Michel Onfray: the new atheism


If you have read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion – and if not, why not? – then you will have encountered a crisp, authoritative and unmistakeably English account of the scientific case against assuming the existence of a god. If you have read Christopher Hitchens’ new God Is Not Great you will have been rewarded by a wonderfully erudite, distinctly transatlantic version of the political and logical case against organised religion. Now comes the third part of what we might (though probably shouldn’t) call the atheist trinity, the philosophical case against monotheism. This one comes, bien sûr, from France. It is Michel Onfray’s In Defence of Atheism, just published in the UK.

While Dawkins makes a strong case for why one doesn’t require a thorough grounding in theology to refute religious certainties (you don’t need to be an expert in fairyology to dispute the existence of fairies), and Hitchens draws on his acute observational skills and tireless globetrotting to report on the way “religion poisons everything” – from “Belfast to Beirut to Baghdad, and that’s without leaving the B’s”– Onfray takes another tack entirely. As befits his role as “France’s most popular philosopher” (is there another country in the world where these two words go together?), Onfray delves deep into the internal logic of the three monotheisms, performing what he calls “a pitiless historical reading of the three so-called holy books”. Nor is he alone in his battle: he enters the field backed by a gang of thinkers as bizarrely incongruous as the Dirty Dozen – Epicurus, Nietzsche, Georges Bataille and Jean Meslier, Baron d’Holbach and Michel Foucault, Jeremy Bentham and Freud.

more from The New Humanist here.