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‘New Atheism,’ Twenty Years On

Forgiveness is a Christian virtue, but the New Atheists make it difficult.

My colleague Carmel Richardson wrote: “[Richard] Dawkins is right to recognize that it is better to belong to a Christian nation than to any other sort of nation. Indeed, much of his own worldview, whether or not he knows it, is borrowed from Christendom. It is not just cultural edifices like hymns and parishes, but the very systems of science Dawkins employs that were built by Christians, not to mention our legal and judicial heritage.”

She’s far too kind. Dawkins isn’t so reflective to understand his follies, nor are his New Atheist buddies that profound. The damage they have done to civilization is incalculable and we will suffer for centuries for that. Dawkins’s rants are risible, a horrified realization of a failed old man who suddenly realized that he has been sawing off the tree limb where he was thus far safely perched, someone who destroyed the roots of the old society and is now horrified with the aftereffects as he realizes what is coming. 


The idea that you can have “cultural Christianity” with either secular or neopagan society is so absurd that only a “scientist” can think of that. There’s a reason in every Victorian sci-fi novel, the villain is a mad scientist with no religious morals. “When you give up Christian faith, you pull the rug out from under your right to Christian morality,” as Nietzsche once wrote. Morals do not exist in a vacuum. You cannot have Michelangelo’s Pieta without the faith behind it. 

The peak reactionary, romantic 19th century gave us Flaubert and Shelley, Aivazovsky and Chopin, Dostoyevsky, and Millais. Peak secularism and New Atheism gave us euthanasia, Pinker’s ahistoricism about Enlightenment, Sam Harris, the Iraq War, and failed social engineering in the Middle East. May they live to suffer the world they wrought, before a new generation of young reactionaries can find meaning again in natural beauty, authority, divine glory, and repressed stoicism.