‘A Battle Beyond Belief’ by Gary Bouma

Opinion piece in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper, 12/4/12

Finally, an opinion piece about the so called New Atheism which resonnates with my personal observations of the world I inhabit.  One in which Harvey Cox described in The Future of Faith: a world which has turned toward experience and subjectivity, and therefore religion, despite expectations to to the contrary only half a century ago. (see the reddresstheology post on Future of Faith.) 

Gary Bouma exquisitely demonstrates the value of good sociological analysis on religious phenomena, which I would argue must come prior to critiquing the content of the phenomena itself.   He asks, “why are the New Atheists so evangelical, so fanatical about putting their case?”  And I would ask, ‘why are some Christians so fanatical about refuting them?’

Here’s a snippet of Gary’s wisdom:

The answer comes from an understanding of the difference between competition and conflict. Competitors respect each other and vie for the rewards – in this case, state recognition, popular support, and influence on policy decisions. However, in conflict, one group seeks the elimination of the other; or a coalition of groups seeks to eliminate one group.

The New Atheists seem to me to be acting out of a fear of being overwhelmed and eliminated. They are not experiencing competition. Under fair competition, they too would have been awarded an appropriate level of state funding for their conferences in Melbourne, parallel with that given to the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in 2009. But, no, religious groups opposed that and won.

New Atheists sought to offer a secular form of ethics education in the time allocated for ”religious instruction” in Victorian state schools. Again, the answer was no.

What the New Atheists are experiencing is conflict, the attempt to drive them out, to eliminate the competition.

Read the whole article here: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/a-battle-beyond-belief-20120411-1ws4l.html#ixzz1rmcEt2LN

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