Atheist clubs are springing up in American high schools, warns head of US Catholic bishops
By DAMIAN THOMPSON, TELEGRAPH
Added: Tue, 06 Oct 2009 23:00:00 UTC
A âtriumphalistic, self-righteous atheismâ inspired by the work of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris is winning a following among American young people, leading to âatheist clubsâ in high schools, according to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.
The cardinal, who is President of the US Catholic Bishopsâ Conference, says that unbelief among young people is more than a question of stopping going to church: it is part of a fashionable ânew atheismâ which is every bit as intolerant as Christian fundamentalism. He told John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter:
âIn Chicago, we now have atheist clubs in high schools. We didnât have those five years ago. Kids I would have confirmed in the eighth grade, by the time theyâre sophomores in high school say theyâre atheists. They donât just stop going to church, they make a statement. I think thatâs new. Thatâs perhaps a bit more like Europe.â
The Cardinal agreed with Allenâs suggestion that that the atheism of Dawkins and Harris was âhighly evangelicalâ:
âYes it is, sure. Everybody has said that, and itâs true. Itâs the mirror image of a kind of fundamentalism, because itâs very restrictive in its use of reason. Itâs also very triumphalistic and self-righteous.â
The Cardinalâs comments will be hard to dismiss as scaremongering. YouTube is crawling with videos by articulate, friendly American teenagers and university students proclaiming their uncompromising atheism; indeed, atheism is one of the fastest-growing movements in the 18-25 age group, casting doubt on old assumptions that the religious impulse is somehow hard-wired into the American psyche.
Yet, as Cardinal George says, there is something strongly akin to religious fundamentalism in the evangelical commitment it arouses in its adherents. He, and the whole of the American Church, must be praying that the certainty of unbelief wears off as the ânew atheistsâ have children and face the prospect of mortality. But, as statistics from Europe indicate, this not a foregone conclusion: atheism, like any other belief system, can be passed from one generation to the next.
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