I don't really agree with this essay, simply because I'm Niebuhrian enough to regard human nature as essentially "fallen" (to borrow a metaphor) and not at all responsive to a simple realization of truth, or to a situation which leaves them alone together to discover a new and better society.* However, in light of the argument of Sam Harris, this passage was interesting:
To paraphrase Marx, the abolition of these false moralities and neo-paganisms would constitute the demand for the rediscovery of true morality and sustainable, virtuous forms of communal life. And here the "new atheists" fall tragically short of their mark.There is certainly an argument to be made that Christianity began as "paganism" which subverted all the gods of Rome, although I'd say it 'ripped off the shroud' of Roman religions only when Constantine converted, and only because they preached Christ crucified (in Paul's terms). And there's the rub: do we preach Christ crucified anymore?
By failing to pursue the critique of religion into the sanctuary of global capitalism itself, by reducing discussion of morality to well-being and personal security, and by neglecting to advocate some alternate form of virtuous community, they end up supplying the pathologies of capitalism with a veneer of rationality.
It is no wonder that the proper task of the critique of religion, which these "new atheists" have abandoned, is part of the Christian legacy. It was, after all, the first Christians that ripped the mouldering shroud of paganism off the cultures of late-antiquity by their unflinching declaration that God raised Jesus from death.(emphasis added)
Well, how popular are Good Friday services, v. Easter Sunday services? And how much do our religious institutions rely on the latter, than on the former?
*I'm also perplexed by any theologian who lumps Kierkegaard in with atheists like Hume, Freud, and Marx. I sort of take his point in doing so; then again, I don't.