Now, over at PuffHo‘s “Religion” section, Paul Wallace (self-described as “a professor of physics [at Agnes Scott College] and a former working scientist”), Wallace diagnoses this optimism as “The real problem with New Atheism“:
What scares me? Plenty of things. “The Shining” scares me. Cancer scares me. The vulnerability of my children scares me. And for a number of years now the New Atheists have scared me.
It’s true: Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett and even sweet lovable PZ Myers. I am not making this up. These gentlemen, with their impressive and sustained frontal assault on all religion everywhere, have scared me.
When I came across — for the nth time — that section of the book in which James draws a distinction between two psychological types, the “healthy-minded” and the “sick soul,” I saw clearly what separates me from the New Atheists: pessimism.
The truth is, if I were more optimistic I’d probably be an atheist.
Contemporary atheism is optimistic. Given its wall-to-wall phalanx of writers hell-bent on mocking everything that smells of religion, it may seem that this label is ill-applied. Yet under its bluster and iconoclasm atheism is full of good cheer and high spirits. Anyone who knows an actual atheist knows this.
Yes, Wallace sees the big problem of New Atheism as optimism. I would have thought the opposite: we’re the people who don’t believe in life after death, and so have been accused of nihilism.
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