soft atheism

New YorkA few weeks ago, I reported reading a dismal New York Times blog entry on atheism. The Stone has continued publishing entries on the topic of religions and atheism, with mostly poor tribunes (maybe because the interviews were with philosophers from various religious stands rather than philosophers of religion). The third one on deconstructing religion almost sounds like a joke  made by a follower of Sokal and Bricmont!

“Religion at its best (…) focuses on human problems, attempting to relieve want and misery, to provide opportunities for worthwhile life, and to deepen and extend important values.”

The sixth in the series is however more interesting, with an interview of Philip Kitcher, professor at Columbia. It is entitled the case of soft atheism and defends a separation between religious doctrines that are incredible (as a non-native speaker [and as an unbeliever], I am surprised by this use of incredible and would have instead used unbelievable) and religious commitment that the author sees as a mild form of humanism. This “refined religion” puts value on people without referring to a specific ritual or doctrine. I find the arguments of Kitcher quite interesting, even though they seem to stray from philosophy towards sociology, i.e. about why religion is an important social vector that may bring cohesion and inclusion in this soft version. As exemplified in the above quote. This is somewhat representative of the whole series, that again I find lacking in philosophical depth. (I also think Kitcher’s `refined religion’ is not very representative of the current conglomerate of religious believers. Who stick to their own doctrine as the only expression of truth.)

One Response to “soft atheism”

  1. I still find the best case against militant atheism in The gay science, iirc: “You say man created God; and *therefore* he should kill him? This argument does not stand, it’s got a devil’s hoof.”. Afaik Nietzsche was agnostic, but that’s a boring position for outsiders so few dare accepting that and its revolutionarity: far easier is seeing the tip of the iceberg and the criticism of catholic psychology (as if that was representative of religions in general). He definitely incorporated such soft atheism stances already, there are similar praises scattered around the “destructive” part.
    Nevertheless I find it silly nowadays to stick to the “incredible doctrines” as a failed world descriptions, while religion is clearly about the human mind and transcendence instead. Imho in many respects we’re getting more and more autistic, not enlightened.
    On a related line are comments on polytheism by John Gray in Straw dogs, highly recommended.

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