Monday, 4 November 2019

Real Atheism

No Improvement, No Hope

John Gray is a "professional" atheist.  He recently published a book on the subject, entitled Seven Types of Atheism.  The sum and substance is a volume of sustained criticism of the various kinds and types of atheism.  

He writes:
Today everyone is sure that civilization has improved with modern times.  As we are forever being reminded, the medieval and early modern world was wracked by wars of religion.  But faith-based violence did not fade away with the arrival of the modern age.  From the French Revolution onwards, Europe and much of the world were caught up in revolutions and wars fuelled by secular creeds such as Jacobinism and communism, Nazism and fascism and a belligerently evangelical type of liberalism. 

In the twenty-first century a potent source of faith-based violence has emerged in Islamic movements, which blend ideas borrowed from Leninism and fascism with fundamentalist currents from within Islam.  [John Gray, Seven Types of Atheism (London: Penguin Books, 2018), p. 27.] 
We might characterise the world-view of Gray as one of "atheism without hope".
   An urgent question is begged: why is evil intrinsic to the human race?  Full marks to Gray: he faces up to the perpetuity of evil in the world.  But there is no explanation or justification.  He writes:
Instead of being left behind, old evils return under new names.  No thread of progress in civilization is woven into the fabric of history.  The cumulative increase of knowledge in science has no parallel in ethics or politics, philosophy or the arts.  Knowledge increases at an accelerating rate, but human beings are no more reasonable than they have ever been.  Gains in civilisation occur from time to time, but they are lost after a few generations.  [Ibid.]
The superficial modern world has foolishly assumed that progress in science and in knowledge will necessarily be reflected in a greater apprehension of advanced ethics.  Modern societies will be blessed ethically: they will not only apprehend ethical truths and principles, but will practice them--naturally and effortlessly.  Righteousness will be trained or bred into human souls and communities as easily as one adapts to new technologies such as cell-phones.

It turns out that these hopes are naive, says Gray.  In fact, gains in ethics and wisdom are often subject to reversals and subsequent rejection. 
. . . the progress of civilization is not inevitable and no sort of perfection achievable.  Humanity advances inch by inch . . . the march to a better world will be long and hard.  What these secular believers cannot digest is the fact that gains in ethics and politics regularly come and go--a fact that confounds any story of continuing human advance.  [Ibid., p. 28]
Gray is an honest atheist.  He paints a bleak outlook.  Anything more hopeful or positive reflects delusion and self-deceit--not the truth. 

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