There is a resurgence of atheist activism on the European continent, reports Alexander Smoltczyk in the German weekly Der Spiegel (May 26). The trend of a “new atheism’’ mentioned in the March issue of RW now appears to have crossed the Atlantic. Why “new”? Because the new wave of atheists seem driven by a previously unknown missionary zeal. “Time is ripe for new atheist thinking,” states British biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins, who complains about an alleged privileged status gained by religions over the last two decades.
Unbelievers feel that religion is becoming fashionable again, and there is a need for counter-offensive. When asked if he thinks there is any chance for religious beliefs to be wiped out, Dawkins answers in the affirmative: the religious revival is about to end, and there is a “flood of skepticism” on the Internet. Beside Dawkins, French philosopher Michel Onfray and Italian mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi figure prominently on the list of the new European atheists. Onfray explains that the problem with religions is their drive to control the lives of people. Moreover, says Onfray, while all religions claim to preach love, they actually act as catalysts for violence. Onfray says he has no desire to become “a leader of masses.” And here lies the weakness of new atheism in its challenge to religions: its organizational base is small.
One out of three Germans has no religious affiliation (which does not necessarily mean being an atheist). But the largest atheist association in Germany has barely 10,000 members; there are more Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany than the total number of members of all atheist associations taken together. Atheist activists make up a small circle of people. In such circumstances, it is difficult for them to claim the same status as major religious groups.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religion.info)