Enjoy Your Enlightenment! New Atheism, Fanaticism and the Pleasures of (Other People’s) Illusions

  • Bryan Cooke
Part of the Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures book series (SCPT, volume 5)


This paper is a criticism of the so-called ‘new atheist’ movement. It is not, however, intended as a defence of religion, but is instead intended as an intervention into debates about both the meaning and the legacy of the Enlightenment. The orienting principle of the argument is that this legacy sometimes needs defending as much from its soi-disant contemporary ‘inheritors’ as from its obvious (obscurantist) opponents. In this sense, the essay emerges from a larger philosophical project whose purpose is to think the contemporary possibilities of what I call a ‘rationalism of the idea’, by which I mean a rationalism that would (in the spirit of Hegel, Adorno and Badiou) distinguish itself from the prevalent, empirical-pragmatic attitudes that constantly threaten to mistake both the objective conditions and the ideological nostrums of present-day late-capitalist societies for with reality to which reason (apparently qua reason) must perpetually ‘adjust’. In what follows, I argue that the problem with Dawkins, Harris et al. is not so much their nugatory comprehension of theology (a flaw which has been amply demonstrated by others), but rather the way in which their in themselves laudable intentions (for instance: to reject reactionary obscurantism while defending the beauty and grandeur of the natural sciences) are expressed in ways that are too easily put in the service of all manner of contemporary irrationalisms, from providing an implicit justification of the U.S. ‘war on terror’ to exacerbating an already deplorable tendency to portray reason not as a process or a property of ‘generic’ humanity but rather as a kind of treasured possession whose presence is apparently guaranteed by the fairly straight-forward task of not believing in what (we tell ourselves) are the preferred myths of the mad, the bad and the dangerous.


Religious Tradition Muslim World Cognitive Norm Holy Book Biblical Critique 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne School of Continental PhilosophyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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