I am a New Atheist. In the late 90s and early 00s I fought in the BBS, in the online forums, and in the mailing lists. I IRC’d and engaged on the burgeoning web, and IRL. I listened to The Infidel Guy and The Non-Prophets, and I went to see Dawkins in person.
One of my core beliefs was that humanity is better off without religion. Religion introduces error and dogma unnecessarily. It appropriates human’s need for community and diverts it for its own ends. It hijacks emotional drives to steer people into atrocities. In summary, it always siphons off value to preserve itself, provides nothing of value in the best case scenario, and in most cases actively degrades humanity.
One of the reasons I thought this is because I truely and deeply believed my generation’s Big Lie. That lie being that All People Are (Roughly) The Same. “All Men Are Created Equal” taken to the extreme. There were many simple, obvious facts of reality that I discovered in my 30s that genuinely shocked me, because I had so fully believed this Lie. It would be like a Christian expecting Jesus to take the wheel of their car when they let go, and being honestly, deeply shocked when the car crashes. I still think this Lie is Noble, and there is some value to it… but ultimately, like all lies, it is destructive. I plan to write more about this Lie and my relationship to it in a future post.
This is important, because *I* didn’t need religion. To me, it provided nothing of value. I understood morality and why other people matter. I found it important to understand the most accurate model of reality possible, unfettered by convenient falsehoods (haha, see previous paragraph). I was self-motivated, socially isolated, and highly Open/Novelty-seeking. Religion was simply a thing that was wrong, and that often served as a handicap.
Since Everyone Is (Roughly) The Same, this must be the case universally. Anyone who thought that religion was net-positive in any case was a victim of religious brainwashing. They’d been deluded, lied to, or violently suppressed, into clinging to humanity’s most destructive parasite. It was my duty to help them break free.
I was so, so very wrong.
It turns out people are different. Shockingly different, in some cases. There are large segments of the population that need what religion provides. Their psychology is vastly different from my own, and they cannot live without the sort of totalitarian guidance that religions provide.
I would not have believed this if someone told it to me, no matter how much supporting evidence they threw at me. Even six or seven years ago I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have to see people freed from religion, drown for years, and then finally create a new religion from whole cloth to supplant the old one, to believe this. I would have to see it with my own eyes, happening in real time.
Over the past few years I watched a new religion born. A secular religion, which doesn’t have the dead-easy failure mode of requiring belief in a sky-fairy. But, since it was created in America, with strong Christian roots, it has all the trappings of Christianity.
Repentance and confession
Manichean good/evil dichotomy
Focus on martyrdom and victimhood
Salvation dispensed by the church and needing constant reaffirmation
Even worse, since it is a new religion that is being seized as a lifeline by people who’ve been spiritually drowning for over a decade, it is full of fiery zealots. All conflicts are recast as spiritual struggles focused around the original sin. Like the puritans, they can harbor no dissent in their midst. Everyone must be equally zealous and on their side, or they are on the side of evil. Any price is worth paying to save a soul from evil.
When the scales fell from my eyes and I finally realized what had happened, I felt true crushing failure. Not because I had failed in my objective. Tradition religion is less relevant than ever. The New Atheists won. But in winning, having not realized how different others are, we left a massive religion-vacuum in society. We laid the groundwork for a new religion. One that had been purged of the greatest weaknesses of traditional religions, and with a dense underbrush of religion-starved kindling to tear into.
So, yes. New Atheism helped to create Wokeism. I repent of my ways, I was wrong. Religion is needed, and we should have focused on strengthening the least harmful religion(s) while tearing down the most harmful ones, rather than trying to eliminate them all. Forgive us, for we knew not what we did. :(