The London Guardian has published a fascinating in-depth article about atheism, its history and its different varieties. The author, John Gray, is himself an atheist, but he subjects what he calls today’s “evangelical atheists” to a withering critique. He especially criticizes the notion assumed by so many “new atheists” that if we just get rid of religion, the rise of science will bring “liberal” values–freedom, equality, human dignity, universal benevolence, etc. Gray shows that there is no way to get from science alone to moral values of any kind, and certainly not liberal values.
In fact, atheists, historically, have often held “illiberal” values. For example, mainstream atheists before World War II tended to be social darwinists, with a strong strain of eugenics and racist biology. Then there is Soviet atheism, which rejected individual freedom, and the atheism of Friedrich Nietzsche, who critiqued liberal values as deriving from Christianity, hating them both. I would add that prominent strain today beloved by many conservatives, the atheism of Ayn Rand, with her “virtue of selfishness.” Gray does say that of course he and his fellow atheists can be moral, but the question is, what morality are they to follow? And science, he says, won’t give an answer. Read an excerpt and follow the link after the jump. [Read more…]