All the way: the cutting edge of atheism?

In this interesting article, theologian John F. Haught takes the new (or 'soft-core' as he calls them) atheists to task for not being consistent enough in the implications of their denial of God. He contrasts the current batch of atheist rhetoric, produced by the likes of Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens with the writings of the great 'masters of suspicion', such as Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. Not only does he find that the latter were far more conceptually sophisticated, but they also had the courage to see their radical critique through to its logical conclusion, something which today's essentially conservative soft-core atheists are reluctant to do. One passage in particular struck me:

"If you're going to be an atheist, the most rugged version of godlessness demands complete consistency. Go all the way and think the business of atheism through to the bitter end. This means that before you get too comfortable with the godless world you long for, you will be required by the logic of any consistent skepticism to pass through the disorienting wilderness of nihilism. Do you have the courage to do that? You will have to adopt the tragic heroism of a Sisyphus, or realize that true freedom in the absence of God means that you are the creator of the values you live by. Don't you realize that this will be an intolerable burden from which most people will seek an escape? Are you ready to allow simple logic to lead you to the real truth about the death of God? Before settling into a truly atheistic worldview you will have to experience the Nietzschean madman's sensation of straying through "infinite nothingness." You will be required to summon up an unprecedented degree of courage if you plan to wipe away the whole horizon of transcendence. Are you willing to risk madness? If not, then you are not really an atheist."

Of course the modern atheist has largely disavowed the cosmic pessimism of the likes of Sartre or Nietzsche. But it's worth pondering whether this amounts to an atheist version of wishful thinking. It reminds me of Richard Carrier's recent 'defense' of atheist morality, essentially arguing that we should be good because otherwise "life would suck". Yup, a true heir to the eloquence of Freud. Maybe atheists should pause for a moment in their accusations of intellectual dishonesty and examine whether their own ranks and ideas are entirely free from said malady.


J.L. Hinman said…
what "sot core?" I haven't seen any new soft core atheists. as far as I can tell they are becoming more bitter and angry not soft core.

but I agree they don't hold a candle to the old atheist thinkers such as Marx an Russell. But then who does? our civilization is in its twilight and we are bereft of sophisticated ideas that are capable of moving a generation up the ladder of conceptual frameworks.

It's all symptomatic of one-dimensional man. This is an illiterate, post civilized eopch.
Anonymous said…
Samuel Skinner
Well, life sucks and then you die. However the "new" athetsts are less pessemistic- probably because improvements in medicine that have meant they haven't had to live through a full scale plague (1919).

As for being good, I have bad news- no matter what rhetoric you cloak it in theist or secular, morality boils down to a few reasons- punishment, social good, empathy, family, desire to be good and reputation. That is it.

As for nilhism... I get a kick out of that- apparently theists can only concieve purpose when it is forced upon them. Aside from literally being herd mentality, it brings up the fun question "what is god's purpose?" Is he a nihlist?
Jason Pratt said…
{{As for nilhism... I get a kick out of that- apparently theists can only concieve purpose when it is forced upon them.}}

Wait... who was it who invented nihilism again?! I'm pretty sure it wasn't the theists! Not Western theists anyway. {g} Eastern pantheists, okay, they probably invented it originally, but still... their idea of theism is often indistinguishable from atheism anyway.

Modern nihilism, which is still as alive and well in modern culture as it ever has been (admittedly in a minority), comes directly from a particular group of... who?

(Hint: a group of people who understood that the notion of creatures wholly derivative of and constitutive of purposelessness somehow creating their own purposes, was only the last comforting illusion: the last 'religion'.)

Modusoperandi said…
Jason Pratt "Modern nihilism, which is still as alive and well in modern culture as it ever has been (admittedly in a minority), comes directly from a particular group of... who?"

Islamists? Haredim? Fundamentalists? Premillenialists?
Jason Pratt said…
Well, let's say from a particular group of a-millennialists... {ggg!}

Anonymous said…
Samuel Skinner
Daylight Atheism got around to this piece. Watch him pick it apart.
JD Walters said…
I watched him pick apart a pathetic straw man. Watch me pick DA apart in my most recent post on CADRE.
Jason Pratt said…
Incidentally, for anyone following along at home, the next exchange (from JD's side) can be found here.

James L said…
Fantastic point.

I grew up reading Camus & Nietzsche. When you read their works you really feel like you are in the presence of an intellectual force.

Today they are just not in the same league.
Modusoperandi said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Modusoperandi said…
James L; by "intellectual force", you mean pretentious and boring, right? Camus isn't bad (if my vague memories of high school are any indication), but Nietzsche was a long-winded twit who probably loved the sound of his own voice more than anything else. If I had to endure him recited a bit from Beyond Good and Evil, I doubt I'd survive. I should hope that an intellectual force would be able to avoid me dying a little inside when I'm exposed to it. Rant, over.

p.s. I didn't like Kafka either. I know that's a non sequitor. It just feels so good to say it. Take that, Metamorphosis and Other Stories!

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