Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 04:00 am est

New Atheism offers better philosophy, faith than religion

Posted on February 25, 2013 | by Marcelo Cicconet

As science advanced over time, the God hypothesis became increasingly less necessary as a way to explain the occurrence of natural events. This caused religiosity to decline, especially among educated people. As secular states developed and freedom of expression emerged as a human right, criticism of religion — both by philosophers and scientists — became widespread.

In this sense, the so-called New Atheists movement — led by Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens — is not new. It was, however, started because of the way the power of religion started to be utilized — the terrorist attacks of 9/11 wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for blind faith in the concept of a rewarding afterlife.

The New Atheists present a modern supporting framework for individuals who are able to overcome the frightening concept of eternal punishment, which is often presented to them during a religious childhood. The movement also helps people realize that adages like “anything is possible” or “God works in mysterious ways” are merely shortcuts, ways of avoiding more intellectual explanations. Many books written by New Atheists provide excellent guidance out of the mazes and away from the traps of faith in its pure form.

However, despite recent attempts such as Dawkins’ “The Magic of Reality” and Harris’ “Free Will,” the New Atheists don’t have the same level of success they used to with laying the foundations of a fulfilling atheist life.

As it turns out, the pursuit of happiness is a journey far more complex than understanding the way the brain works. Throughout history, besides supernatural affairs, many aspects related to the self and life in society were taken care of by religion. It often provided valuable answers in the individual and collective realms, including the practice of meditation and the act of gathering to celebrate a common purpose.

As technology becomes increasingly powerful in a highly interconnected world and cultures clash on an unprecedented scale, it becomes too dangerous to leave guidance on these complicated topics to people who base their rationale on dogmas and supposedly sacred books from the ages of tribalism, dreams and entities that are indistinguishable from imaginary friends.

This gap has been recognized. We can see the emergence of interesting movements, such as secular humanism. Thinkers such as Alain de Botton are starting to approach the topic. Unfortunately, there is not yet a solid, structured proposal, and the average atheist is in great part left to find his way through life alone, having to learn and test alternatives by himself.

This is partly because the territory of the mind is largely unknown, and an honest, confident answer cannot be formulated yet. It is promising that New Atheists treat the topic carefully, but we need more people — newer atheists — to start thinking and acting toward that goal. Because, as the cliché goes, life is too short — a fact we atheists are very aware of.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 25 print edition. Marcelo Cicconet is a staff columnist. Email him at opinion@nyunews.com.

Comments

  • marktime

    The usual dogma of the athiest. First error is to generalise religion, mixing the events of 9/11 and quotes from the Christian Bible as if they are the same when they self evidently are not. Second, that the Bible (the sacred text I think you are refering to) was written by primative people. The Bible offers insights into human nature and literature of such a high order that it has never been equalled. Educated people know this. Lastly science has made no helpful contribution to human nature.

    • http://www.hard-facts.net/ Panikos

      There does need to be some clear thinking about such issues. To be honest I’m afraid of us creating a group for that purpose. It’s too easy to replace one belief with another. Perhaps the aim should be to encourage individuals to publish their thoughts without creating a any kind of structure around them.

    • Tim Riches

      Marktime, this is a thoughtful, well-written article. Faith is what links 9/11 and your Bible together. Everyone knows what the last words of the pilots were, and faith is what got them there: The permission religious people give each other to believe incredible things on bad evidence. The Bible isn’t really evidence at all, it is the claim. Try to avoid making bold assertions about the quality of a book so widely read. Isn’t it strange that God made Shakespeare a better writer than himself?

    • Steve Greene

      ‘Marktime’ – you make an excellent point when you write, “The Bible offers insights into human nature and literature of such a high order that it has never been equalled.” Such as, for example, the book of Joshua where the tribal god Yahweh (the god of the Israelite tribe) is described as commanding them to engage in the mass murder of inhabitants, slaughtering all the children, women, and men (aka, genocide), in order to take over the land on their campaign of territorial conquest.

  • http://www.hard-facts.net/ Panikos

    marktime, all religions are essentially the same. 1 imaginary daddy + 1 book of rules and some priests.
    You say “the Bible was written by primitive people. The Bible offers insights into human nature and literature of such a high order that it has never been equaled” Do you not see the contradiction?
    “Lastly science has made no helpful contribution to human nature”. I think you meant technology didn’t. Science is all of it. All the things we learned & it’s made a contribution to…

  • Phil

    @marktime I like how you posted your claim that science has never made a helpful contribution to humanity while using a computer or smartphone connected to the Internet. Right after you called yourself educated. How many things have you used today that are only available because of the scientific advancements of the past century? Science has flown us to the moon and given us antibiotics and technology. Religion has caused wars and given us groups like the westboro baptist church. Educated…

  • Craig Davis

    Good article. It’s nice to see an enlightened opinion occasionally.

  • http://bekskitesurfing.co.uk Chris Miles

    After watching my fellow humans acting with such a lack of awareness about some very obvious observations to be made in everyday life regarding the real /unreal, true /false, good/bad , God /no God, I have to say I do not hold humans in the high regard with which we view ourselves. I am concerned and a little confused as to how we could be so misguided and have come to the conclusion that we must be rather dumb animals. Oh, God what should I do?

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next