The New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens and many others, purported to offer a sane, secular attempt to roll back religiosity for the betterment of society. Instead, their efforts have begat the mother of all calamities.
How did this come to pass?
Scientific atheism, as promoted by the New Atheists, lacks any unifying central structure or code. Essentially it is based on a negative — not believing in God. So it can’t have a defining structure. Richard Dawkins, one of the most prominent New Atheists, tried to answer this with his ‘brights’ — which was an embarrassment. (Since at least 2014, Dawkins has self-identified as a ‘secular Christian’ anyway.)
After the Enlightenment and especially the French Revolution, European secularism based itself around Reason as the core methodology that would replace, in the minds of those who were atheist, religious belief. This reflected a rejection of hierarchical religious authority, which had begun in the Reformation. The works of philosophers like Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant and Paine promoted the idea of the free-thinking individual whose intellectual scalpel was Reason. Both of these were exported to the US.
Being a European, of course, I had no direct experience of Southern Baptism or any of the other so called ‘Evangelical’ cults until about five years ago, and even then it seemed relatively harmless. They were just a bunch of crackpot fringe-dwellers, somewhat like the Moonies or the Baha’i. Still, I was beginning to see pattern, as I read the writings of Baptist seminarians and ‘thinkers’. Was there any substance to this cult at all, or was it just anything anyone wanted it to be? Was it, indeed, actually dangerous?
I’m going to become a Hedonist. No really, I am. Seriously. I am going to join the Church of Hedonism. Yup. Before this happens to me.
Of course, no such church actually exists, and most religions seem to be mainly concerned with stopping people having fun. But anyway. If there isn’t one, I think it’s time we started one.
I am rapidly approaching that watershed in life, the dawn of my seventh decade. I don’t have that much time to waste any more. I quick demographic of my parents’ families suggests that if I remain a non-smoker, keep the drink to a moderate level and eat reasonably healthy food, I have maybe another fifteen years of active life, and another five or so of winding down, before parting the mortal coil and becoming one with the Earth again.
That is not an awful lot of time. And I am beginning to resent every moment of it that is not spent, basically, having fun.
I am proud to be a European. Our culture has many faults, yet at the same time it has given the world so much. Science and democracy, equality under law and social inclusion simply would not exist without it. And across culture, art, science, engineering and technology, our culture remains a brilliant star, without which light, we would still be in the Dark Ages. I am very proud and lucky to be a part of that.
Despite this, I believed, for many years, that other cultures were equal.
But I was wrong. Culture is not a level playing field. The very qualities that define Western culture represent a system of morality, which allow us to judge other cultures. And we definitely should judge them.
Ley-lines were invented by an Englishman called Alfred Watkins, who had spent much time cycling around the countryside near his home. In 1925, he wrote a book called “The Old Straight Track”, in which he described a revelation he’d had while looking at a map of Herefordshire four years earlier. He had suddenly seen a network of straight lines that connected points of human activity, such as
“Mounds, Long-barrows, Cairns, Cursus, Dolmens, Standing stones, mark-stones, Stone circles, Henges, Water-markers (moats, ponds, springs, fords, wells), Castle, Beacon-hills, Churches, Cross-roads, Notches in hills,”
The god proposition is supported not by fact, but by faith. At the end of the day, the final word that the religiously-disposed have is to say that “It is so because I believe it to be so,” before covering their ears. For them, this trumps everything.
This is the hook that caught Descartes when he confronted the issue, and then backed off very quickly. “I think,” he said, “Therefore I am.” This is fine. He is self-aware therefore he is sure he exists. He cannot be entirely sure that he exists as he perceives himself or that anything that is around him is as he perceives it, but he does make a very convincing argument, based on the progression of rational logic, that it is so (and thus takes several hundred pages to confirm what any pragmatist already knows. But that’s an aside.) However, when confronted by the idea of God, God must exist, he says “Because he cannot imagine a world in which he does not.” Oops.
Gender is innate. It is not a social construct This article discusses how it evolved.
Early human society was fluid, with survival always the goal. It was, in general, divided by sex. Women and children formed a home group, which focussed on protection of the children and nursing mothers, foraging, perhaps trapping small game and birds, and the preparation and cooking of food. This group would have been a sisterhood of equals, but led, in all probability, by the elder women, the grandmothers, who were also the teachers, the midwives and shamans.
The other group was of men and older boys, based on the hunt. This group had to be able to respond quickly to the changing circumstances of the hunt, which could, especially when hunting large game, be lethal. A command system developed, probably around the best and most experienced hunters. We call this the ‘away’ group.
These two groups have long been identified and are still obvious in non-Western societies today. They are the evolutionary basis of gender.
Witch-burning is out of fashion in the West these days. Fortunately. But the intolerance that caused it is still with us, and it’s getting more strident. The Internet has given voice to some whose opinions, frankly, are odious, and ‘multiculturalism’ that shameful abrogation of the moral values of our secular society, makes it increasingly difficult for anyone to express legitimate criticism of some of the nastiest ideas put forward by what is, frankly, a thoroughly poisonous group of people.
Today, the victims of the intolerance are not witches or pagans or dissideent Protestants, Catholics or Jews. They are ordinary decent people who have been brought up to believe that they have a right to speak freely. After all, the US has a Constitution that enshrines it, and through all those long years of the Cold War, the one thing we in Europe held most dear was that in our culture, freedom of speech was assured, for without it, there would be no freedom at all. If we were to be ‘better dead than Red’ and we would have been, it was in the name of Freedom of Speech that we should have faced our nuclear Calvary.
Political correctitude has evolved into an intolerant, totalitarian, supremacist ideology. One that shouts down dissent and resorts to ad hominems like ‘racist’, ‘bigot’, ‘misogynist’, and ‘Islamophobe’, to derail debate and elicit knee-jerk support. In many ways, left-wing apologists bear a striking resemblance to apologists for Islamism. Just as Islamists have intimidated far too many people, media outlets, and governments into squelching dissent, so has the politically correct left. Just as Islamists believe their ideology to be superior and sacrosanct, so does the politically correct left. Just as everybody must respect Allah, the Quran and Muhammad, so must everybody respect politically correct ideals: if you don’t, you’ll feel the wrath of adherents.
Don’t get me wrong . . . I like liberal ideals like minority rights; gay rights; women’s liberation; inclusion; affirmative action; and support for the poor, disadvantaged, and downtrodden; etc. These values have made our country strong, prosperous, and free. The problem is not our values: it’s how we apply them to domestic and foreign policy.
The recent exchange between Hollywood star Ben Affleck and writer Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s popular show has highlighted the fundamental problem of the ‘liberal left’. The crux of the argument rested on Affleck’s Politically Correct presumption that it is never acceptable to criticise another culture. This view holds that all cultures are equally valid and that persons inside the dominant culture – in this case a Post-Renaissance, post-Christian European one – may never criticise any aspect of another culture, which in this case was Islam.
Now the rights and wrongs of the argument are clear to anyone who watches the exchange, which is here: (http://youtu.be/vln9D81eO60) and I advise readers to do this. They will see that Harris maintained a reserved and non-confrontational position throughout, whereas Affleck behaved like a hectoring bully.