Anti-religious hysteria

An interesting article came to my attention this morning. Frank Furedi’s The Curious Rise of Anti-religious Hysteria, argues that British and American cultural elites are in a panic about religion and are tempted to develop vapid appeals to morality in their politics. Furedi’s not religious himself; he does not write as a religiously-inspired moralist.

The essay’s overblown, I think, but worth thinking about. Especially because Furedi finds a negative sort of elitism behind anti-religious attitudes, arguing that elites perceive especially American true believers as morally and culturally inferior. No doubt this is partly true. Hell, it’s not entirely wrong in my case. I’m convinced that the variety of nonbelief that I hold to — science-minded, naturalistic nonbelief — is no more accessible to most ordinary people than a grasp of quantum mechanics or Darwinian evolution. By its nature, such nonbelief has to be confined to a well-educated elite. But I find it hard to argue that this conveys any social superiority to nonbelief. And I have often argued that there are significant costs associated with science-minded nonbelief, and even that it is pragmatically rational for most people to hold some religious beliefs.

Still, if my sort of nonbelief is destined to be confined to a small elite for the forseeable future, it is also politically vulnerable because of this. I can’t help but react to the sort of religiously-colored populism that has become so influential in the United States with concern, even some fear. I care about certain things that do not fare well when the seriously devout (as opposed to those of a watered-down liberal faith) enjoy power.