Monday, 5 January 2009

Finding new ways to be infuriated

A couple of bracing secularist counter-blasts to see in the New Year:

Here's the increasingly indispensable Stephen Harrington skewering the patronising cant in all those pre-Christmas episcopal moans about the UK government's economic policy. Stephen is surely right to suspect that these bishops would prefer the poor to remain virtuously poor, rather than improve their lives through material consumption, and right also to point out the oddity of the Church arguing it's the government's job to impose Christian virtue on the populace.

And here's Max Dunbar taking down pro-faith commentator Andrew Brown for his disingenuous posturing against 'New Atheism'. Incidentally, 'New Atheist' is fast becoming the put-down of choice among the anti-secularist commentariat - I think its first coining was in Tina Beattie's book, reviewed by Max here, and it's since been appropriated by (who else?) Madeleine Bunting. (After all, 'aggressive secularist' is so last year, and 'Enlightenment fundamentalist' positively screams 2007. )

You kind of know there's a sneer behind the use of the term, but it's difficult to be sure what it's getting at. Is calling something 'new' meant to make us think it's callow and untested, not quite as respectable as the 'old' atheism (whatever that was)? Trouble is, as Jonathan West has pointed out, there's really nothing new about the points made by the so-called New Atheists:

Most of them have existed in one form or another for a couple of hundred years or more. As far as I can tell, the only thing distinguishing New Atheists from any others is that the New Atheists are speaking and writing today and infuriating present-day believers, whereas the old atheists annoyed the believers of past times.

And don't some of those believers just love finding news ways to be infuriated...

1 comment:

maxdunbar said...

I first saw the phrase 'New Atheist' with capitalisations used by Madeliene Bunting in early 2007.

She came up with that lovely phrase 'muscular liberals' which is now quite well known so I'm not surprised this 'New Atheist' thing has caught on.