November 6, 2018


Why science can't replace religion: John Gray on the myths the "New Atheists" tell themselves. (Sean Illing, 11/04/18,

Sean Illing

I see you as someone who enjoys exposing the hypocrisies of people who enjoy exposing the hypocrisies of others. Is that how you see yourself?

John Gray

Indeed. I'm a skeptic by nature, so I'm resistant to claims by anyone to have complete answers to intractable human problems. I'm particularly annoyed by what's now called "New Atheism," and I react strongly against those who debunk the beliefs of others in a way I find bullying and shallow.

The New Atheists -- Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and others -- attack religions in the sublime confidence that these religions are myths and that they themselves harbor no myths, but that's not true.

In many cases, the New Atheists are animated by 19th-century myths of various kinds: myths of human advancement, myths of what science can and cannot do, and all kinds of other myths. So yeah, I'm compelled to attack anyone who is debunking others for their reliance on myths when the debunkers themselves can't see how their own thinking is shaped by myths.

Something as ancient, as profound, as inexhaustibly rich as religion or religions can't really be written off as an intellectual error by clever people. Most of these clever people are not that clever when compared with really clever people like Wittgenstein or Saint Augustine or Pascal -- all philosophers of the past who seriously engaged the religious perspective.

The great Anglospheric insight--since, at least, Hume--is the need to be skeptical of skepticism for exactly the same reason as other beliefs.  Which leads us back to the primacy of faith and the recognition that our choice of faiths is a simple matter of aesthetics.

Posted by at November 6, 2018 4:01 AM