Seven types of atheism

For about the first third of Seven Types of Atheism I was ambivalent about it. I wasn’t sure if I liked the content, which is a survey of “post-Christian thought,” as one reviewer put it, from present day on back to a few hundred years after Christ, or the tone, which especially for the newer, in-vogue Dawkins school of atheism, what Gray calls “evangelical atheism,” tends toward the dismissive. Which I understand why – those guys are dinguses1. I wrote more about my thoughts on the first few chapters in an [earlier blog post][early].

However, I found it hard to put the book down. By the end of the book, I realized that John Gray does a good job of delineating the different currents of thought in atheism, and how much of those currents are a direct result of their origin in Christian and Platonist thought. He made me realize I’d been believing in a myth of human progress, I’d been placing humankind on a pedestal as a replacement for God, I’d been thinking that science has all the answers, or if not all, most of them. In short, he made me realize that much of what we think, even in not believing in god, comes from a monotheistic, especially Christian, viewpoint.

Not that he gives any solutions to the matter. I think that would actually be against his main thesis, because by offering a solution he’d be subscribing to the idea that history is a march toward a perfect world. I’m not sure what to do with this. I’m used to finding problems and then solutions, to at least talking about what should be done even if I lack the power or the will to make it happen. The thing with humanity, though, is that we’re essentially the same as we’ve been for 10,000 generations and we’re not going to change in any meaningful way for a while longer. The problems we have now are going to stay problems. Maybe we’ll move toward a more equal world for a while, or a “better” one (whatever that means), but there’s no guarantee that it’s going to stay that way.

I think that I’ve come away from this book agreeing with Shestov, at least in this: “History is one thing, and meaning another.” I don’t know what to do with this. I guess I need to make my peace with it.

  1. dingi? [early]:↩︎