Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
The New Atheist Mythology
I recently finished reading The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy and Polemic after 9/11. The book was simply phenomenal as it applied critical theory to four novelists in order to draw out various themes in their works and parallels with the writings of the “New Atheists.” I’ll write up a review at some point, but for now I want to highlight the central theme of the book:
[I]t is possible to detect an obscure… reason for the massive popular appeal of the New Atheism: it constitutes a new and powerful creation mythology that–like all mythologies–performs an implicit anthropological service… For Dawkins… it has become de rigueur to wax lyrical about, say, the ‘breathtaking poetry of modern cosmology’ (whatever that means) even amidst attacks on the ‘fairy story’ that is monotheism. (7, 9, cited below)
The book analyzes various novels in light of this theme: that the New Atheists are, in a sense, creating a rival mythology to the monotheism they denigrate, and this expands into literature in various and interesting ways. In a sense, this mythologizing about the power of the human mind, the wonders of the cosmos, or the beauty of poetry is a project to create transcendence in a worldview which, by definition, rails against the transcendent. It is a kind of creation myth which allows for meaning to seep into the meaningless.
What do you think? Can humans live without a mythology? Is wonder a necessary part of the human condition? Why do you think that even the “New Atheists” have put forward such lyrical and mythological language in their writings?
As I said, I’ll try to get a review of this book up ASAP.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Arthur Bradley and Andrew Tate, The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy and Polemic after 9/11 (New York: Continuum, 2010).