This Little Atoms podcast featuring Francis Spufford and his new book, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, was just rambling and entertaining enough for me to consider Spufford’s argument. The New Atheism, offered by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, dumps innocent people into a situation where “chirpy, squeaky, bubble-gummy” platitudes are the only defense against what we all recognize as “living”. “Enjoy life” is the caricature of the mantra New Atheists foist on the unsuspecting on their “bus” (Harris’ jarring depiction in The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason of a fundamentalist detonating a bomb on a bus comes to mind) . And, as for the epistemological claims, that God is not real, that’s sophomoric – Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris are not stating anything profound there. And, neither is John Lennon sorry, Sir Richard!).
In God Is Not Great, Hitchens offers “four irreducible objections to religious faith”: it misrepresents reality; combines servility with solipsism; is the result and cause of sexual repression; and, is wish-thinking. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins offers his own personable distinction between “Einsteinian” and “supernatural” religion, between the wonder found on a morning hike and religious dogma. Sam Harris sets out to detonate the arguments allowing religious faith to play a useful role in human society. These are all examples of an incredible array of intellectual firepower.
I can’t claim I can be so profound here. But, what seems apparent is, that all these writers, including Alain de Botton, are doing is arrange the same premises (sex, science, violence) into conflicting intellectual paradigms spun with more or less humor or moral outrage and pathos. It would be no surprise if I offered political philosophical principles as a solution. But, would I be merely piling on the conflict?