The Rise (and Fall?) of the Fourth Rise

Paul Johnson, a British historian and author, bemoans militant atheism in Forbes magazine (free registration required so that they can bombard you with offers and advertisements.)

Johnson refers to the current wave of vocal atheism as an 'intellectual fashion', as though rationality arises because of emotional reactivity and will recede in the face of Behemothic Abrahamic Myth Machines.

Waves of atheism have swept the West before. One was in the mid-18th century, when the devastating Lisbon earthquake, killing some 60,000 people, shook the belief of many in the benevolence of God.



Doubt concerning the benevolence of God simply because a mere 60,000 people were killed by a natural event such as would then have been considered an Act of God? Oh, they of Little Faith! How could they doubt? Had nobody told them that God Works in Mysterious Ways?

Another was in the mid-19th century, when advances in geology destroyed the traditional chronology of the Old Testament, proving that Earth was much older
than the 6,000-odd years the Bible allowed.


Even these advances in knowledge have not yet eroded YEC stupidity. Religionists pride themselves on their resilience in the face of facts and logic, and the YECers are a particularly intransigent collection of devotees-of-ignorance.

A third spasm followed the First World War, when the combination of Freud's writings and Einstein's theories of relativity upset established views of the
human psyche and the universe.


Freud is now ridiculed, though not for the reasons that he deserves, and the Einsteinian threat has been ignored or replaced by dice-rolling quotes. The theistic motto clearly is: 'When knowledge casts doubt on the unbelievable, believers cast doubt on knowledge.'

We now seem to be in the midst of a fourth. It is prompted partly by the
academic deification of Darwin and his particular theory of evolution, and
partly by the revulsion against Islamic fundamentalism and its violent
expression, which for some has discredited all forms of belief in God.


Academic deification of Darwin? Theists do love hyperbole, don't they? Clearly Johnson is not a biologist in so far as he appears not to know that Darwinian views of evolution, though not discredited, have been superseded by the modern synthesis of evolutionary theories. Though Darwin's contribution was enormous, scientific knowledge has moved onward, particularly in light of understandings of molecular genetics. Natural selection continues to be accepted as a mechanism of evolutionary change, but the operations of biological evolution are now more fully understood. Darwin is respected as a thorough and insightful naturalist, but scarcely as a deity.

Islamic fundamentalism, indeed all forms of religious fundamentalism, evoke revulsion in those not duped into unfounded belief in malevolent mythologies.

Is it a phase? Or is it the harbinger of a fundamental change in the way people see themselves and the world? Ought we to be alarmed--and ought we take action? And if so, what kind of action? . . .


I'm not sure the human race would survive a prolonged bout of atheism. I recall the words of the German theologian Karl Rahner: "If ever God is banished from the world so that even His image is eradicated from the human mind, we will cease to be human and become merely very clever animals--and our ultimate fate will be too horrible to contemplate."



Which, of course, is an extraordinarily ridiculous fallacious argument to fear. It appears that Johnson is not aware that humans have abandoned belief in earlier pantheistic and monotheistic imaginings without devolving into nonhumans.

In fact, we are animals, and we have succeeded by virtue of our proportionally larger brains, our communication skills, and our highly developed culture. If humans had never invented religions, which became violently divisive as a result of schismic ruptures, then we should probably have been better off than we are. Remove all religious dogma and its associated promulgation of illogic from the planet, and we might have the chance to heal those artificial religiopolitical rifts.

I contend that only some humans can reasonably make even the claim of being 'very clever animals' and that, in accord with the findings of most studies, most of these 'very clever' humans are actually atheists. Johnson continues in a similar, emotional fashion to pump out fallacious arguments right up to the end of the article. Judging by the level of his writing skills and his fallacious arguments, Johnson does indeed belong in the theist camp.

More on Forbes: The Brave New World Of Richard Dawkins



No comments: