Typically, these petty debates don't occupy much of my musing time, but the recent rise of "New Atheism" has made me deeply concerned. For those of you who have not heard of the "New Atheism" I would encourage you to go read Gary Wolf's definitive article on the subject published in Wire called The Church of the Non-Believers. It's quite long, but it details many of the perspectives from the movements founders and leaders. Essentially, "New Atheism" is a militant branch of atheism which rejects religious tolerance and intellectual pluralism on the belief that religion is dangerous to open societies. The notion that people who believe in a scientifically disproved "God" could be allowed to vote based on that belief is both frightening and unjust to the "New Atheists" like Chris Hedges. Although most of these thinkers have not said so in as many words, many of them would prefer some sort of law which prevented people of faith from voting in order to protect democracy from what they view as primitive, ignorant, and irrational ideas. The similarity to this militant and intolerant atheist to communist purges and other forms of intellectual totalitarianism seems blatant and is not entirely lost on Wolf and other commentators.
But what seems to be driving this movement is the commonly accepted belief that Christians (fundamentalists at that) rule the nation and are leading us into political ruin. Some of this argument can be blamed on Bush's open Christianity (although history should have taught us well that popular figures who claim to be believers are often found to be either liars or of very weak faith), whether you support his presidency or not. If atheists are the underdog, then the ruling group (the Christians) must be corrupt and dangerous. Indeed, a quick search through various popular internet sites (like Digg and even YouTube) shows how strong this movement has become founded upon the idea that Christians are in power and are oppressing the nation. Statistics seem to support this claim too. I won't bother to search for any specific poll, but any number of studies have shown that the majority of people belief in a God, and most of them believe in a Christian God at that. These statistics and the claims that Christians run the nation might come as quite a shock to most Christians, most Christians would argue quite the opposite. The removal of religious images in many government buildings across the nation has been cited by some as evidence of an increasing secularism. So whose the underdog? The truth, naturally, is somewhere in the sticky middle. Steven Weinberg in a review entitled A deadly certitude on Dawkin's instrumental book, The god Delusion claims that while most people claim to have some religious faith, the postmodern belief in relativism (and its PC disguise "tolerance") has left our society essentially godless:
According to a recent article in the New York Times, American evangelists are in despair over a poll that showed that only 4 per cent of American teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. The spread of religious toleration provides evidence of the weakening of religious certitude.So whose the underdog? Well, Biblically we know that believers have been and always will be the underdogs in the world, and certainly the ethics, morals, values, and beliefs that most people hold in American are not in agreement with the teachings of Christ; however, currently, the "right-wing" religious movement does (did?) have consider power and influence. Time will tell if the Church will look back on the last 8-10 years as a golden area or a time where the Faith was mediated, comodified, and marketed for the political and commercial benefit of others. Either way, as believers we must avoid the Cult of the Underdog, and strive to understand the world and our culture as it is. Instead of entering into debates on whose the real loser or intellectual outcast, we must strive to glorify God and edify man by excelling at everything we put our hands to do: artistically, politically, culturally, personally, physically. So that whether we are the underdog or not, the world will know that we love God and our neighbors, and that our Faith is a primitive belief in nonsense; a belief only of hillbillies, children, and the elderly, but rather a belief with a long intellectual tradition held by great minds throughout history, founded upon rational (yet complex) truths, and personal application which allows for the value of the human individual and existence.