Monday, April 27, 2009
The Coming Out of Atheism (& "Free Thinking" as Oxymoronic)
Yesterday's nytimes.com has an article about the coming out of atheism. I see this as potentially exciting for the reason that my philosophy of religion classes could be more lively.
There is a certain trendiness in the current "atheism." I've seen this in some students who take my philosophy classes. Most of the atheists I meet are "village atheists" analogous to nominal "Christians." They claim to not believe in God while borrowing much from Christian theism. Some of their atheism is a reaction to the deadness of nominal, hypocritical "Christianity." Some of it is a tiney "bandwagon" effect.
The article says that "local and national atheist organizations have flourished in recent years, fed by outrage over the Bush administration’s embrace of the religious right. A spate of best-selling books on atheism also popularized the notion that nonbelief is not just an argument but a cause, like environmentalism or muscular dystrophy." While of course not being a reason to become an atheist, perhaps ths has brought some atheists out of the closet. Most of the students I have are intellectually ignorant of the "religious right" but viscerally put off by it, as they should be, since the real Jesus spoke against the legalistic, judgmental, militaristic-nationalistic-political stuff that often characterizes it.
I think it will always be hard to find a really good, long-term committed atheist. One reason may be that atheism qua atheism is not for anything but against (a-) the existence of God. Hence "humanists," or "freethinkers" as alternative titles. This last phrase, to me, is especially funny, since philosophical naturalism finds "free will" and therefore "free thought" questionable. On real atheism "free thinking" is oxymoronic.