I am not particularly interested in debating general politics or promoting a political agenda on an atheist forum. However, social-historical analysis of religion, and critical analysis of atheist/humanist/freethought/skeptical literature and movements worldwide is a useful and important task to take on, esp. in intellectually backward countries like the USA, and possibly the rest of the anglophone world.

For example, there are alternatives to the crap being put out by the so-called "new atheists". I just got hold of Alexander Saxton's Religion and the Human Prospect--haven't read it yet, though.

Obviously, religion and politics is a pertinent topic for discussion. I am particularly interested in others' views (even better yet) documentation comparing today's religious left with the religious left of the '60s, the '30s, and other eras. In the USA, today's religious left seems to have theocratic tendencies--like the rest of American politics--I don't recall having seen back in the '60s.

Views: 90

Replies to This Discussion

Dear Ralph Dumain,

Have you read, or started reading:

"Alexander Saxton's Religion and the Human Prospect"


I have had it on my Amazon.com wish list for a long time. It sounds interesting.
Not generally available in public libraries.

I agree with you about the USA being intellectually backward. I live in Los Angeles, which may be an acception for it's cultural mediocrity. I haven't live in another "developed" "westernized" nation so I don't have direct experience to compare, but I feel compelled to think western European cities must be better than Los Angeles.

Are there Europeans on this list who have some experience in the USA that can make a fair comparison?

paz con justicio,

I have the Saxton book on my shelf, but I have not yet opened it. It's close to the top of my atheist/humanist reading list, but I'm working on other projects right now. Other priorities are The God Market by Meera Nanda and Beyond the Hoax by Alan Sokal.
Saxton has a critique of the Sam Harris book posted on the left journal Monthly Review.

interesting read... like several other critiques of "End of Faith" Saxton feels Harris is to far reaching and generalizing in his critique of Islam. I would venture to say that Harris's critique should be limited to Jihadists. In his book "Beyond Fundamentalism" author Reza Aslan makes that distinction. -- Gary

Faith in the "War with Islam"
by Alexander Saxton

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. Norton, New York, 2004. ISBN 0-393-03515-8

This is as good a critique of Harris as any. Harris is a moron politically, absolutely the worst of the mislabeled "new atheists".

I'm finding Reza Aslan's book, "Beyond Fundamentalism" to be superb. I can hardly put it down.

I don't have a rigorous definition. People who come to mind are Chris Hedges, Cornel West, Jim Wallis, Michael Lerner . . . One could question how left any of these people are. Chris Hedges seems like the most radical of them, but he also is an Evangelical that disdains atheists. The point, however, is that religious viewpoints are becoming intermixed in secular political discourse that I don't remember happening back in the '60d. MLK himself engaged in secular discourse in the political sphere most of the time.

Interesting topic. Being from Quebec and third generation atheist, by my late teens, I thought the entire planet was becoming feminist atheist socialist. What high expectations I had!


I lived in the USA for nearly 10 years and get a little tired of hearing the lament "intellectually backward" on its own. A people in an advanced country do not become uneducated accidentally. The USA government the multinationals who control government have through the years intentionally destroyed the educational system. These multinationals and government have always given lip service to the idea that a productive economy benefits from an educated workforce. But it's false, in a world with no worker protection, the most profit can be gleaned from abundant cheap disposable human flesh and all international corporate policies reflect this. And this human flesh comes in limitless flesh supply from the third world.


As per religious (or not) ideology in the US, from being on these boards for over 2 years and participating in a local USA atheist organisation, I've come to think that "new atheists" correspond to that new derogatory term: liberal creationist. Nowhere else in the world is that term relevant. I think the extremism effected by the right wing has forced the USA left into an ideological corner, and stuck USA lefties with a anti-science dogmatic (Humanism and Buddhism) approach to philosophy, simply replacing heavenly theistic religions for earthly theistic religions. I've found that in the USA, as opposed to most other Western countries, people cling to the value system, to the status quo, without any true attempt at making a change of direction for humans, and that "dropping god" from the equation is seen as an easy, isolated action, which spontaneously gives one added credibility. What I find with a lot of the USA's left is that the "science" of psychology and the rest of humanities takes preponderance over the real sciences, making everybody, left and right, value their sense of perception and "internal truth" more than biological/ecological/geological/physical understanding of the essence of life. People view those sciences in some sort of theoretical realm separate from the human experience, whereas "what I feel, my emotions" are the dominant sociopolitical forces.


The definition of left is so different between the USA and the rest of the world. From the perspective of Canadian leftie-green, I've listened to some left-wing and liberal radio in the USA and it's nearly as scary as FOX news. Very depressing. Until the USA left wing integrates more of science into its core value system instead of clinging to ideological dogmas, I don't really see any progress in the near future for USA lefties. Sorry.

@TNT666: Details of course are helpful in such discussions, but as an American, I have a low opinion of the intellectual level here, including that of the left. The atheist/humanist movement, however, is not so touchy/feely; there's far too much obsession with the natural sciences and too little of a sociological and historical perspective.

"atheist/humanist" you place them together, but I don't see any necessary links between the two. An atheist has no dogma other than taking down religious institutions, whereas Humanism's dogma is man. Through my years of various dealings with the Humanist movement, I've found there's a new trend of paying lip service to the "environmental" cause, but it's all just words, there is no real life evidence of that lip service. The fundamentals of Humanism is humans, not ecosystem. This is actually what really confirms the concept of liberal creationist to me... belief in evolution only from the neck down. I think this discussion would be much helped if we did not confound atheists and Humanists.


In my experience of the atheist movement, the biological sciences are nearly completely absent! However I do see an awful lot of space travel, beginning of the universe, life on Mars, AI, singulatariansim, transhumanism... Discussions of physics which are the farthest possible removed from the human experience. Recently physicist Phil Plat officially pronounced biologists to be squishy. I think that really says it all.


I do agree with you atheists are often sorely lacking in historical perspective, every week I hear Dawkins and Hitchens rave at how religion has "always" been anti-science and anti-technology, when in fact they were practically indistinguishable for the 1500 years.


I do agree with you that the intellectual level is low, but my beef is that to make such pronouncements without addressing their cause is to blame the victims instead of the perpetrators.




Update Your Membership :




Nexus on Social Media:


© 2018   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: The Nexus Group.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service