Secret sympathy: atheists, fundamentalists, and the spirit of Protestantism
Fraser, Liam Jerrold
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This thesis defends two arguments. First, it is argued that new atheism and Protestant fundamentalism in Britain and America share a common historical root in the English Reformation and its aftermath. This common historical root gave rise to two presuppositions instrumental in their genesis: a literal, univocal, and perspicuous understanding of Scripture, and a disruptive and substitutionary conception of divine activity in nature. Second, it is argued that these two presuppositions continue to structure both forms of thought, and support a range of shared biblical, hermeneutical, and theological beliefs. In advancing these arguments, a number of substantive conclusions regarding atheism, Protestant fundamentalism, and the lineage of Protestant thought in Britain and America are reached. First, it is argued that, while lacking detail, popular comparisons between new atheism and Protestant fundamentalism are cogent. Second, it is argued that atheism in Britain and America grew out of intellectual and social problems within Protestantism. Third, it is argued that Protestant fundamentalism was itself a response to the same train of problems that gave rise to atheism. Fourth, it is argued that new atheism is not an areligious movement but an atheological one, which finds it necessary to engage in the task of theology in order to reject the existence of God and the truth of the Christian faith. Fifth, this study casts doubt on the self-understanding of both Protestant fundamentalism and new atheism, showing that Protestant fundamentalism is not truly biblical, nor new atheism scientific, but that both are indebted to presuppositions that neither can properly justify, and which render both self-contradictory.