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‘New Atheism’ serves as logical explanation against religious beliefs

Gerry Wachovsky

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When are people going to stop blaming video games, music, movies and other forms of entertainment for the downfall of society? When are people going to take responsibility for their own actions and wake up, seeing that every man and woman is in control of their own destiny? When is the world finally going to throw previously held irrational beliefs to the wayside and emerge from the faith-based, mumbo-jumbo induced funk that much of society lives in?

This can never happen unless the world at large views religion for what it is: an agent used for poisoning minds and creating never-ending problems: oppression, social conflict, war, etc.

Every time the subject of religion comes up in classrooms, casual discussions with coworkers — or on television shows — it always seems to be handled with a certain level of respect, but why? Why does religion command respect when it rarely offers it in return?

The concept of religion — when stripped of all its fantastical and impossible-to-prove claims — is an enabling agent which gives people a reason to look down on others and presume a holier-than-thou mentality. When stripped down further, it is comparable to the practice of slavery: I am higher up than you are, so I can own you; I am a believer and you aren’t, so I am more righteous than you.

Richard Dawkins is a prominent evolutionary biologist and is one of the most outspoken critics of religion in the world. He is also one of the originators of the concept called “New Atheism,” which goes a step further than common atheism: a rejection of a belief in any form of god.

New Atheists write from a purely scientific perspective, and all of them dispute the common claim by believers that god exists despite there being a complete absence of evidence to prove it.

Critics of New Atheism often call it a religion itself, and claim it is no better than fundamentalism, but my question to them is, how else can one counter religion logically and rationally? If countering religious beliefs with rational arguments and logic is not an acceptable practice in the field of the philosophy of religion, how else can religion and its fallacies be disproved? What we have here is a catch-22 of epic proportions.

Shortly after the events Sept. 11, 2001, the British daily newspaper The Guardian asked a number of eminent figures to opine on whether the world has changed. Dawkins said one of the most insightful things I’ve heard with regard to religion.

“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense,” Dawkins said. “Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Sept. 11 changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. [It’s] dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. [It’s] dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. [It’s] dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labeled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And, [it’s] dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism.” 

And stopping the practice of this “unique respect” for religion is the first step to recovery.

Gerry Wachovsky is a graduate student and columnist for the Daily 49er.

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