What makes an atheist unique

The "New Atheism" has aged badly

An "unjust, resentful surveillance fanatic", a "vengeful, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser", even a "misogynistic, homophobic, racist, children and peoples murder, disgusting, megalomaniac, sadomasochistic, moody-malicious bully" - that is the god of the old man Will. That was the verdict of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who 15 years ago settled with the "God Delusion" (in the original: The God Delusion), to which a large part of humanity succumbs despite scientific evidence. The heated debate about evolutionary theory and creationism in US school lessons, Islamic fundamentalism with its peak on September 11, 2001, the stronger perception of Jewish orthodoxy in Israel, but also the rise of Hindu nationalist parties in India made it clear that the "return religion "was not a hollow phrase, and the victory of secularization was not perfect. Peter L. Berger, who was considered the father of the dominant secularization thesis - which in the tradition of Max Weber equated the disappearance of religion with the triumph of modernity - revised his own thesis and spoke instead of a "desecularization" of the world.

Dawkins bestseller grew on fertile ground

It was therefore fertile ground on which not only Dawkins' bestseller grew in 2006. In 2004, the neuroscientist Sam Harris caused a sensation with "The End of Faith". In the same year as Dawkins, the cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett published his book "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon", followed a year later by the journalist Christopher Hitchens with "The Lord is not a Shepherd - How Religion Poisons the World". In 2007 the four authors met for an informal discussion as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and thus achieved the status of the spearheads of a "New Atheism".

The atheist philosopher Tim Crane calls for an honest dialogue between believers and atheists.

None of the men had chosen the term themselves. Instead, he was shaped by the media, which eagerly took up the phenomenon. A modern atheism in the tradition of the Enlightenment, progressive and affirming liberalism, appeared to the West as an option for the future after the end of the Cold War and in view of the religious challenge. There was a spirit of optimism: In 2003 Dawkins and Dennett launched the naturalistic "Brights" movement, which won international followers and rejected any kind of supernatural; panel discussions, interviews and documentaries followed. At the Free University of Berlin, the German Research Foundation supported a project to research the "New Atheism". The Giordano Bruno Foundation (GBS), founded in 2004, also surfed the wave of popular atheism, which has become chic, and which campaigned against religion on a mere scientific basis and with shrill words.

It has become quiet about the "New Atheists"

But although the secular trends of the 2000s have tended to worsen - an increase in the number of people leaving the church, lack of religion among European youth, a lack of young priests and the erosion of the compulsory Sunday service - the "new atheists" have become quiet. The year before last, Dawkins published a new book aimed at converting Christian youth to atheism. Outside of its own echo chambers, it is hardly noticed. Obviously, religious indifference is not a free ticket to organized atheism. The "horsemen" and their followers, who once set out to free humanity from the burden of religion, have not achieved any of their goals. Atheism in the sense of Dawkins remains the exception outside of Europe and East Asia. Creationism in schools has had its setbacks, but it is still on the curriculum in some states. Meanwhile, the influence of evangelicals in the Republican Party has hardly decreased. Esotericism is on the rise. Society tolerates special Muslim requests, whether in the canteen or in swimming lessons. Due to its demography, London is now considered the most religious city in the United Kingdom, where two thirds of the residents identify as "religious" - of all places in the motherland of the "New Atheists".

Instead, Dawkins came under fire when he was noticed for criticizing Islam. The fact that the progressive academic milieu sees itself less as an atheist refuge but rather flirts with left-wing ideals may have played its part: "old white men" who "suppress" other cultures and religions currently have no good cards. The fact that Dawkins was demonized as "Islamophobic" and "racist" by the New Left in the course of the 2010s can be attributed to the zeitgeist. The fact that Dawkins started a debate about eugenics is one of those appearances with which the scientist not only damaged himself; the impression prevails that, like other celebrities, at the end of their careers Dawkins will be perceived not because of their works but because of their scandals. Something similar happened to Harris when he was on a podcast debating hereditary intelligence and IQ differences between whites, Asians and blacks on a podcast with publicist Charles Murray. With Hitchens one of the "riders" has meanwhile passed away. He died of cancer in 2011.

Is the air out?

God's justification and indignation in the face of the suffering in the world is not a new question. A recovery from the feverish dream of atheism is possible.

So is the air out of the "New Atheism"? The legacy lives on in Germany - under a different name. The Giordano Bruno Foundation and its pioneer Michael Schmidt-Salomon strategically exploited the attention of the time. The "Secular Bus Campaign", in which the GBS promoted an atheistic worldview, was copied from Dawkins in London. The ideology of "evolutionary humanism" conceived by Schmidt-Salomon goes beyond mere atheism. While the "original" primarily attacked references to God in school lessons and politics, the GBS in Germany also interfered in the case of the abortion doctor Kristina Hänel or in the dispute over assisted suicide. The position of the major churches and the church tax are also favorite targets for portraying oneself as David against Goliath - in the absence of a really strong Christian policy, as practiced by Evangelicals in the USA. The GBS emphasizes the primacy of science - whereby Schmidt-Salomon includes someone like Karlheinz Deschner with his "criminal history of Christianity", although Deschner is not recognized as a scientist by any reputable institute. This did not prevent Schmidt-Salomon from calling Deschner the "jewel of the Enlightenment", who wrote "world literature" and even surpassed Nietzsche stylistically.

Schmidt-Salomon's actual contribution to international atheism was not so much the "manifesto" of evolutionary humanism as a children's book about a piglet who, after questioning the world religions, comes to atheistic insight. The provocation turned into a scandal when, at the request of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, the book, published in 2007, was to be indexed as a font that was harmful to young people. The process failed and the children's book achieved bestseller status. The press noticed less youth-endangering content in "Piglet", but inferior quality. The then Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller described Schmidt-Salomon as a "spiritual gunman who classifies believers as pigs and advocates child murder". The subsequent process brought further relevance to the Schmidt-Salomon disciples.

Not squeamish when making comparisons with Hitler

Philipp Möller - another key figure in GBS - also lifted them into the limelight, who said on a panel discussion that Einstein had also broken with his "childish, Jewish superstitions" in order to subsequently become one of the most important scientists. On the other hand, Prelate Wilhelm Imkamp, ​​who also took part in the round, refused to speak of "childish Jewish superstition" in Berlin. "And then you come over and say that the Catholic Church persecuted the Jews. The persecutors of the Jews, that's you!" An accusation that sat. Sympathizers of the "New Atheists" saw the Nazi comparison as a blow below the belt. Möller settled accounts with Imkamp in his book: he had used the "falsification of history" in the discussion and placed "black magic" under a ban on "the enchanted". Atheists are also not very squeamish when it comes to comparisons with Hitler. Dawkins branded the science historian Michael Ruse as the revenant Neville Chamberlains, whose appeasement policy was partly responsible for the strengthening of the Third Reich. Ruse advocated a dialogue between atheists and believers.

Ruse is an atheist himself, but does not believe that all believers are "bad and stupid". "Religion and science do not have to be in conflict with one another", Ruse is convinced, although he himself appeared as a champion of the theory of evolution in a dispute with creationists. He is one of the many atheists who believe then as now that the "new atheism" has done their cause a disservice. "Richard Dawkins would fail any introductory philosophy course (]. If we were to criticize gene theory with as little clue as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, then he would be justifiably outraged." Conversely, he was "outraged by the poor quality of the Arguments "by Dawkins, Dennett and other" new atheists. "He denounced the whole event as a" bloody disaster. "History has proven him right.

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