I am consistently critical of Sam Harris’ New Atheism, and now his ‘Waking Up’, but I think traditional religionists should be worried.
I have not been completely fair with figures like Harris. I discuss the ‘eonic’ or ‘macro’ effect ad infinitum, but one of its implications, or suggestions, is the recycling or dispersal of legacy religions. The result is not an endorsement of atheism as secularism, but a demand to create a true secular outcome to the rise of modernity.Secular humanism has been far two watered down to really pass muster here, but it has managed to usurp the place of the term ‘secular’ with its proto-religious cast. The New Atheism based on scientism and darwinism is technically a viable outcome, but its limits have driven a huge number to cling to religion. It is important to acknowledge that atheist darwinists don’t represent modernity, although their frameworks derive from it.
As we watch traditionalists with overconfidence attack scientism and the new atheism we should consider that droves of Egyptian gnostics, with their own proto-monotheism, were appalled we can be sure with the upstart Israelites who, however, seized the future. The Israelites were considered near barbarians here, and their new religion couldn’t even get past animal sacrifice. But their version stole the future, one, however that generated its own Christian continuation.
Christians can point to the Reformation to suggest correctly that the religions of antiquity can reinvent themselves, but if we adopt that argument we need to see what Hegel saw with his suggestion that German classical philosophy was the conclusion to the Reformation. A strange view, but one that has come to make sense of the history here. The point is that the early Reformation left Christianity almost untouched. The basic core of Protestantism is still medieval or Constantinian, while its emergence into modernity saw its rapid absorption of a capitalist/modernist ethos. We have shown that this is a distortion up to a point, because the full Reformation shows the balance of Luther and Munzer: a Christian communism has been gestating for centuries here. But Hegel’s view simply exposes its own continuation, but only one of them, as we observe in his wake the sudden onset of modern biblical criticism, Feuerbach, and the critics of religion on the left. This is a classic ‘eonic or macro emergent’ despite its incomplete and somewhat weak reading of modernity.
But modern world is changing man’s perceptions and he is having a more and more difficult time making sense of the New Testament, what to say of the Old. Hey, haven’t you noticed? Many are almost incapable of reading the Bible, they gag on it, and it repels them. Period, over and out. The process is what is feeding the movements starting in the period of Feuerbach (much admired by Marx, remember?) to try to seize the term ‘secular’ for their own perspective.
I cannot predict the future here, but I suspect that a new Reformation is going to be needed if Christianity is going to survive much longer.
I will try to play prophet here (in the sense of Luther or Munzer who had a whole line of such semi-prophets) and suggest an exit strategy version of Xtianity that can make the religion able to confront the future.
The first order of business is to bypass the god/faith debate. If pop theism with Santa Claus is a distortion of the original which forbade even the reference to ‘god’ in the near ‘silent’ reference, IHVH, then the god debate is lost to such as the secular humanists, I won’t say ‘New Atheists’, because they are closer to the IHVH source religion than conventional believers. Still not very close. But the issue of divinity has shifted, not to physics, but to the Kantian completion of the Reformation. Pop theism is idolatrous and expecting it to survive critical scrutiny is unrealistic. Kant is a fairly austere thinker, but that misses the point: what he represents is the core of a new post-religion: a discourse to found or refound reason, a realization of the Enlightement, and a creature of reason with a ‘will’ to ethical action, and a metaphysical ambiguity as to a really ‘supraexisting’ soul. Etc…
The whole sage of the emergence of a savior religion is just that, a saga, and it makes a great epic for the creation of a true postreligion that doesn’t make a belief system out of the elements of a Savior saga, in reality a parallel emergent to the transform of Mahayana with its invention of, well, pop religions, and bodhisatwas. It is possible to create a form of Protestant Christianity that is truly a member of the modern world. But the reign of Santa Claus theism next to prosperity gospel greedy Christians, is a dead duck, and the wolf packs led by the big Bad Wolf called Sam Harris are closing in for the kill. Even with bad physics, nutty darwinism, and a pseudomodern ideology.
Meanwhile ‘buddhism’ has entered the game (in the west), something prophesied in Schopenhauer, and its ‘secular’ encounter is already underway. Figures like Osho/Rajneesh have already come and gone to stage a ‘buddhist reformation’, already a fait accompli. and we cans see Harris already trying to deal with that angle.
We should discuss that later, in another post.