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Is Atheism Dead?

November 30, 2009

Is Atheism Dead?


Every so often one of the noisy ones pops their head up and starts making a ruckus. There is a small war of words about faith versus reason, a few insults are flung about and noses are positioned to look down upon those who do not agree. Yet this noise does not necessarily transfer into actual results or conversions to any new cause. Instead it has become little more than a noisy minority jostling for reins of power because they claim that their version of logic is better. In some cases it may be masked in the umbrella term of ‘Secularism’ or ‘Humanism’ but such words are too vague to offer any explanation of what they actually stand for. Yet for some this mindset self proclaimed logical superiority is enough for them to demand that others must be totally excluded from decision making. Thus one group has usurped absolute power by assertion that they stand on a better logical foundation.


The problem with such self declared logical superiority is that it cannot be proven without resorting to circular arguments like: Because they are of this mindset they are logically superior and because they are logically superior their mindset must be correct. The arguer is continually using one conclusion to prove the other and then uses the reverse to prove original. Hence when some claims logical superiority due to being an atheist they fail to establish why it should be seen as a logically more superior position. If they then demand absolute proof to disprove a negative then they are again using their logical standards to judge a situation. ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.’ Also if people insist on using their own personal measuring sticks we can never know what absolute proof is meant to be. Thus all conclusions become purely subjective if no standards can be agreed to and no amount of snotty superiority will ever change that ugly fact.


Despite the loud pronouncements that the end of the Bush era will herald a new age of ‘Secular Humanism‘ (whatever version that is these days) there is no evidence of this. You would expect that if a great resurgence in atheism was coming that it would have put its own house in order just as it did 75 to 100 years ago. Back then we had the Atheism riding the popular wave of the enlightenment to associate itself with. We had the Fabian Society dominated by H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw and a whole collection of who’s who of socialism in England. We had Karl Marx and Lenin building support for their versions of the socialist revolution on mainland Europe. Earlier Nietzsche was running about claiming that God was finally dead in his own vitriolic style. The ideological momentum existed mostly because Communist Manifesto laid out the principles, reasoning and theory of an atheist utopia. Lenin produced the how-to documents and put them into practice. From another angle of socialism Hitler made the next logic choice after choosing to become an atheist he tried to mystify and sanctify it in layers neo-paganism. Yet despite all the noise and activity about an atheist utopia every single one of these organizations has either adjusted to accommodate the religious demographic or have collapsed into upon themselves.


The turning point for communism as the vogue was when it collapsed across Europe in the early nineteen nineties. Yet knowing that it could never eradicate religion was evident as far back as when Stalin came to power. In order to defeat the Nazis he had to ease up on the criminalization of religion and so that he could unite the nation with appeals to patriotism. Had he not done this then the majority Russian Orthodox Christians would never have willing gone to fight the Germans. China also tried to wipe religion from the face of its country in its cultural revolution. Yet later it was forced to accept that it was impossible to do so openly and decided to firstly protect religious freedom in their laws but continue to oppress them in private. In Tibet they attempted to set up a rival Dalia Lama in order to win deceive Buddhists into supporting their programs. Also in recent years they have entered into rough negotiation with the Vatican over the issue of religious freedom. These seem like anecdotes but they do point to evidence of the limitations of the atheist utopian ideal. They failed to do a head count on who was in favor of their ideological wet dreams. And as such they had to quickly negotiate or lose any hope of remaining in power.


What is different today from that era of post enlightenment is that there is no great ideology to follow. There is no twenty first century equivalent of Communism or popular fascism like Nazism. There are no real intellectual movements or sociological direction being pointed to. Utopia is no longer being held up as something possible and has become almost a point of apology. There is nothing new that atheism has to offer. It was all tried long ago and now it is over. Even neo-liberalism fails to produce any direction but has instead become little more than a bandwagon for a set of minority causes. Disenfranchised minorities may have a voice but they are not going to shift the world to match everything that they want. There is always a chance that they ask for something that the rest of the world cannot give.


We are left at the beginning of the new millennium with a handful of noisy atheists who have offered no viable alternative to what they wish to eliminate. We have little more than a post-modernist nightmare where everything is in flux and nothing makes sense. We have plenty of people moving the deckchairs on the Titanic but no one willing to navigate a safe path. This is a high minded mental posture but it will never put food on the table. Past ideologies were smart enough to work that the promise of full stomach was crucial to their success. Without a real direction there is no reason for people to give their hope to. Without hope there is nothing.


It is perhaps understandable that some fundamentalist atheists make loud noises from time to time with provocative half truths and warped logic. They are, after so many years of being centre stage, the side show of the future. The world that once supported them has moved on and is now looking for another cheap thrill. Who knows what that will be.

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