Richard Dawkins says he finds it “depressing” that people now think he’s “right-wing,” even a “right-wing extremist,” because he’s anti-woke. “I’ve never been right-wing,” he protested to a sympathetic interviewer. “I’ve voted Left all my life.” I believe him.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 10, 2023
But isn’t it interesting how some of the New Atheists have turned rather … quaint in recent years. Jerry Coyne, anti-woke atheist biologist and author of Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, comes to mind as another example. Sam Harris, too. I bet Christopher Hitchens would be in the same boat if he were alive. They thought that by weaponizing evolution and related ideas against religious faith they could fatally wound religion while leaving civilization intact — when civilization, and science, in the West had been nurtured by faith from the beginning.
Return of the “Ferocious Divinities”
Oh, the New Atheists were wrong, and the French philosopher René Girard, who died in 2015, could have told them they were. He wrote in a 1996 essay:
There is great irony in the fact that the modern process of stamping out religion produces countless caricatures of it. We are often told that our problems are due to our inability to shake off our religious tradition but this is not true. They are rooted in the debacle of that tradition, which is necessarily followed by the reappearance in modern garb of more ancient and ferocious divinities rooted in the mimetic process.
The different species of madness of our time, to which we attach the label “woke,” are just those returned “ferocious divinities” that arose and took control of about half the culture after the forces that hate tradition had made serious inroads. Poor Dawkins thought that success could be cost-free. His book The God Delusion came out in 2006 and the culture has altered radically since then, almost beyond recognition. Of course, that’s not only because of his book. He’s now living, though, with the consequences that he helped to create. He’s not happy with all the results, which threaten to get even more extreme than they are now.