Most would agree that atheism is Christianity’s greatest rival in capturing western culture. It is hardly a new rival, nor is it an entity in itself.
This last is the danger it poses to Christians and atheists alike.
Atheism represents such a formidable threat to Christianity precisely because it is defined in negative terms. Such a definition not only makes it extremely difficult to critique in a brief statement, but makes it unnervingly easy for current proponents of atheism to divorce themselves from the memory of past anti-theistic movements.
The first such movement in the west was modernism. Calling themselves the enlightened, its proponents saw history largely in terms of a battle between scientific and religious thought. Though such analysis has since been shown to be false, their ideas were extremely popular. The evil of religion, as well as the inherent goodness of humanity, was proclaimed.
Of course, the Reign of Terror, the effects of Social Darwinism, the First World War and (to add insult to injury) the discoveries of science itself brought an end to such thinking.
Many, of course, returned to Christianity in response, but others began to feel that, if science can offer no meaning, then there must be no meaning to be found. Post-modernism as a rejection of all metanarratives, however, proved to be an impossible way to live, and the lives of those who embraced are much more clearly warnings to those tempted than they are tales of the ubermensch.
Of course, modernism also brought Marxist thought into the world, which likewise collapsed due to its own tendency to destroy, rather than foster, a culture of human equality and liberty.
These, and other, ideas have come and gone, but I find myself shocked to be faced with a popular movement of atheists which seems to combine all of the most dangerous aspects of these beliefs. Had I not seen it, I’d never have believed such a movement was possible.
I am speaking, of course, of the so called New Atheists, who seem to have taken their first cue from the Enlightenment. Calling themselves “Bright”, rather than “Enlightened”, they have thoroughly absorbed the blind trust that a particular person’s metaphysical opinions can somehow be called a “scientific mind”.
From the postmodernists, they have learned that our values need not be anchored in anything objective, and seem blithely oblivious of the possibility that this could be used to justify horrific acts.
Last, the lesson they seem to take from reading on communism is that these governments were, of all things, too religious. They demand that these beliefs degraded into “personality cults”, all the while pandering to screaming fans and generating an atmosphere of unchecked hubris.
The moment one looks at any real-world attempt to produce anything like the world this particular group of atheists demand, one gets a sense of foreboding.
Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t remotely mean to say that any of these people are pining for the terrors we know in history. But, then, neither were the Social Darwinists, Communists, or French Revolutionaries.
Personally, I doubt that this current movement in atheism is either popular or violent enough to force its position on any country. Still, I’m stuck wondering how those involved can have such long memories for the Crusades (which we rightly decry) yet such short memories for the horrors of secular movements.
As often as science is praised by this group, one would expect the New Atheists, in forming the terms of their movement, to note the striking data of past secular experiments.