Beyond Gnu Atheism? Let’s get the basics right, first.

The article, “Beyond ‘New Atheism’” by Gary Gutting has been making the rounds in the Atheosphere. Like most anti-Gnu Atheism screeds, it attacks Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” as if it’s a bible we all slavishly follow. It doesn’t take much to be called a Gnu Atheist; like being a ‘radical feminist,’ or a ‘militant homosexual,’ it seems to be triggered by two things: being atheist/feminist/gay, and stating it openly like you had the right.

In my epic argument with Po-Mo Dancer, I was accused of being a Gnu Atheist who didn’t understand the deep comfort religious lies provide to the proles. Gutting, similarly, writes:

For them, Tennyson’s “‘the stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run’” is a prospect too bleak to sustain our existence. […] If not, isn’t the best choice to retreat to a religion of hope? Why not place our bet on the only chance we have of real fulfillment?

Notice the sneaky use of the phrase “the only chance we have of real fulfillment.” That’s the point here. It’s not a chance at real fulfillment, we Gnu Atheists argue. That’s what’s so warped and twisted about religion: a person may spend their entire life chasing the phantasm of religious “hope” and “fulfillment,” with the net effect being that they’ve wasted their one and only life on a lie.

The assertion that atheism needs to replicate this false hope and illusory fulfillment of religion is reminiscent of the claim that atheism does not provide for a theistic totalitarian morality that’s ‘objectively’ true (if ‘objective’ is defined as ‘the perspective of the most powerful entity’). Atheism certainly cannot replicate the hope of religion, because the hope of religion is surviving your own death. Likewise, of course atheism cannot provide an “objective” morality – the kind that leads people to stone women to death, to hang homosexuals, to kill each other in the name of – but we can derive a moral system based on the realization that we are the ashes of exploded stars, stuck on a tiny rock spinning around a massive nuclear reactor that will one day expand and consume us.

So fucking be nice already, while you have the chance. Let’s make the most of this unlikely life. Embrace the hope of understanding reality and using that understanding to make life better.

As Tim Minchin says in his poem, “Storm:”

I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great great uncles and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine

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This entry was posted in Atheism, Existence, Hope, Morality, Where are your manners? and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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