By "neo-atheism", I mean a tripartite belief system founded on the conviction that science provides the only road to truth and that all religions are deluded, irrational and destructive.
Atheism is just one-third of this exotic ideological cocktail. Secularism, the political wing of the movement, is another third. Neo-atheists often assume that the two are the same thing; in fact, atheism is a metaphysical position and secularism is a view of how society should be organised. So a Christian can easily be a secularist - indeed, even Christ was being one when he said, "Render unto Caesar" - and an atheist can be anti-secularist if he happens to believe that religious views should be taken into account. But, in some muddled way, the two ideas have been combined by the cultists.
The third leg of neo-atheism is Darwinism, the AK-47 of neo-atheist shock troops. Alone among scientists, and perhaps because of the enormous influence of Richard Dawkins, Darwin has been embraced as the final conclusive proof not only that God does not exist but also that religion as a whole is a uniquely dangerous threat to scientific rationality.
A couple of years ago I hired a car at Los Angeles Airport. The radio was tuned to a religious station. Too terrified to attempt simultaneously to change the channel and drive on the I-405, the scariest road in the world, in a strange car, I heard to my astonishment that Christopher Hitchens was the next guest on a Christian chat show.Bryan Appleyard in NewStatesman. Here
In his finest fruity tones and deploying $100 words, Hitchens took the poor presenter apart. Then he was asked if this would be a better world if we disposed of all religions. "No," he replied. I almost crashed the car.
The answer demonstrates the futility of the neo-atheist project. Religion is not going to go away. It is a natural and legitimate response to the human condition, to human consciousness and to human ignorance. One of the most striking things revealed by the progress of science has been the revelation of how little we know and how easily what we do know can be overthrown. Furthermore, as Hitchens in effect acknowledged and as the neo-atheists demonstrate by their ideological rigidity and savagery, absence of religion does not guarantee that the demonic side of our natures will be eliminated. People should have learned this from the catastrophic failed atheist project of communism, but too many didn't.