Jonathan Ferguson
Jonathan Ferguson
The New Understanding: Post-Secular Pluralism and Universalism!

Atheist fundamentalism’s bitter & desperate, just like the religious kind

Image by The Digital Artist, Pixabay.
Image by The Digital Artist, Pixabay.

Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a superstitious, irrational, morally and intellectually indefensible belief system?

The Ultra-Rationalists want to know!

As do the Ultra-Irrationalists: in fact, often enough, they’re precisely the very same people!

And if you’re in any doubt about this one, just look at the UK’s Conservative Party: the plutocratic, materialistic, technocratic tendencies of the Tories are hardly likely to disappear just because of some witty, Cuomoesque two-minute rant by Michael Gove.

Post-truth epistemology and rhetoric and need not dictate a hideous aversion to human engineering in reality; why not have the best of both worlds?

Their mutual alienation of the head and the heart are sure to set the souls of the faithful of every religion well and truly a-quiver!

But guess what?

They aren’t the only ones, in case we hadn’t noticed!

Because our good buddies across the pond, the United States of America, are currently enjoying their very own Tale of Two Cities paradox: the Republican Party have been bathed in the Dionysian libidinal intoxication of West Atlantic-Flavoured Johnson Aid for quite some time…

Even while their attitude towards engineering radical ‘freedom’-based initiatives for corporations remains as cold-blooded reptilian and ‘practical’ as before.

Likewise, the Democratic Party are heavenbent on restoring a healthsome dose of moral sanity to the ailing public sphere, yet simultaneously struggling to administer a panacea that is better than the pathology!

In this context, it’s instructive for us to return to the somewhat widely known anti-religious television celebrity and pleasingly prolific online entertainer Bill Maher, who made some beyond stunning, beyond brave comments in February…

About the necessity of rejecting insanity in favour of Rationalism.

Some of course, may wonder how far there is a difference!

But Majestic Maher knows better, so we’d better have a little look at his customarily high production values, low seduction values Twitter-friendly video, which makes a rather claim that may well prove rather questionable to some viewers.

According to Maher, the dangerous and violent Q-Anon cult was the logical conclusion of America having a lot of people who believe in religion!

Because from the perspective of secular humanism and Fundamental Atheism, following a religion is already a sign of being irrational and delusional, so why wouldn’t religion naturally lead to people embracing ridiculous and dangerous conspiracy theories?

With all the unshakeable self-assurance we’ve come to expect from any true believer in unbelief, and any radically dogmatic anti-dogmatist, Maher morosely grouches:

There’s a lot of talk now about how Republicans should tell their base who still believe the election was rigged that they need to grow up and move on and stop asking the rest of us to respect their mass delusion. Of course it is a mass delusion. But the inconvenient truth here is that if you accord religious faith the kind of exalted respect we do here in America, you’ve already lost the argument that mass delusion is bad.

The obvious problem with this kind of hi-information commentary is that the level of overt stupidity and blatantly irrational ideas and behaviour in Scientology, the Raelians, ISIS or Westboro Baptist Church is at least a million orders of magnitude greater than what can be found in a normal, mainstream religious tradition: the kind of reasonable piety and devotion you can find in places many people of every religion go to worship, and to pray, and to work together to do some good in the world.

Every remotely rational person surely knows that for every Reverend Jim Jones or L Ron Hubbard, there are a million people volunteering at soup kitchens, working the cancer wards or sheltering the homeless, right?

Rational people most certainly know this.

How about the most Ultra-Rationalistic people in society today, though?

Image by The Digital Artist, Pixabay.

Well, not so much.

Fundamental Rationalists, who are always at risk of the dogmatic crypto-theological prescriptions and sacred diktats of “Rationalism” with being “Rational,” also seem to confuse their pessimistic feelings about the world with an accurate and authentic understanding of the world itself; something they generally don’t like when they perceive other people of perpetrating a similar kind of ideologically possessed blasphemy or sacrilege.

The seemingly unquenchable bitterness of Bill Maher, of Richard Dawkins, and of the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair of some decades past, is simply that of the Rationalist who is seemingly convinced that he or she and a world-historical super-minority know a lot of self-evident common sense truths about the world that somehow ought to be obvious to anyone who isn’t completely insane or evil!

And let’s not forget of course that this is nothing new: because at various points in history, many false teachers have arisen to prove that absolute secularisation is the future fate of the world.

Among these were such figures as Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Many of the most ardent ultra-secularists in history have been notorious in the annals of Judeophobia, Christophobia, Islamophobia, Hinduphobia, Buddhophobia, or any other kind of religiophobia out there!

And yet, the academic world is getting increasingly less confident in this particular kind of humanistic magical thinking and secular superstition: if anything, religion is growing in the world as a whole, and non-religious demographics are highly likely to shrink over time, rather than rise.

Yet mirabile dictu, it is as long as a good half-decade since after Pew Research’s earth-shattering global demographic projections, and yet Maher seems no closer to reconciling himself to this reality than he ever was.

Image from TheDigitalArtist.

And ultimately, all of this really does place people of every religion in quite a complicated place.

Because on the one hand, people of faith should take comfort not only from our deep conviction that there is order beneath the chaos of the world today, but also from Pew Research’s long run demographic shifts, which result from the commonly encountered divergence in familial norms between some of the traditionally religious and some of the more secular people in life today.

