some people call the "New Atheism".

What's going on?

I came across a new blog recently, called For Saints with Doubts and Sceptics with Questions. I liked the idea behind the title, and I liked the latest post, McAtheism.

In quite a long, fair-minded and informative post, Jim puts forward the idea that one of the church's failures of the late twentieth century was to dumb down, to go pop, in an attempt to appeal to people. I'm not sure I agree with him there (I think there are many greater problems with institutional christianity), but I found it interesting where he took the idea. Because he believes that atheism is going down the same path.

Jim suggests that the resurgence in popular atheism is based on three factors:

  • the popularity of atheist forums on the web, which provide a community and support for atheists who don't have churches to belong to and can sometimes feel isolated;
  • the popularity of new mass-market and evangelical atheist books; and
  • the increasing use of humour, ridicule and blasphemy to break down believers' defences and give the atheist faithful something to crow about.

He calls the result McAtheism, and he sums it up this way:

"McAtheism is fun marketable, and popular with the young. It is also ill-considered, wilfully ignorant and on the rise. McAtheism has no time for complexity; once careful thought enters the equation the product ceases to be fun. McAtheism seeks to create certitude in the atheist without requiring the atheist to make an appropriate mental or emotional effort."

The inevitable result of gaining mass appeal is dumbing down, he says, meaning that popular atheism may have begun to move away from the rigorously logical base it has claimed for itself, and take on some of the aspects of a religion.

He suggests a few ways believers should respond (questions and a mature response) and shouldn't respond (serious argument and more pop christianity). Again, I'm not sure I fully agree here. But I appreciate the ideas.

I think it's worth checking out.

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