Friday, May 14, 2010

The “New Atheism”



The term “New Atheism” (and “New Atheists”) seems to have been first coined by Gary Wolf in his online WIRED article – The Church of the Non-Believers (Issue 14.11 – Nov. 2006).

Gary begins his article by asking: “Where do you stand on God?” He immediately follows this question with:

It's a question you may prefer not to be asked. But I'm afraid I have no choice. We find ourselves, this very autumn, three and a half centuries after the intellectual martyrdom of Galileo, caught up in a struggle of ultimate importance, when each one of us must make a commitment. It is time to declare our position.
This is the challenge posed by the New Atheists. We are called upon, we lax agnostics, we noncommittal nonbelievers, we vague deists who would be embarrassed to defend antique absurdities like the Virgin Birth or the notion that Mary rose into heaven without dying, or any other blatant myth; we are called out, we fence-sitters, and told to help exorcise this debilitating curse: the curse of faith.
The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking.
Three writers have sounded this call to arms. They are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. A few months ago, I set out to talk with them. I wanted to find out what it would mean to enlist in the war against faith.

IMO, the following from Gary’s introduction, sums up the primary presupposition of the “New Atheists”:

They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil.

Thus we have the battle-cry for “the war against faith”.

Interestingly enough, Gary (who appears to embrace agnosticism), towards the end of his article, weighed in with:

Where does this leave us, we who have been called upon to join this uncompromising war against faith? What shall we do, we potential enlistees? Myself, I've decided to refuse the call. The irony of the New Atheism – this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism – is too much for me.
This brings me to the book pictured at the beginning of this thread. Most of David Hart’s tome is available online in “limited preview” via Google Books.

For those interested in a less vigorous treatment, the same author has just this month penned a scaled-down/popular level critique of the “New Atheism”: First Things - Believe It or Not.

So much for initial foray into the hostile territory of the “New Atheists”—I would like to encourage others to provide links to other scholarly critiques/treatments of this dark, 21st century movement in the combox.


Grace and peace,

David

6 comments:

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of God, Peace be unto you.

The new atheist problem is that they sound so angry and bitter. With the exception of Harris who actually sounds 'at peace' with his atheism.

Hitchens and Dawkins and Dennet are huge embarassments for the cause.


I personally think that Hitchens will embrace Christianity after he finds a good woman, and realizes that it's the "better of two evils" when he sees secular Europe turning more towards Islam. I also think that Hitchens will join in the clash of civilizations debate.

Dawkins I can just say it's a shame that Stephen Jay Gould (raheemullah) passed away. His theory on punctuated equilibrium sure shook things up. Dawkins is very angry because he cannot prove his sacred cow.

Of course he doesn't debate creationist.

Than Dennet who writes things like "people should be told what to believe" I mean how is that not repugnant by the same people who are repulsed by religion?

Their edifice is absolutely crumbling.

Anyone who has seen a movie in which there are a few people in a house who hear a very strange sound that seems extra ordinary and become fearful or intrigued by it know very well there is always the one who speaks up and says don't worry there is a perfectly logical explanation to all this.

At one point or another in our lives no matter how famous or wealth we get we will eventually ask how we all got here and what does it all mean?

Than all of a sudden Darwin stands up and says, don't worry there is a logical explanation to all this....you came from monkeys!

But than when you get a book like "Shattering the myths of Darwinism" by Richard Milton.

Or you read Jeremy Cambell's book Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language and Life a huge gem lying around some where in a seccond hand book store.

You read these things and you realize that evolution just might be the answer for the secular minded liberals who do not want to bow down before any supreme authority.

It doesn't help the cause of Evolution when Francis Crick and James Watson the two men who discovered that DNA has a double helix believe that it was Aliens that created us.

I share this with Muslims and they laugh and than I tell them no look at what they are saying. True they may not be ready to put their head down on the ground and surrender to God.
However, notice what they are saying that an intelligence was behind our creation.

Because these men know that the theory of evolution does not stack up.

This is why they have moved away from evolution and defending it.


They now prefer to enter the arena of philosophical debates.

Like if I tell them I cannot give a mathematical model that shows that God exist nor can they provide a mathematical argument that shows that God does not exist.

