New Humanism = “Atheism 3.0”?

Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for belief is an article in the Religion News Service linking Bruce Sheiman’s “An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off with Religion than without It.” with Greg Epstein’s “Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.”   The gist is:

In recent years, the skeptical scene has been dominated by the New Atheists—Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others—who argue in best-selling books that religious faith is a mental illness, or worse.
But now, a new crew of nonbelievers is taking on the New Atheists, arguing that while they may not have faith themselves, there’s little reason to belittle believers or push religion out of the public square. The back-and-forth debates over God’s existence have shed a little light, but far more heat, they argue, while the world’s problems loom ever larger.

I perceive a gap, however, between Greg’s view, that Humanists should find common ground with religion rather than attacking it, and the assertion that humanity is better off with religion than without. The latter question is one that it might be politic to sidestep, but if I were forced to take a position I might well disagree with Bruce Sheiman. Maybe I should read his book first, though.


4 Responses to “New Humanism = “Atheism 3.0”?”

  1. October 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    I agree with you that there is a gap, and I don’t agree that we need religion on a permanent basis.

    But if religion is a crutch, you can’t take a way a person’s crutch without providing that person with some other way to perambulate.

    It seems to me that religions, even if they don’t believe in evolution, are evolved memes that have found a successful niche.

    Non-belief may be true, but I’m not persuaded that non-belief as a meme has evolved sufficiently to provide the “product value” that religion provides. The Communist variety of atheism proved to be a disaster. Ayn Rand libertarian atheism has its problems. More arguably, I feel that the secularism of the 1960s dumped a lot of evolved practices, like marital fidelity, that were seen as old fashioned or religious, but in fact can be justified on objective grounds.

    Our product still needs a lot of work.

  2. 2 Adam Mann
    October 25, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I am an ordained conservative evangelical minister who no longer believes in God, or any gods, after 20+ years in ministry. Even in conservative circles, I foresee the rise of atheism or at least agnosticism, especially among the young (16-29 year olds), who are seeing through the inconsistencies of the bible and religion. The question is, what will they replace their former belief with? People who once found all their meaning and purpose for life in God, need to fill that void. Until a realistic and rational worldview is attained through reason, they will feel as though there is nothing to live for. I believe the message of the new humanism can be a good staring place for them in their quest for enlightenment and a great way for them to contribute in positive ways for the good of all humanity.

  3. 3 James Croft
    October 29, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    I agree with you, Bob – I see a significant difference between the two positions. I find Greg’s writing both positive and firm on the question of the role of religion, and perhaps a more palatable message politically. The idea that people are better off with religion than without it, though, seems to argue against the possibility of developing the sort of Humanism Greg espouses. But ho knows?

    Good to see yo commenting here, Adam!

  4. 4 Mandamus
    November 16, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    The world needs religion like I need a hole in my hands.

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