Matt Ridley has a curious piece in The Times (no, the better one), “Why Muslims are turning away from Islam“.
(Incidentally, Ridley and I both have chapters in the new National Association of Scholars report “Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement To Turn A Generation Against Fossil Fuels“.)
Ridley starts: “As scepticism and materialism replace blind faith, more people than ever worldwide are opting for atheism.” Blind faith, eh. As far as I have been able to discover, there is no such thing. No one believes a thing for no reason; no one, except for a fool or a drunk, believes just for the sake of believing. Even science, like mathematics, requires faith, i.e. the believing in things for which no observational evidence will ever be forthcoming. Skip it. Everybody knows “blind faith” is a euphemism for one of the monotheistic beliefs (for which, in the case of Christianity, there is ample observational evidence).
And materialism, what’s that? A coherent philosophy that nobody holds. Every nihilist is a liar—at some point. Materialism is the philosophy that only material substances exist. Accepting that leads to the rigorous conclusion that nothing matters. Not the good of the human race, not the bloody hijinks of terrorists. Nothing—as in nothing. No materialist or nihilist is ever consistent, though. In every instance, there is a call to a universal standard of good and evil, standards which cannot exist if materialism is true. Let’s see if that’s so with Ridley.
Quietly, non-belief is on the march. Those who use an extreme form of religion to poison the minds of disaffected young men are furious about the spread of materialist and secularist ideas, which they feel powerless to prevent. In 50 years’ time, we may look back on this period and wonder how we failed to notice that Islam was about to lose market share, not to other religions, but to humanism.
To disparage poisoning a mind is to lay claim to a universal evil, which is nonsensical if materialism holds. Of course, one can be furious under materialism, but it means nothing. Anger is merely another word for a certain configuration of chemicals in somebody’s nervous system. But anger or fury, and what comes of it in the form of action, it’s neither good nor bad if materialism is true. Kill or let live: it’s all the same under materialism.
Ridley is right that non-belief among monotheists, even among Muslims, is waxing. He notes this in an approving tone. (Be careful what you wish for, etc.) He says the rise of atheism is “all the more remarkable when you think that, with a few notable exceptions, atheists or humanists don’t preach, let alone pour money into evangelism.”
Atheists or humanists don’t preach?
Oh yes, they do. Constantly. You can’t shut them up! Their evangelization is vigorous, well-supported, and ubiquitous. Every secular cathedral—the bulk of our schools (at every level), media, and entertainment complex—preaches daily from pre-dawn into the wee small hours. There is a cataract of preachy propaganda gushing through the air.
Did we not just see muscular street-corner style soap-boxing at Mizzou? Flick on the dream machine and turn to any ad- or government-supported channel. Nonstop lecturing and hectoring on the essentials of non-belief. They even control the sports networks! The soldiers of secularism are indefatigable. Or maybe that should be spelled sexularism.
Ridley admits as much.
In the Arab world, according to Brian Whitaker, author of Arabs Without God, what tempts people to leave the faith is not disgust at the antics of Islamist terrorists, but the same things that have drained church attendance here: materialism, rationalism and scepticism.
Materialism we know; and skepticism merely means sexularism (or secularism, if you must). But rationalism doesn’t belong in the list. It is rational to believe in God—which ought to tell you what irrationalism is. Ridley quotes a guy who says, what I think is true, “Not a single advanced democracy that enjoys benign, progressive socio-economic conditions retains a high level of popular religiosity.” Yes: progressive democracies are nothing but trouble.
Hey: ever notice these guys love coming up with self-congratulatory names for themselves? “Rationalists”, “brights”, “humanists”. Sheesh. That reminds me a of a brilliant one-act mini play.