Than they will tell you that you can't prove a negative. Where did they get this simplistic argument from?

If I say I have five dollars in my left back pocket are they suggesting that this is not provable or falsifiable?

Sorry for saying so much but in reality really adding very little.

Just some thoughts.

Martin said...

Call me Mr. Crosspost but Mike Liccione has his comments on the same First Things post:

http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-atheism-can-be-respectable.html

David Waltz said...

Hi GrandVerb,

Enjoyed your post; and thanks much for the book recommends.

BTW, have you heard about the brother of Christopher Hitchens, Peter, new book? From Amazon.com:

>>Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Partly autobiographical, partly historical, The Rage Against God, written by Peter Hitchens, brother of prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens, assails several of the favorite arguments of the anti-God battalions and makes the case against fashionable atheism.

From the Back Cover

Here, for the first time, in his new book The Rage Against God, Peter Hitchens, brother of prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens, chronicles his personal journey through disbelief into a committed Christian faith. With unflinching openness and intellectual honesty, Hitchens describes the personal loss and philosophical curiosity that led him to burn his Bible at prep school and embrace atheism in its place. From there, he traces his experience as a journalist in Soviet Moscow, and the critical observations that left him with more questions than answers, and more despair than hope for how to live a meaningful life. With first-hand insight into the blurring of the line between politics and the Church, Hitchens reveals the reasons why an honest assessment of Atheism cannot sustain disbelief in God. In the process, he provides hope for all believers who, in the words of T. S. Eliot, may discover 'the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.'>> The Rage Against God

Looks like yet another book I need to order…

Grace and peace,

David


P.S. Did you get the book I sent you yet?

David Waltz said...

Hi Martin,

Thank you so much for the link; I have a lot of respect for Dr. Liccione—heading over to read his post now…

Grace and peace,

David

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Hi David,

It's been a long time since I commented here. Peace to you and GrandVerb too! :-)

Did not get a chance to read the book but the problem I am encountering from my end, is believers who have turned into atheists. I mean, I am encountering people who claim to have been born-again believers who have become atheists! It makes me wonder what were they learning in church that made them start to disbelieve in God? Some have said that they could not come to grips with the God of the Old Testament - too harsh and warlike. I guess they have been fed the lie of a compassionate God who puts up with evil indefinitely, only to find a very war-like God of justice and vengeance in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. These new atheists have now become some of the greatest opposers to religion of any ilk - worse than the atheists who have had no religious upbringing.


Another new atheist I am encountering also is the religious atheist. This is an atheist who enjoys the trappings of religion - the rituals and ceremonies, but is opposed to the rules of religion or the law of God. They will not subject themselves to living a life that is pleasing to God, but they will attend religious services for the sheer pleasure of the social activities and religious exercises. Strange, but real!

Hillary.

David Waltz said...

Hi Hillary,

You wrote:

>>It's been a long time since I commented here. Peace to you and GrandVerb too! :-)>>

Me: So nice to see you back Hillary; your insights are always appreciated.

>>I am encountering people who claim to have been born-again believers who have become atheists! It makes me wonder what were they learning in church that made them start to disbelieve in God?>>

Me: I think a lot of the problem stems from what has been termed “Biblical illiteracy”, especially when it comes to the OT.

>>These new atheists have now become some of the greatest opposers to religion of any ilk - worse than the atheists who have had no religious upbringing.>>

Me: Agreed.

>>Another new atheist I am encountering also is the religious atheist. This is an atheist who enjoys the trappings of religion - the rituals and ceremonies, but is opposed to the rules of religion or the law of God. They will not subject themselves to living a life that is pleasing to God, but they will attend religious services for the sheer pleasure of the social activities and religious exercises. Strange, but real!>>

Me: Robert Price (http://robertmprice.mindvendor.com/) falls into this category; though he is an atheist, for reasons known only to him, he stills attend a Christian church. From his online bio we read:

“A brief flirtation with Unitarian Universalism disenchanted him even with this liberal extreme of institutional religion. For six years Bob and Carol led a living room church called The Grail. Now, back in North Carolina, he attends the Episcopal Church and keeps his mouth shut.” (http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/bio.htm)

Thanks much for your sharing your thoughts on this issue; you are always welcome here at AF!!!


God bless,

David