A Convention of Accommodators

Here is a wonderful and insightful summing up of the recent global atheist convention. A quote:

In Atheist Delusions, David Bentley Hart has described the Christian revolution in terms of the stripping bare of the pagan life-world with its pantheon of gods, demigods and spirits who guaranteed the proper order of things and provided life with meaning. “In such a world,” Hart writes, “the gospel was an outrage, and it was perfectly reasonable for its cultured despisers to describe its apostles as ‘atheists’. Christians were … enemies of society, impious, subversive, and irrational; and it was no more than civic prudence to detest them for refusing to honor the gods of their ancestors, for scorning the common good, and for advancing the grotesque and shameful claim that all gods and spirits had been made subject to a crucified criminal from Galilee … This was far worse than mere irreverence; it was pure and misanthropic perversity; it was anarchy.”Compared to these Christian ‘atheists’, the shrill denunciations and grandiose claims of the self-styled “new atheists” are just so much noise.

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6 Responses to A Convention of Accommodators

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Remember also that if the civic gods failed to serve the local people, the result was often dire- famine, war, massacre, and slavery. So the issue was not even theological or abstract, but quite concrete.

    But returning to the present, if you still think in terms of such totemic instruction, protection, and consequences, you really are living in the wrong epoch. Progress has occurred!


  2. Darrell says:

    But that is the very point of his critique. It is the “new” atheists who are totemic in their complete captivity to modern, market, consumer materialism and American Empire. So your “progress” really equals captivity and little else.


  3. Burk Braun says:

    We aren't the ones who bow down before bloody effigies and fetishize one of a billion equally worthy deaths. In short, we have nothing to do with totemism, as Christians do, on this of all times of the year.

    The new atheists are indifferent to the market- neither pro nor con, and certainly not celebratory or whatever your reviewer seems to impute. He made that part up out of whole cloth.

    He seems to be a Marxist. A position that Hitchens, for one would have some sympathy with. And it is good to see Marx taken more seriously these days. He was an atheist too, after all. Which is it-are the communists atheists, or are the capitalists?

    And he also seems to assume that our lives are morally bankrupt right now, in the twilight of religion. Is that so? After civil rights, after women's rights, after the post-war unleashing first of Western Europe, and now Eastern Europe, South Korea, and many other west-oriented democratic countries that are happier than ever before? It sounds like sour grapes, pure and simple.

    We are for human flourishing, both individually and in community, and that, my friend, is empirically greater in capitalist societies, with their many faults. Choose your theocracy from all those in the world- and I'd dare you to live there.


  4. Darrell says:


    Putting aside your obvious…uh…unfamiliarity with what Christians do or do not bow down to, the simple fact is that, regardless of where we might live, we both live in a theocracy where money and power are gods. I think such should be changed. The new atheists and those like them bow down to such totems and the result is true blood spilled all over the world which is fetishized in our culture in cinema and popular culture. These totems and gods also provide the “rationale” for the rape of the earth and destruction of the environment. I guess we all have different views of what constitutes “progress.”

    Besides, you have no business lauding American or western accomplishments as if atheism ever had anything to do with them. No atheistic philosophy has ever produced the culture you are so proud of now. You are proud of advances that were often products of a Christian worldview no matter how far they may now find themselves from their origins.

    The point remains. The new atheists are captive to the totems of American Empire embodied in the market and consumerism and their distaste for “religion” is because of the threat they see in, Christianity in particular, to those totems. And they well should. It was the same distaste those early pagans had for that Galilean and his rag-tag band who eventually turned the Roman and pagan world on its head.


  5. Burk Braun says:


    Putting aside all the incoherent points and assertions, there is one issue you've brought up that is interesting- whether atheists can foster community under non-fraudulant auspices.

    Temperamentally, atheists have a lower-than-average herd instinct, shown by their rejection of nonsensical dogmas which propagate by peer pressure and shallow psychological appeal (viz the virtually parodic ten commandments, which was duly on TV last night). They are thus not terribly well suited, on average, to replace religious communities with new communities based on intellectually sound principles, as they might wish.

    This is especially so if building human communities necessitates some kind of fraudulant dogma, which might very well be the case … if the only way to offer transcendence (and thus social cohesion) in a world where none is humanly possible is to make up a story- a con job. Atheists draw the line there, and would never engage in such flummery even for the greatest goals of social togetherness.

    The university might be the best model going, but is obviously incomplete, perhaps even fatally flawed, in fostering a broad, civic-minded, and spiritually satisfying community. As you point out, leaving this to the market alone seems insufficient. The market has afforded us this blog community right here (dysfunctional as it might be) and others like facebook, etc. These also seem flawed in many respects, principally that of direct human contact and multi-interest engagement.

    But there are other paradigms, like the coffee house, the agora of ancient Greece, the neighborhood bar, even the western or Buddhist monastary. Atheists have every interest in building social capital across the culture, and have no particular attachment to the institutions of today, (especially religious ones), including capitalist and consumerist ones, so are certainly looking for new models of social engagement. The need is particularly pressing as we dramatically outrun the resources of the planet and need social action and cohesion to scale back our impacts.


  6. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    If you want to compare coffee houses and bars to the accomplishments of what the Church built after the fall of Rome, be my guest. The truth remains that atheistic philosophy have never produced anything similar to what was produced by the ancient Church in every area of culture, such as music, literature, art, architecture, education, and science. It doesn't even belong in the same category–they are universes apart. It would be like comparing Bach to an organ grinder and monkey. Any group can foster “community”; look at pirates or gangs. It is a quite different to talk about an entire culture spanning language barriers and including millions of people over centuries.


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