siti wrote:I think the recent manifestation of "New Atheism" is certainly more of a psychosocial response to the anti-scientific position taken by the fundamentalist ID crowd than a genuine philosophical or scientific position (I don't know if that makes it a cult).
Historically, whenever the power of mainstream religion wanes, Atheism---along with a plethora of marginal theisms---will pop up to take advantage of the moral vacuum. In the absence of Inquisitions and burning stakes, some of those loud & proud upstarts may become obnoxious in their freedom of speech. But I find most of the New Atheists to be eminently rational & reasonable in their justifiable critiques of authoritarian religious beliefs. As Siti noted, such criticisms shouldn't be offensive to Deists, unless their faith is based on authority, such as the Church or the Bible.
I just finished a book about a publicized personal (non-philosophical) quarrel between 18th century philosophers David Hume and J.J. Rousseau. At one point Hume was the English ambassador to France. Since Paris was then a focal point of the pro-science, anti-religion European "Enlightenment" movement, Hume was able to attend salons with dozens of now famous enlightenment era "philosophes", artists, scientists, and public figures.
Due to his empirical & skeptical writings, Hume had been accused of being an Atheist, but he expressed skepticism toward both religion and atheism. He was always coy about his specific beliefs, but he may have been more like a Deist than an Atheist. At one salon, he said that he didn't believe in Atheists because he had never seen one [ probably an allusion to the typical Atheist argument against God ]. One leading philosophe laughed at Hume's naivete, and pointed to fifteen avowed Atheists sitting at the table with him, << and three who hadn't made up their minds >>; presumably Agnostics.
Historian Edward Gibbon, another attendee at the salon noted with distaste << "the intolerant zeal of those philosophes who "laughed at the skepticism of Hume, preached the tenets of atheism with the bigotry of dogmatists, and damned all believers with ridicule and contempt." >> By contrast, in his Natural History of Religion, Hume argued that << Most of humankind could no more live without belief in deities than without belief in causality. >> Ironically, some atheist scientists are now arguing that Causation, the fundamental axiom of Science, is an illusion.