Assuming God or a bus doesn’t strike me down between now and then, I’m gonna go to the 2012 Global Atheist Convention this weekend. In preparation I’ve been reading and watching some stuff about atheism, or to be precise The New Atheism™. Most recently, Jeff Sparrow’s article The Weaponization of Atheism (Counterpunch, April 9, 2012). It’s a neat article and includes one or two things that kinda struck me — not like a lightning bolt cast by an angry God but more like… I dunno, a gentle tap on the shoulder from a friendly cat or something.
First, money. To be precise: a) “These days, it is religion, not atheism, that correlates with poverty” and; b) “There’s an obvious rightward dynamic in tremendously wealthy authors ([Sam Harris's] fee is $25,000 which includes airfare.’) regaling audiences of the well-educated and the well-to-do about the ignorance and stupidity of immigrants and the poor”.
Secondly, history. Or rather, Jeff’s thesis regarding the political divorce of The New Atheism of the early twenty-first century from the atheism of late nineteenth century Melbourne. (See also Gary Bouma.) In essence, the movement from left to right.
I don’t have the time or the inclination to explore these and the other questions Jeff raises now, but I’ll probably return to them later: that is, after the show. Briefly: I’m not sure the relationship between wealth and belief is at all straightforward, tho’ certainly anybody seeking to hold the Catholic Church to account for the rape and sexual assault of children by some of its clergy will be forced to agree that the Church’s apparent prosperity is seemingly impossible to ascertain legally. Secondly, if the atheist agitators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries advanced a broader and more radical critique of Australian society, they were also able to draw upon a combative labour movement, a movement which is as absent in reality now as God was in their imaginations then.
Oh, and the episode of Q&A in which Pell battled Dawkins for ideological supremacy? Apart from displaying Dawkins’ ability to put the fear of God into those of us who find laughter refreshing, it naturally brought to mind the name of another holy man: Father Gerard Ridsdale.
In the meantime…
Why have a Global Atheist Convention? asks one of its chief organisers, David Nicholls; Jason Ball on 3CR is what happened when Dr Cam, John Safran and myself invited the Convention’s media guy on to ‘The SUWA Show’ to talk about celebrating reason; Sam Harris on Economics reveals more about Sam’s view that, inter alia, taxes should be raised on billionaires; Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching (London Review of Books, Vol.28, No.20, October 19, 2006) is where (former?) Marxist and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton takes Richard Dawkins to task for the er, philistinism on display in The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006) while finally a radical critique of religion is available in Ken Knabb’s 1977 essay The Realization and Suppression of Religion and more specifically of Islam in Al-Djouhall’s The Misery of Islam (1989).