Friday, February 28, 2014

The Real Challenges For Atheism Are Social

With the after math of yet another successful debate win on the side of science and atheism upon us, I do have to say that the hard questions facing atheists are not really scientific or metaphysical ones, they're social challenges like, how to deal with death as an atheist, finding purpose, happiness and meaning. I know that there are many online communities that have risen up to this challenge to offer support networks and advice. For me personally, living as an atheist, and dealing with the issues we all face and struggle with, has never really been a challenge. I almost wish I could say that I overcame a fundamentalist upbringing and eventually saw the light that is atheism, but I didn't.

I've always dealt with life's challenges free from any kind of religious help or support structure. The only time I've felt bad about myself is when I failed to live up to my expectations. Well, my family and friends have also had an influence on me. But religion never had anything to do it. Another problem atheists face is that the critics will always say things like atheism necessarily leads to gulags, death camps and tyranny. Nothing could be further than the truth. Tell me Mr. Critic, why aren't there death camps all over Western Europe now, or Japan? Surely the precipitous drop in these country's religiosity would necessitate that. But no. We see a definite correlation with lower levels of religious belief with lower crime and higher standards of living.

I was just reading an op-ed on the NY Times by one Ross Douthat, the resident conservative at the mostly liberal paper. He writes that, "the various problems with today’s happy atheism — problems that should be obvious to those with eyes to see — are sufficient on their own to drive secular liberalism toward the kind of intellectual crisis that seems to me to lurk, iceberg-like, somewhere out ahead." He's hailing the coming end to atheism; that it's just one crisis away from disaster. I completely disagree with his premature calculation. While it is true that there have been many premature declarations of the end of religion in the past century or so, I think the recent rise in secularism and atheism is here to stay and will be a increasingly unstoppable force. The reason why it is different now from when Nietzsche declared god was dead, or when the counter-culture jettisoned traditional Christianity in favor of quasi-spiritualism, is because of the internet. The internet means that if I hear an apologetic trick, I can easily Google it and find dozens of sites criticizing it and breaking down its failed science and logic. Old-school apologists who continue trotting out the same old tired and refuted arguments who aren't aware of this fact are sealing their own religion's fate, and it ain't gonna be pretty for them.

To me, the internet is without a doubt the single biggest reason why atheism is on the rise and it will eventually lead to the death of religion. Social progress on issues like gay marriage are another important reason and Douthat acknowledges this too. But apparently theists like Douthat think all this hoopla over atheism today is just another cultural fad that's headed for a collision with an iceberg any day now and that we're one crisis away from hundreds of millions of people in the West picking up their Bibles and reconnecting with the Lord. Perhaps they are not aware of the way technology and social issues have changed the playing field. I seriously cannot image the West going back to good ol' Christian values based on that old time religion.

Atheism is here to stay and no, death camps are not inevitable because of it. Take that, Douthat.

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