Daniel Harvey looks at New College of the Humanities, AC Grayling’s private ‘university’
I remember a time, not very long ago, despite seeming it, when a young student stood up to give a speech at a debate on the necessity of the New Atheism at his college. The speech ranged through all the usual canards thrown at the religious, the cruelty of nature, the unnecessary suffering in the world, the emptiness of the universe. Of course, this student devotee of Richard Dawkins, Grayling, PZ Myers, Christopher Hitchens (shoot me now), was myself, and in that vain, naïve enthusiasm even, remained until the day I discovered that this was about as intellectually fulfilling as squashing ants.
But this feature of the atheist calling has always been fascinating – why so much time and effort spent on continually stomping on the face of the religious phenomenon, when it is so easy to do? Of course, you ask any followers of Richard Dawkins who attended his ‘talk’ which I happily raided with some comrades the other day, and what will come back is a stream words about the threat of ‘accomodationism’, about the fact religion is so powerful, growing, spreading its tentacles into education, and practically undermining the entire Enlightenment. But for one of the original founders of this movement H. L. Mencken, the great liberal journalist and commentator on the Scopes Trial, religion was more than this, it was the possession of the ‘immortal scum’ of human history, a whole layer of society that always threatened to overwhelm the elite, intelligent minority. In intellectual circles he said, all that “survives under the name of Christianity, above the stratum of that mob, is no more than a sort of Humanism, with a little more supernaturalism in it than you will find in mathematics or political economy.” Continue reading “grayling’s atrocity: what it means and what we’re going to do about it.”