Thursday, February 24, 2011

God and politics

This piece at The Partially Examined Life on New Atheism struck me. Not because the piece itself is odd, but because of this quote:
Political point scoring aside, serious talk that God is somehow involved in the daily workings of this world and that public life should be oriented toward pleasing Him and following His will has almost vanished. The New Atheism has succeeded in shifting broad attitudes towards public talk of this kind from one of mild amusement or irritation to one of outright fear and derision and has done so inside of just a decade. 
(From this article by Paul Pardi in The Huffington Post.)

Really? My immediate thought was of a series of YouTube videos I saw recently, possibly on Facebook (I can't find them now), showing various politicians talking about God in precisely this kind of way (as I recall). In the absence of a link to what I actually have in mind, try this, this, and this. There is plenty of God talk around in conservative politics, and Obama has been known to mention his faith from time to time too.

Presumably, Pardi would say either that the things people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party say about God do not constitute "serious talk" or else that their talk is met with "outright fear and derision." Defining what you oppose as not serious would surely be cheating, though. And since the Tea Party, etc. are regarded with fear and derision this seems like a better approach for him to take.

But does this fear and derision come from the influence of New Atheists? That just seems very implausible to me. The criticism of Glenn Beck here makes little mention of New Atheism. The same goes for the reasons for objecting to Palin that can be found here. And criticisms of the Tea Party don't focus on New Atheist themes either. If the religious views of people on the visible far right (i.e. not the far right in the sense of underground neo-Nazi terrorists) are regarded as irrational or crude, this is of a piece with how their political, economic, and moral views tend to be regarded. If the New Atheists deserve any credit for extremists being regarded as frighteningly or laughably extreme, then they at least surely need to share this credit with the likes of Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart. Not to mention common sense.

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