Friday, December 14, 2012

Atheism, alliances and truthiness...


Irreligion is the fastest growing religion in Britain. Polly Toynbee, the outgoing head of the British Humanist Association is pleased. I don’t think it’s a bad thing either.

Consistently practiced atheism is a benefit to public life. Not that atheism is a key that unlocks great wisdom. If you are an atheist you can still be a fool, you’re just an atheist fool. Atheism subtracts belief in supernatural causes for natural events. It removes at least one barrier in public life to objective human experience being subjected to collective intellectual inquiry (in the broadest sense of the word): the unity of theory and practice which, amongst other things, is the basis of Marxism.

There’s one problem with this. Atheism in itself is no guarantee against superstition or bigotry. Supernatural forces find their way into all sorts of theories considered rational, for example the invisible hand that guides Adam Smith’s political economy. New Atheism, as some call it, is troubling, to say the least. What should be a theory of emancipation is often a cover for racism. Some people object to some religions more than others, usually predominantly brown-skinned religions.

But we also stand on the threshold of Truthiness in public life, the quality that allows someone to know something is true based on whether it feels right, regardless of evidence or logic. This is part of the general ideological move to shift public life from a rational basis. However atrophied we still have a political system that acknowledges class as the prime division in public life. If this basis is removed religion will be both a prime means of importing Truthiness into debate and of reconnecting the ruling class with the classes below.

Given our understanding of the united front over time we can expect to have all sorts of temporary allies. With what’s likely to come, strange as it may seem, we may have to ally with some of the New Atheists at some point. As atheism grows so the current government is trying, however hypocritically, to reinforce religion, particularly in education through Gove’s so called free schools. 

No comments: