“A great many religions saw history as a cycle, not as a narrative of progress. And that’s also true for the philosophies of Egypt and ancient Greece. Most ways of giving meaning to human life have not involved the idea of betterment and improvement. But when I put this forward, the naiveté and the innocence–and I might almost say the parochialism–of most liberal humanists, leads them to say, ‘Well, if I believed what you believe then I wouldn’t get up in the morning.’ To which my response is, ‘Well, maybe, you shouldn’t. Maybe the world would be better off, maybe you would better off, if you had a time of quiet reflection.’”
— John Gray
By helping people purge themselves of irrational religious beliefs, evangelical atheists believe they are doing their bit for progress towards a better humanist society of the future. But Gray argues that the rationalists are themselves in the grip of religious dogma. Humanism is a residue of theism, and created in its image. Rationalism is a utopian delusion and humanism is nothing more than "a secular religion thrown together from decaying scraps of Christian myth". The belief in progress is derived from a Christian conception of humans as morally autonomous beings differentiated from other animals by their possession of souls. Where Christians make moral decisions that progress towards an afterlife, the humanists believe their rational choices ensure progress towards a Godless heaven on earth. But unlike scientific knowledge, Gray argues, social progress is not cumulative, but cyclical, and human nature is a recurring obstacle to the advances of civilisation.