Yet on the other hand, certain unsettling fears that religion is growing worldwide are likely to have an increasingly marked effect upon intolerant Rationalists, misguided sectarian secularist scolds, and achingly hi-information Fundamental Atheists.

Quite the opposite: because even if not all of them are going to readily admit that desecularisation is a matter of historical inevitability, a lot of them do know that the secular privilege of a heavily quarantined, aseptic public square is not at all likely to last forever.

And not all atheists, of course, will be so upset about this.

For while there are many atheists who believe in the old adage of ‘live and let live,’ there is also a hard core of Atheist Fundamentalists who are something of an embarrassment to those are, as it were, more non-believer than anti-belief.

So rather as many religious people are often concerned at the flamboyant antics of hardline Religious Fundamentalists, non-Fundamental Atheists are generally embarrassed by atheist televangelism and the highly dogmatic, entitled, victimhood-ridden mindset sometimes encountered among the more militant proselytisers of Rationalist Fundamentalism.

Of course, desecularisation really ought to be viewed as an opportunity to strengthen and buttress pluralism in a truly broad, comprehensive and authentic sense, rather than as a threat to pluralism per se; it is reasonable to surmise that many non-religious people will be able to understand this with perfect clarity.

Nonetheless, it can also be expected that for years or decades to come, the Church of Dawkins are going to become even less reconciled to the longer term historical reality, and even less tolerant and open minded about anyone who questions any questionable gods, unproven dogmas or disputed scriptures held sacred by the more energetic and passionately devoted among the Rationalists.

Ultimately, it feels pretty nice to cherish comfort in the fact that the religions of the world will one day have a much higher degree of freedom both to seek common ground with people of all faiths and none on the crucial matter of shared values, and to also peacefully and democratically work through our differences in an open and harmonious public square.

Many people of faith naturally feel more affinity with someone of another religion than with fundamental atheism, secular humanism and Rationalist intolerance.

But in the meantime, none of us should be naive: secular chauvinism may well be staggering on its feet, but it is hardly out for the count now, is it?

Indeed, we can reasonably expect the radical agenda of religiophobia to refrain from simply going quietly into the night.

Indeed, its thwarted partisans are sure to passionately rage against the sputtering St Elmo’s Fire of their false illuminations, and they’re sure to try all kinds of strategies to hold back the looming tide of Canute: laws, constitutional reforms, judicial precedents, criminal prosecutions, civil lawfare, media narratives, intellectually suspect academic research, mass entertainment and the mass culture industry, misuse of social media and low-key, grassroots psychological warfare and subversion.

The end of secularism will be falsely portrayed as a return of theocracy, even though the end of secularism can actually serve as a way of redeeming the modern age of world history’s poignantly underfulfilled promises of pluralism…

So it would appear there isn’t really justifiable  reason to be cynical about the potential of the coming post-secular age to serve as a renewal and redemption of pluralism and-universalism; rather than as somehow representing the fatal demise of both of these precious values, and indeed indisputably priceless mindsets!

All this is nothing to get angry over, surely?

Although you could certainly argue this call to calm cuts both ways as well.

After all, there’s a pretty good case for suggesting this uncustomarily juvenile and self-obsessed video by the otherwise more entertaining and thought-provoking Bill Maher is thoroughly undeserving of any real anger, as that would be bestowing him too much credit for such a world-historically low-effort, off-day-to-end-all-off-days tirade; one which is undoubtedly well beneath his usual standards, as many of his followers can easily testify to us all.

I mean: I guess we’ve all been there, haven’t we?!

But seriously: who is really surprised by the video, or other similar comments from similar entertainers in the public eye?

I think it’s fair to say that given the desperate attitude encountered among so many of those who seem incapable of responding to religion with anything other than wide-eyed bafflement and bewilderment, is it really front-page news that the fringe Q-Anon cult has been used by ardent secular humanist Bill Maher as a pretext for yet another tenuous rant against religion?

His short and snappy rant is, however, useful more as a reminder of the perilous times ahead, rather than as a particularly newsworthy specimen of commentary in itself.

For even as global demographics gradually shift away from the secularist status quo, we can reasonably expect secular intolerance against religion to get worse, not better!

In such a context, surely it is time for people of every religion to strengthen our own faith, network with our co-religionists, and also reach out of people of other religions than our own as well?

And not only people of other faiths, but also those among the non-religious who are as jittery about Maher as so many people of faith are about Religious Fundamentalists?

People of goodwill and with a robust and resonant moral compass, all across the world, regardless of worldview, are going to have to stick together!

It really does look like we’re going to have to help each other and care for each other, because things are most definitely gonna get a whole lot worse before they get better…

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
About the Author
Jonathan Ferguson is an honorary Yorkshireman, originally from Northern Ireland. Unfortunately however, it is utterly impossible (or at least something of a thankless task!) to note the slightest trace of Swiftian bantz and blarney in his scrupulously highminded and middle of the road prose style. He is also a Chinese graduate of the University of Leeds (BA, MA) and King's College London (PhD). On a deeper level, he is a curious mind and a recovering cynic; or to put it another way, an Orthodox Christian. His work is focused on religiophobia and the coming Age and World of post-secular pluralism and universalism. If you like (or love, or even absolutely HATE!) his work, then by all means do feel free comment on his work, or write to him in the personal comment box on his Times of Israel profile... Or alternatively, in the very worst, ne plus ultra cases of radical fanfatuation, just click "HERE" to become a Patron!
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