Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nasty Maybe, But Not Convincing

To piggyback off this post, I have decided to start a series of short responses to the claims of the so-called "New Atheists." Interestingly, the story I cited (here) about the impact of the September 11th attacks on the faith of some is directly related to a phenomenon that literally sprung to life on 9/12/2001 -- the aggressive attack by these new atheists on the concept of God and the legitimacy of religion. Case in point:
... 9/11 seems to belie the notion of an all-loving, all-powerful God. Sam Harris began writing The End of Faith, his best-selling attack on religion, the day after the attacks.

Jonathan Miller, who wrote and narrated a 2004 BBC series on atheism, says that given the hijackers' militant Islamist theology, 9/11 would have been "inconceivable without religion."
Harris later wrote a Letter To A Christian Nation -- a stinging diatribe about the danger that religion of any kind, but Christianity in particular, poses toward civil society. During the years that have followed we have been treated to several books that take up the banner of atheism with a renewed vigor and a take-no-prisoners attitude.

Christopher Hitchens weighed in with his God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. For a fascinating review of that book go (here) and read what Hitchens' brother Peter has to say about some of the claims he makes and the source and the scathing attitude Christopher brings to the debate. Hitchens is a hard core atheist who "hates God." This is not my assessment of his view. It is something he is comfortable proclaiming for himself. It is his belief that religion is the source of most of the problems we have in this world.

Finally, there is Richard Dawkins, a zoologist and evolutionary biologist who turned from a deep religious belief in his youth to become Darwinism's (and atheism's) most vocal proponent. His book, The God Delusion, spent many weeks on the NY Times bestseller list and was instrumental in his being sought out as an interviewee in the Intelligent Design movement's new documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Some of his answers in that film are shocking to hear -- especially when you consider them in contrast to his arguments against intelligent design.

These are not the only atheists who have jumped on the anti-God bandwagon but they are the most popular. Each of them is intelligent, clever, and unapologetic in their disgust for religious ideas. Both Hitchens and Dawkins are arrogantly antagonistic in the way they approach the subject. Hitchens in particular is nasty in debates and frequently resorts to profanity and/or sarcasm to belittle his opponents. Dawkins won't debate anyone from the ID or Creationist camps (which, in his mind, constitute one-in-the-same thing) because he believes that doing so would lend them credibility they in no way deserve.

Last summer I made it my mission to read each of their books. What struck me as I did so was the utter vacuousness of some of the arguments these guys use. It amazed me how people who are so highly educated and intelligent can be so lacking in their assessments of, and arguments against, spiritual issues. I think this fact shows that their opposition to religious ideas is not as rooted in intellectualism as they would like to believe. Instead it betrays their real problems with religion and God as being volitional and emotional.

With that as a backdrop I intend to begin a regular series of short rebuttals to some of the arguments they pose in their books. I plan to keep these short (as best I can) and to the point. Hopefully these will help offer quick rebuttals to those who may be using the same arguments against you.

[Note: For a lively, in-depth discussion of the so-called "New Atheists" that you can listen to as you drive to work, I suggest Greg Koukl's, "The New Atheists: Old Arguments, New Attitude." You can order it from him here.]

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