As anyone who (still) bothers to read this blog is undoubtedly well aware, I am extremely skeptical of “Fundies” (IE: self-identified “Protestant” Christians, especially those involved with “Fundamentalist”/evangelical/”Pentecostal”, or generally “literalist” interpretations of “Scripture”).
Having said that, I do not self-designate as an “Atheist”. Nor do I affiliate with the so-called “New Atheist” movement.
FIRST: I have never encountered a clear, unambiguous, and universally agrreed-upon definition of the following two terms: “God”, and “theism”. In the absence of such a definition, I simply cannot bring myself to waste time on attempting to “debate” with those who (most likely) use the above terms to refer to something radically different than what I am attempting to discuss.
Let me attempt to explain what I mean:
Assume that two individuals are having a discussion/debate about the number of “elements” comprising the universe. One of them defines “Element” roughly as “Those substances enumerated on the ‘periodic table'”, while the other adheres to the so-called “four classical elements” paradigm:
Quite frankly, any “debate” between the two parties is going to be illusory, and ultimately fruitless, because they’ll never get past haggling over (for example) whehter “Fire” is an “element”, or a “reaction”, for example.
In the same general vein, any attempted “discussion” among (so-called) “theists” and (so-called) “Atheists” is almost guaranteed to be equally fruitless and uninformative, from either side.
By the same token, this also holds true for “debate” between “mono-” and “Poly”-theists — to say nothing of “Pantheists”/”Panentheists”, etc.
Quite frankly, absent the requisite context, “God-talk” is FLATLY IMPOSSIBLE.
So, this is the first problem with self-proclaimed “Atheists” (“new”, or otherwise): they tacitly smuggle in “implicit” definitions of certain terms (“God”, for example) — without explicitly acknowledging that they have done so. Too often, these “implicit” definitions are derived NOT merely from some sort of “theism” in the abstract, but EXPLICITLY from the “Abrahamic” religions (Judaism/Christianity/Islam).
As such, they have nothing to say to (for example) self-identified “polytheists”/”Pantheists”, “Panentheists”, etc.
As an example: the “gods” of so-called “polytheistic” religions are typically construed as radically dissimilar to the “God” of “Abrahamic” religions:
For example: they are (typically) assumed to be neither omnipotent, nor omniscient, nor infallible.
Just as an example: the other Norse “Gods” being repeatedly tricked by Loki. Loki being overpowered and imprisoned by those same Norse “Gods”, etc.
In some ways, the “gods” of polytheistic religions are essentially humans writ large — they may be “larger, smarter, more powerful”, etc. than humans. they may even be said to have ‘created” humans for some “purpose” of their own — but they are much more limited (and more clearly definied) than the typical notion of “God” which atheists tend to smuggle in from whichever of the Abrahamic religions happened to be dominant wherever they were “raised”.
So, there’s the first problem: the vast majorify of (so-called) “Atheists” are actually little more than than “A-Yahweh-ists”.
(Hint: why is there no “Skeptics Annotated Rig Veda?”)
So, yeah: the “atheist” movement is overwhelmingly dominated by MERE REACTION to the stupidest and most overtly irrational aspects of the Abrahamic religions.
The reason this matters is: Non-Abrahamic religions of various sorts have become increasingly visible and prevalent in various “Western” nation-states:
Some of the most obvious: Wicca, Asatru, “Western” Taoism, Buddhism, quasi-Hindu stuff of various sorts (for example, the semi-Monotheistic “Hare Krishna” thing, for example).
Another genuine issue which tends to go (deliberately) ignored by most self-described “Atheists”: “theologians” such as John Shelby Spong, or Lloyd Geering.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Spong/Geering are trying to do:
I do know one thing: Whatever they’re trying to do, it is radically dissimilar to what “Protestant” Fundies are doing. I’m not entirely sure whether it will accrue any sort of “cultural capital”, but — from what I can figure out — it appears to be a genuinely credible “approach” to — something:
Finally dumping the pretence that there can be such a thing as “non-overlapping magisteria?”
Preserving those aspects of “religion” which individuals/families/communities find “useful?” (whateve rthose may be — it probably differs widely with each individual/family/community.)
A way to “wean” Ex-Fundies away from their Fundamentalism/Literalism, without also (implicitly) requiring them to shit all over everything about their former faith-tradition?
Like I said: I’m not sure.
Then again, I can’t bring myself to be arrogant enough to claim that I “know” that humans were NOT engineered by something/things advanced enough for our (semi)human ancestors to feel compelled to “worship”, either.
Arthur C. Clarke said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indisginguishable from magic”. In many ways, the “Cargo Cults” of the South Pacific offer compelling evidence for that claim.
I have no way to prove (or disprove) whether or not humans were “created” (engineered?) by an entity/entities — much less to stipulate whether such entity(s) demand “worship”, or not.
Having said that, I CANNOT bring myself to “buy into” the notion that an omniscient/omnipotent/omnibenevolent “God” would systematically FAKE THE ENTIRE FOSSIL RECORD, and DELIBERATELY “INSPIRE” scribal errors, textual corruption etc. in “sacred” documents SPECIFICALLY as a “snare for the Proud”.
Such notions are, quite frankly, the worst sort of effrontery not merely to human Reason, but to any “God” which could possibly be worthy of “worship” (or even any sort of respect whatsoever) — IF “He”/she/It exists.
Fundie idiocy is blatantly insulting to RELIGION ITSELF.
Yet again, I’ve (probably) wandered “off-topic”. I have no idea.