There is no mystery about the ‘new atheism’. We see its real birth in the wake of the early modern. The long history of atheism gestating in the early modern is less visible, but the ultimate source. Nick Spencer’s Atheists: The Origin of the Species gives a good account. I have neglected this early modern material because to me the issue of atheism is only a small part of modernity. I should have put that material in my original WHEE.
It’s sudden acceleration as in the communist left of the nineteenth century is misleading, but a sure sign of its likely persistence.
But the real issue isn’t ‘god’. The question of ‘god’ is too elusive to be a source of rational discourse: atheism is a dialectical progression in progress. It can also clean the cobwebs out of peoples’ minds. But the result in ‘secular humanism’ is relatively thin soup. The larger culture of modernity will move on from theism/atheism. The peak of the early modern realization was already moving beyond atheism, but into what? That remains for the future. But an antinomial question can’t be resolved. The debate is endless. Kant/Hegel/Schopenhauer show a three way fork. A nice barrier to new dogmatism. Hegel produced the theology of Frankengeist. But the idea is realizable in many new comedic forms. Hegel was right/wrong: the god idea can evaporate and if you keep at it Frankengeist starts to spawn new god forms. Back to vaporous spirits. Schopenhauer leaves us with the ‘Will’ in nature, and this is an idea with a considerable depth. But the old debates over ‘god’ are likely to pass away, endlessly renewed in new dialectical forms as we see them already. The new atheism is simply up in the air unless it becomes a new form of dogma. And that is likely: the same swindle that made darwinism so dominant: academic monopoly control and flunking exam candidates who don’t spout dogma, will be tried with the new atheism. The dumbos of darwnism are direcly behind the new atheism, next to the nellies of neuroscience. We should at least prevent atheism from becoming an exam grad pass condition by the idiots of academia. It seems unlikely but they managed it with darwinism.
Christians getting desperate here should stop and reflect: Xtianity works fine for most forms of atheism. You don’t have to believe in God to be an Xtian. That is strange to say the least. The issue is paradoxical. One reason for this is that ‘god talk’ is chronically so muddled you get closer to god if you shut up. And a funny variant of that put one gallon in the tank of the new atheists. But they are running on empty now: the dialectic moves to a third angle. But that angle is likely to be garbled theology all over again.
The only real answer is to study the Kantian analysis of the antinomies related to ‘god’ questions, like the one we pointed to in our post on Krauss’ book on ‘nothing’. There is a beginning in time, no there is no beginning in time…Physics, we note, is thoroughly in the thrall of this antinomial process. You can only shut up here. The physics will continue and may lead to a real clarity, but so far I don’t see it. Physics seemed clearer a generation ago. Now I can’t make hide nor hare of it. But physics can help to relieve some of the confusion over the old brands of the ‘god’ questions. Whether it can resolve them is less certain. We can’t really solve antinomial issues, so the ‘god’ question is merely on one of its round trips via the path of atheism. The round trip can resolve into a breakout into something completely new, neither theist nor atheist, but the hound dogs of the new atheism are likely to hound the old-fashioned brands out of discussion. But they won’t succeed with atheism as a substitute. That’s because we can’t settle what is beyond the boundary of space time. The latter makes no sense and is part of the antinomial whirlpool.