The Changing Face of Unbelief in the U.S. and Britain

The 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise in the English-speaking world of the so-called New Atheists—strident thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris who saw religion not only as benighted and false, but as a source of evil. Although they had far fewer followers in the U.S. than in the UK, their American acolytes were often vocal and enthusiastic. Yet, their cultural cache and the popularity of their ideas has declined steeply over the past decade. Stefani McDade examines qualitative and quantitative data to detect the newer trends among nonbelievers:

In contrast to activist atheists, a more temperate type of atheist thinker seems to have emerged over the past five years or so, explains Jim Stump. Stump is vice president of programs for Biologos, a Christian think tank in the U.S. . . . Instead of frontal attacks on religion as a “cancer” to society, he says, this “new wave” is more subtle. Whereas New Atheists say religion is dangerous “and we need to go out and combat it,” Stump said, some of these dispassionate atheists simply dismiss religion as “irrelevant.”

“There’s kind of a second wave of books that are coming out by people who are atheists and have no love of religion—but their approach is different,” Stump said. The 2011 bestseller Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, On the Origin of Time by Thomas Hertog, and many similar books offer naturalistic origin stories for humankind that account for the development of morality and religion. While these temperate atheist authors may still be “anti-religion,” they are more likely to acknowledge reasons why so many people today hold to religious worldviews.

Some of the best apologists for Christian humanism today aren’t even Christian. That’s because, along with the decline of “angry” activist atheists and the rise of “temperate” atheists has come the advent of what we might call “amicable” atheists. Most of them do not believe in God, but, unlike the temperate atheists, they are publicly pro-religion and may even advocate for Christianity’s benefits for society.

For instance, Jonathan Haidt, author of the best-selling book The Righteous Mind, is a moral psychologist who considers himself an atheist but believes religion is good for humankind. In an interview for the Atlantic in 2020, Haidt said he “believes that religion is part of human nature, is generally a good part of human nature, and an essential part of who we are and how we became a civilized species.” He also shares a critical commonality with Christians: believing there is a “God-shaped hole in everyone’s heart” that must be filled.

Read more at Christianity Today

More about: American Religion, Atheism, New Atheists, United Kingdom

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas