Is there a new face of atheism?
Sir, – I found the letters mocking atheism (October 30th) rather bizarre.
Accusations ranged from our promoting Christianity, offering blind platitudes, being a desperate attempt to ward off reality, the laughable idea of atheism splintering (how can it splinter if it’s never been a unified whole?) and equating science as a religion.
Ridiculous. And as to cutting out the bullshit and dumping dogma, I feel obliged to point out that there is no dogma in atheism. That’s the whole point! Please note that I am neither a malcontent nor a crypto-Catholic fundamentalist. I am not even sure what that second one is.
I am however, an atheist. There is no god. Insulting, ridiculing and threatening me will neither make me a believer nor make your god real. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – One sincerely hopes that Joe Humphreys is correct in his suggestion that a new, more reasonable form of atheism may be beginning to emerge, from the creed’s Irish adherents (Arts Ideas, October 26th). Those of us from the Catholic intellectual tradition would certainly welcome such a development. Because there are undoubtedly large areas of agreement on many important ethical issues.
Unfortunately until recent times, Irish atheism has been most commonly associated with a form of irrational rage against Catholicism. This hasn’t been helped by an all too close relationship with Richard Dawkins, who frequently presents atheism in purely negative terms, as a form of knee-jerk anti-Catholicism.
However, on the broader world stage, Catholics and atheists have shown how it is possible to dialogue with a large degree of mutual respect. For example, two of Pope Benedict’s closest confidantes are the atheist politician Marcello Pera and the agnostic philosopher, Jürgen Habermas. Likewise many Catholics were very impressed when a large number of French intellectuals, including many atheists, signed a public letter defending the Pope against unfair criticism of his handling of abuse cases.
So here’s hoping that Joe Humphreys’s analysis proves to be accurate. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was fascinated by the letters printed in response to Michael Nugent (October 30th) and the recent article by Joe Humphreys (Arts Ideas, October 26th); particularly the idea that if there is no god, then it does not “matter a damn what you do in this life”.
Those familiar with theories of moral development in humans (eg Kohlberg) will know the idea that behaviour being governed merely by promise of reward or fear of punishment is at the very beginning of the spectrum, associated with young children and their parents. We are supposed to move beyond this stage and achieve the capability to reason on moral issues on our own, and many people succeed in this, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.
People for whom the only reason for not committing anti-social behavioural acts such as crimes is fear of punishment in an afterlife, or the promise of a reward from their god (as authority figure in place of parents), should perhaps continue to cling to their beliefs, for all our sakes. Their fear of us, the atheists, seems grounded in their own stunted moral and social development.