The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing
The New Atheists set themselves up for discombobulation on many grounds and have been subject to many critics, not least here John Gray who is actually quite interesting in the midst of his gross errors (he can’t seem to disentangle from darwinism, poor thing).
This article needs a detailed perusal, perhaps, but we will use its opening blurb to sound off on a key issue: the New Atheists are less competent at critiquing religion than religionists themselves, and a new type of ‘religionist’ who has seen enough of the New Age movement to see through the remnants of, not ‘religion’, far too broad/fuzzy a term, but particular legacies of religion. First it was christianity, then judaism joined the list, despite fears of the hounds of antiantisemitism on their case, and then strangely, now, in the long wake of a figure like ‘Rajneesh’ who exposed the esoteric fascism of the buddhists, buddhism, often the refuge of disillusioned westerners, is itself hitting the skids, despite its still increasing membership in western circles. There can be no doubt that buddhism has an intelligent aspect that appeals to those who are completely sick of ‘pop theism’ and what seems now the sheer stupidity of christian/jewish doctrines and traditions. The correct critique of buddhism is extremely tricky indeed but it is a fact that (chauvinist) hindus long ago warned of the strange dark side of buddhism, and then themsevles turning around and inflicting the dark side of hinduism on hapless buddhists who were driven out of India altogether in a sordid history that does indian religion no credit at all. The strange gestation of a new dark side buddhism in Tibet has to be suspected by students of the subject, at least some. That is a long study, with few chances of success in a mysterious mafia hidden very deeply indeed.
But at least we might wonder that the New Atheists were righter than they knew: religions can be very dangerous indeed.
Let’s note our studies of the eonic effect: what people are complaining about is the failure of Axial Age religions, among them christianity, judaism, and buddhism (hinduism being obscurely more ancient, although it had an Axial Age makeover to a limited extent) and that can’t be extended to include all religion. It is puzzling that the New Atheists made this simple blunder. We can hardly condemn all ‘religion’, we can’t even define the term, let alone predict its future, if any. But we can certainly criticize the outcome of the Axial period: these are finite histories that overtook religions of an earlier epoch, and then themselves became problematical.
The issue of atheism is a red-herring: the beliefs about ‘god’ inherited from the Old and New Testaments, and then even Islam, are so confused and problematical that a version of secular humanist trying to cope with theological rubbish was/is almost inevitable. But the ways of looking at ‘god’ in some definable sense is so huge that to negate them all is going to generate its own fallacies. But in a Kantian sense they are all going to be problematical, no doubt. But unfortunately it is in the end a scientific issue: how do we know there isn’t some vast or hidden ‘spiritual’ power in the universe? The christians, most ironically, were overtaken by the hidden atheism of the Samkhya yogis who must have migrated into the Roman Empire: the doctrine of the Trinity is a garbled version of some kind of ‘samkhya’ tradition and at the apex of its cascade of cosmic laws stand the primordial cosmic triad, which is What? This can be either the source ‘it’ or a veil for the ‘One’ behind the three. Sound familiar as theological rubbish? That christians were dumpster diving in the rubbish of the atheistic Indic religious tradition leaves me dumbfounded: my powers of refutation are (temporarily) driven off…One needs to fall back and regroup. But in the nonce we confront the silliness of ‘pop theism’ and it is almost inevitable to confront more and more brands of atheists.
That interest in ‘religion’ might be increasing requires proof since the statistics of monotheism don’t seem to show any such thing, as far as I know. And popularity in a capitalist economy where brands and life styles are peddled via advertising campaigns makes the credentials of ‘popularity’ a bit thin.
A lot of people would be better off without the outright lies told by theologians, jewish and christian. That secularist thought is a bit thin is again no issue: the ‘secular’ concept has been kidnapped by secular humanists: a close look at the sources of the secular show that atheism was a marginal aspect and that in general the whole field of the early modern is so rich in material that to linger with judeo-christianity and islam is a condemnation to ‘spiritual’ impoverishment.
There is a lot to say here, but our basic point is that atheism is a bit tricky: we can’t really make atheism coherent because its target, theism, is too amorphous for any final judgement. But we can see clearly that the Axial Age religions are in trouble indeed and probably on their way out.