Rationalists Face a Crisis of Unbelief

A longtime admirer of the so-called New Atheists—public intellectuals like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens—the comedian, podcaster, and journalist Konstantin Kisin has begun wondering about the sustainability of a wholly secular society. Kisin, in a recent essay, went so far as to describe himself as a “lapsed atheist.” Carl Trueman responds:

The question of God’s existence and moral order is famously raised by Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. For Ivan, if God does not exist, then everything is permissible. And yet he is a decent, compassionate human being who does not live life consistently with his principles. He has a sensitivity to human suffering. It is Smerdyakov, his illegitimate and unacknowledged half-brother, who represents the lethal practical consequences of Ivan’s intellectual rebellion against God. Ivan is a man divided between his intellectual convictions and the moral intuitions of (what I would call) his God-given humanity.

What is emerging among some erstwhile left-wing intellectuals today is the realization that atheism, while an interesting theoretical position, offers nothing to address the deeper questions of life. Of course, Nietzsche’s Madman pointed this out to the polite atheists in The Gay Science. But as the Madman himself conceded, he had come too early for his argument to be understood. Well, his time has now come and the dilemma at the heart of Ivan Karamazov is emerging with force among some of the most impressive public intellectuals and voices of our day. . . . These are interesting times.

As Kisin himself concludes, “the reason new atheism has lost its mojo is that it has no answers to the lack of meaning and purpose that our post-Christian societies are suffering from. What will fill that void? Religious people have their answer. Do the rest of us?” That may not amount to a cry for help, but it is certainly a call for further interaction with those of us who see ancient wisdom as offering answers to our modern problems.

Read more at First Things

More about: Decline of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, New Atheists, Rationalism

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy