Saturday, 3 July 2010

That ain't the way to have fun

As something of a not-terribly-coherent, none-too-righteous, endearingly modest Christian, I'm always astounded by just how embarrassing the 'new atheist' movement is because of how closely it mimics the all-out vulgarity and self-righteousness of Evangelical Protestant culture.

Now one of their leaders, Christopher Hitchens, fan of all things Neo-Conservative has cancer. Boohoohoo and all that, but I'm afraid that's the price you have to pay for being a middle aged bloke who's praised for doing something that only 12 year olds are usually praised for: smoking. Maybe 'the Hitch' should have invested in a BMX to really impress the spoilt wassocks who think smoking's so outrageous. If Hitch went cycling, it might have made the photos of the fat berk wielding a Kalashnikov less embarrassing. But anyway, Johann Hari tweets:

'And I forbid everyone from praying for him. He would HATE that. And rightly'

Yaaaaawwwnnn. Uh, I mean, how dare you, you razor-witted Zarathustran iconoclast you. Wait, where's me copper's uniform so I can impersonate Sergeant Howie doing Frankie Howerd facial expressions at the sight of bare arsed teenagers dancing around standing stones. I think I'll burn my Nietzsche, Russell and Voltaire books because obviously the atheist movement has gotten so much more interesting. But there's more:

'I seem 2 have sparked a wave of sanctimonious Xians praying for Hitchens.'

Hari doesn't provide links for proof of how he 'sparked' this 'wave', but I think anyone who's read anything by Hari will be bemused at the 'sanctimonious' bit.

Still, for all you can say about Christians, at least we have some nice etchings. Sure beats the 'new atheist' idea of fun: riling non-existent Christians.


  1. In my own experiences, the militant atheists that I have known have not been very happy people. They were often in very bad moods, and took themselves way too seriously.

    I also think the more militantly atheist comics tend to be rather unfunny. I still don't know how Bill Maher ever became rich and famous. His stand-up act is one of the worst I have ever seen, and I've seen plenty of bad ones. Honestly, how many people above the age of 18 still think that comparing the concept of God to belief in unicorns is witty? There seem to be a lot of them, which is rather sad.

  2. Hi John
    Entirely agree about Maher. Bill Hicks was very funny, perhaps precisely because he was from a Southern Baptist background, but overall I think many of these atheists choose very easy targets, and yet managge not to make any very compelling points. As someone of partial Paisley Irish ancestry I also had a chuckle at Billy Connolly's comment that 'I used to be a Catholic but I paid a fine and they let me go', because I know that this working class Irish immigrant community had a very austere form of Catholicism and this was Connolly's background.

    However, I think there's no disguising the fact that whether intentionally or not, the 'new atheist' movement is primarily suburban and middle class.

    A friend of mine went to see Richard Dawkins in Inverness, and Dawkins made the obligatory comment about American creationists. I agree that creationism is bad, but surely the point in question is whether British Cathedral Protestantism has really been entirely good/ bad and how an overwhelmingly secular country like Britain continually re-elected Fettes educated Tony 'all I know is what I believe' Blair.

    But mocking of rednecks is more appealing to the middle classes.

  3. @Gregor,

    Good points. It is true that many of the New Atheists do tend to pick out easy targets. For example, in Bill Maher’s “Religulous,” he goes after U.S. Protestant creationists, like some guy who works at a creationist theme park, who was clearly not all that educated. I also agree that the New Atheist movement does seem to have a strong class component, although in the U.S., I get the feeling our militant atheists tend to be urban yuppies. I suppose some of them are also in the suburbs, but large portions of suburbia are also known for being evangelical and politically conservative Catholic strongholds.

    I would also agree, though, that sometimes evangelicals and other religious people set themselves up for a ribbing. I’ve seen a number of documentaries on creationism, and the creationist museums are particularly embarrassing, what with their displays of cavemen hanging out with dinosaurs.

    Another interesting movement is anti-Vatican II Catholicism. Have you heard of Pope Michael? He is some fellow in Kansas who was elected “pope” by his parents and a few friends and has written a huge, scholastic tome on how the current Church is heretical. Here is a link to a documentary on Pope Michael if you are interested:

  4. Whilst religion has a fair amount of absurdity and excesses, it is strange that these people seek to undermine it in kind, almost.

    Surely the best way is to seek to understand, not to dismiss out of hand. Any dismissal should be backed up by experience and understanding of the particular strain of religion, as with Bill Hicks, who is brilliant on some of the absurdities. There is a big difference between positive humanism and virulent, militant atheism, too.

    I would argue that the secular humanist case needs to be made in a more positive way, that actively trumpets the achievements and possibilities of science and the scientific method. Perhaps the problem is that it is difficult to entirely positive about SH when it has been so bound up with capitalism and imperialism, e.g. with the Christopher Hitchens' of this world, a bloated fellow dazzled by money and power. But then again, is he really a humanist?

  5. @John
    I agree with your points about creationism and see the fundamentalist movement in America as being very dangerous both intellectually and politically.

    Yet I think this debate is used as a trojan horse to tar all religions, even though I think Roman Catholicism, Episcopalianism and Orthodoxy can be allies of the atheists.

    However, the atheists tend to go further and make unscientific statements about many ethical issues such as abortion where they make entirely subjective comments and retrospectively justify this with largely irrelevant 'science'.

    I agree with you that opposition to religious tyranny and theocratic attacks on science are best handled from within.

    However, when you say that secular humanism needs to be defended in a more positive way, do you mean here or in America? It seems to me that Britain is a profoundly secular society, and I am happy in Britain. But it is far from being an ideal country and it never will be because an ideal country will never exist.