Monday, February 16, 2009

Peter Steinfels on the New, New Atheism

2/16/2009--On Friday, 2/13/2009, Peter Steinfels, co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and author of a biweekly column, called "Beliefs" in the New York Times, wrote a column on new atheist thinking. Steinfels mentioned in particular Ronald Aronson’s new book, “Living Without God” (Counterpoint, 2008), “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality” (Viking, 2007), by AndrĂ© Comte-Sponville (which readers of this blog have already heard of) and Phil Zuckerman’s new book on Sweden and Denmark, “Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment” (New York University Press, 2008).

The point of all these authors, despite their differences, seems to be “the incompleteness or tentativeness, the thinness or emptiness, of today’s atheism, agnosticism and secularism.” That quote is from Aronson, but Sponville would certainly agree. Aronson is much less mystical or spiritual than is Sponville but is in other ways quite religious in such themes as the meaning of death and the need for gratitude.

What we are seeing in Steinfels’ column is the birth of a new kind of secularism, one that is beginning to take seriously the responsibility of envisioning a sustainable and flourishing secular civilization. Obviously, Hallowed Secularism is another, and different, approach to that same goal. One thing is certain, the prediction in the book Hallowed Secularism that secularism is growing and would soon need to go beyond religion bashing is already coming true.

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