Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Have you heard of Peter Boghossian’s social cleansing program? Boghossian is the author of a new bagatelle of a book, The Manual for Creating Atheists, endorsed by all the potentates of celebrity atheism, to name just a few: Jerry Coyne (Adam Gopnik’s favorite blogger, according to a recent article of his in the The New Yorker) and the usual suspects Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger . . . (and so on).

Did you know that the great contemporary composer, Arvo Pärt; the world’s best filmmaker, Terrence Malick; the brilliant American prose stylist and novelist, Marilynne Robinson; the former director of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins; and even Stephen Colbert have all contracted a deadly and dangerous virus of the mind which according to Boghossian needs to be “contained and eradicated”? I’m not quite sure if I should laugh Boghossian’s antics off as those of a puerile propagandist or be frightened that this guy can publicly say such things and remain unscathed by the media. Really, this guy is like the village atheist version of a Westboro Baptist Church pastor. Here are some sample suggestions from his book:

. . . I want to add my voice to the growing number of people who argue that we must reconceptualize faith as a virus of the mind, and treat faith like other epistemological crises: contain and eradicate. . . .

Just as society has established mechanisms to deal with contagions, pathogens, and infectious diseases that affect our water, air, and food supply (with objectives like ensuring that the commons are free of toxins and preventing the spread of diseases), there’s also an urgent need for large-scale interventions in educational systems, houses of worship, and other institutions that promote failed epistemologies.

And how else does Boghossian suggest we eradicate faith? The good old fashion bourgeois way: “A key containment protocol is to financially cripple any institution that propagates a faulty epistemology, starting with the most egregious perpetrators: religious institutions.”

In other words, the agenda is a dictatorship with Peter Boghossian as Herr Fuhrer.

And so we must be wary of and eradicate the contagions: the music of J.S. Bach, the requiems of Berlioz and Mozart, the paintings of Michelangelo and Caravaggio and Johannes Vermeer, the works of Flannery O’Connor, Dante, Milton, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and J.R.R. Tolkien, Santa Maria del Fiore, the Sistine Chapel, Chartres, Westminster Abbey, Reims Cathedral, Sacré-Coeur . . . (and on and on). Perhaps Boghossian, in his next book will devise the proper scientific means for eradications, like those wonderful inventions of science: the atom bomb, lethal injections, social eugenics, and quarantines . . . (the possibilities, I suppose, are infinite).

Or what about Richard Dawkins’s recent suggestion that reading some fairy-tales to children should be considered child-abuse because they give credence to the supernatural? Ah, bloody hell, I always did love those children’s tales of Oscar Wilde, now I have to fear the CPS for reading the Happy Prince to my children! You know, arcane censorship agendas used to always be blamed on Christians in particular . . . but from the looks of it, it seems a rather perennial problem for all power mongers in general.

So can we have Nietzsche back? Please. At least he wrote somewhat intelligently in Ecce Homo: “If I wage war on Christianity I have a right to do so, because I have never experienced anything disagreeable or frustrating from that direction—the most serious Christians have always been well disposed towards me.” A common narrative of the new atheists—Boghossian included—is quite the contrary: It is a childish and propagandist response to a childish and propagandist experience of faith. 

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles