Critique of New Atheism

Here are the first and second part of the characteristics of New Atheism that I wrote in the past couple weeks. You should check them out before you read this post, if you haven’t read them yet.

I thought it would be good to wrap-up this introduction to New Atheism with some of my thoughts and complaints with this new movement. These are not all of my views, but some more of the more important ones. Let me use a disclaimer that I don’t pretend to think that these are true of all New Atheists. These are just general characterizations of some of the leaders and most vocal individuals in the movement. If you are an atheist and are offended by some of the characterizations, just know that I’m not lumping everyone into the same pile.

1. They unfortunately horribly mischaracterize Christianity. Like I said in the previous posts, they are notorious for straw-man arguments. That is when you define that which you are arguing against in a way in which it would be easier to tear down. They often equate the most radical extremes, and present them as being mainline.

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The New Atheism

Disclaimer: This post will begin a series I’m going to be doing on New Atheism.  Let me begin with a warning and a request.  I realize that these posts will be somewhat unpopular with many people, namely atheists.  The purpose of these posts really isn’t to create a dialogue between Christians and Atheists, and as you will see later, I don’t think this would be possible or a good opportunity to do that.  So here is my request:  if you are an atheist and you really hate these posts, this isn’t a place for you to voice your aggravation and continue to attack Christianity.  As we will see, New Atheism isn’t about an open debate, but about intolerance towards any sort of acceptance of Christianity.  So if you have a comment that wouldn’t be considered ‘healthy dialogue’, I kindly and respectfully ask you not to post it.

New Atheism

For many years, atheism has been a view that a person would hold to if they just didn’t believe in God.  It often reflected a lack of desire to try to believe or search things out.  Most of the time they didn’t mind if anyone else believed in God, as long as those beliefs didn’t infringe too much on their own lives.  Recently, there has been a significant shift in atheism, and a ‘New Atheism’ has been born.  This new movement can be characterized by not only intolerance towards Christianity, but also towards anyone who would tolerate it to any degree.  They see themselves as being repressed and held down by a society that inexplicably holds to Christianity, only to its own demise.

Just like any movement, this one is lead by charasmatic personalities, both young and old.  The senior statesman would be the British scientist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins, who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford was, for many years, known as the author of  “The Selfish Gene”.  Though he grew up in a normal Anglican family, he questioned religion from an early age.  Interestingly, at one point he was convinced back to Christianity due to the argument from design, but eventually abandoned religion altogether when he became convinced that evolution satisfyingly answered the questions of the complex design of the world.

Recently, around the events of 9/11, Dawkins began to become more militaristic in his fight against Theism, namely Christianity.  This is worked its way to his recent book, “The God Delusion”, where he presents his evidence that a belief in God is just foolishness.  It is mostly centered around the idea that Creationism is just  “preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood”.  The book has been very successful, reaching #5 on the New York Time’s bestsellers list for hardcover non-fiction books.  As of November 2007, it has sold 1.5 million copies.  It has gotten around, to say the least.

Another, and even more militaristic personality, is an American named Sam Harris.  He has been called Atheisms new bulldog, and has led his charge with two books, “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”.  Sam Harris seems to take it to the next step, blaming every bad thing in America on Christianity, calling for an abandoning of  Christianity to a new society based on  reason.  The thing that all these men have in common is that science is the new religion. They see science as falling woefully short of obvious scientific truths.  Harris grew up in with a Jewish mom and a Quaker dad, attended Stanford studying English, but dropped out when he started Ecstasy.  This lead him to study Buddhism, meditation, and read hundreds of religious books.  Eventually, he would return to Stanford, obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.  He is now pursuing a doctorate in  neuroscience, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to conduct research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty. (Wikipedia)

Harris says that religion, namely Christianity, served a purpose for some time, but it is now time to view God the same way we view the myth of Zeus.  It is now time to leave religion behind, and take society in a new direction.  Religion as been “one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised.”  According to Harris, we must bring the nation to a point where we can not only talk about how mentally ridiculous Christianity is, but to the point where we cease to let it effect the way our society is run.  Reason, instead, should be the basis of society.   In the near future, I will be writing some views on his “Letter to a Christian Nation” book, so you will become very familiar with Harris.

Other personalities in the New Atheism movement are Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, as well as entertainers Penn and Teller, who have made bashing Christianity and Creationism a part of their popular act.  If you could boil all of their thoughts down to one, I think it may sound something like this: A belief in Christianity, Theism, God, Creationism, the Bible, the Koran, or any other ‘holy scripture’ is idiotic, baseless, and you are stupid if you believe them.  They very much carry themselves as being societies best thinkers, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just a nim-wit.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding various other posts to continue to explore some of these writings, what they teach, and how it may affect our society.  Their mission is to make Christianity intolerable, outlawed, and banished, along with those that hold to it.  They will not rest until their mission is accomplished.  What is a Biblically minded Christian to do?  Through this series, I pray that you do not fear these men and their bravado, but you realize that this is another season of attacks on faith.  Interestingly enough, in England, where Dawkin’s books shot up the sales of books of spirituality by 50% and the sales of Bibles by 120%.  Somewhat ironic that this has lead to a resurgence in the reading of the Bible.  I doubt that was the intended reaction.  I pray that it leads us to a resurgence in understanding our faith, and how to defend it.