Thursday, January 11, 2007

Angry Apostles of Atheism Attack

They're mad, and their not going to take it any more. There has been a spate of books, TV shows, NPR interviews, magazine stories and the like involving one or more of the angry atheists. Sam Schulman of the Wall Street Journal has had about his fill of them. On Friday January 5th of this year he wrote a column in the WSJ entitled "Without God, Gall is Permitted" The sub-caption reads "Modern atheists don't have any new arguments and they lack their forbear's charms." He does not cover angry agnostics (whom Stephen Colbert has famously called atheists without 'testicles', though he used a choicer epithet). Were we to add them to the mix we could brew up a Texas Pete sort of stew.

But why exactly do atheists have their knickers in a knot these days? I mean its not like they have ever been the majority in the landscape of humanity. Indeed, from what we can tell they have always been a tiny minority. Maybe that's why they are so angry. I mean we are supposed to be not only in the age of reason, we are supposed to be in the space age, 'boldly going where no one has gone before'. And maybe this is one reason for the proud man's contumely. They just can't understand why people are still bothering to believe all this 'religious' stuff. Their attitude is so very different from that chronicled in John Updike's 'In the Beauty of the Lilies' where someone gradually loses their faith, and ends up sad about it. Nope, the attitude of these folks is "Flame On!" to borrow a phrase from one of my childhood Marvel Comic heroes. And 'me thinks they protesteth too much.'

I mean when is the last time you found people ranting and raving for so long about something or someone who, according to them, doesn't even exist? I don't see people writing angry diatribes shouting "Unicorns Aren't Real-- Get Over it!". In fact I don't even see many Grinches writing best sellers entitled "Santa Claus is a myth". And actually there are a good number of people who believe in one or both of those creatures. Could it be that one has to really get angry and go into denial about God, precisely because even these atheists are created in God's image, and they are trying to exorcise that influence? Well, its worth pondering.

Yet we do have people like Richard Dawkins are writing best selling books like "The God Delusion". Now Dawkins is an Oxford don. He's erudite and clever. He is also arrogant and ignorant when it comes to the Bible and theology. For atheist's like him, belief in God is a form of stupidity, as if one was struck by massive dummo rays, and so he is quite unwilling to take theology even seriously. In fact, he has even suggested that religious education is a form of child abuse! That's a nice objective point of view to be sure. Listen to Schulman's lament about him:

"For the new atheists believing in God is a form of stupidity, which sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first to discover that biblical miracles are improbable....that religion is full of superstition. They write as if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of creation, moral law and contending versions of revealed truth. They argue as if these questions are easily answered by blunt materialism. Most of all they assume that no intelligent, reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it....The faith that the new atheists describe is a simple-minded parody. It is impossible to see within it what might have preoccupied great artists and thinkers like Homer, Milton, Michelangelo, Newton, and Spinoza-- let alone Aquinas, Dr Johnson, Kierkegaard, Goya, Cardinal Newman, Reinhold Neibuhr or, for that matter, Albert Einstein. But to pass over this deeper faith-- the kind that engaged the great minds of Western history-- is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new atheists are separated from the old ones by their shallowness."

And Schulman is right to ask why it is that Dawkins and people like Sam Harris insist on railing against Christian fundamentalism, all the while being deathly silence about Islamic or Jewish fundamentalism. Perhaps they realize that Jesus wouldn't want Christians to blow them up, so we are fair game I suppose.


Sometimes what worries me the most about such atheists who think they stand on the intellectual high ground is the fact that they do not realize that their unquestioned faith in their own conclusions is just that--- 'unquestioned faith', in this case in some sort of rationalism, or materialism coupled with a certain view of science which sees it as the key which unlocks the doors to all that is 'really' real. But as A.J. Ayer said a long time ago, imperial empiricism starts from a faith postulate-- namely that the human senses are generally reliable conveyers of data to the human brain. This in itself is an unproved faith hypothesis, unproved because of course, as C.S. Lewis once said "we cannot crawl one inch outside our mortal skin". We cannot escape our own interiority and subjectivity in any complete sense. We can be reached from outside of ourselves, but we cannot step outside of ourselves and our reliance on our senses.

As it turns out a belief in 'radical materialism' is in fact a form of fundamentalism. The materialist thinks because he personally has found the positive evidence for God's existence wanting, that he has then proved the negative conclusion-- that God does not exist. Yet there is no scientist, of whatever faith position or whatever degree of intellectual rigor, who can actually claim that we have such an extensive (much less exhaustive) knowledge of the universe and material reality that we could rule OUT the existence of God on the basis of our current empirical evidence. Especially when God is spirit, and therefore a non-material being is this conclusion a non-sequitur. To the contrary, there is so much evidence in creation for the existence of an intelligent creator that the evidence goes quite in the opposite direction.

Such a conclusion as 'there is no god' so drastically outreach the actual hard scientific evidence we have that one would have to conclude that the person making such a claim, such as Richard Dawkins, so desperately wants to believe it is true that he is prepared to dramatically assert the truth of his position all the while fudging the evidence, or at least dramatically outrunning it. This friends is faith in spite of the absence of such compelling evidence, not faith because of it, and this frankly is a form of fundamentalism. One has raised a belief, any belief, to such a level of dogma, that one sees it as unquestionably unassailably true. And even worse, one thinks that one has proved a negative because one has shown some problems with some of the arguments for the positive case. This is not merely bad science, its bad logic as well.

Any scientist worth his salt must be prepared to be open-minded to new evidence which can disprove his pet hypothesis. Indeed, that is how science works-- one suggests an hypothesis, and then attempts empirical verification. When scientists forget they are working with hypotheses,and think that their presuppositions are facts, they have ceased to work as scientists, and now are promulgating some sort of new faith. Such is the case with Dawkins, and he preaches his new faith with the fervor and rancor of an old time fundamentalist revival preacher. The difference is not in the degree of dogmatism or fundamentalism. The difference is the faith postulate from which they begin.

Yes, friends you see, fundamentalism is not in the end a position on the arc of the religious or theological spectrum. It is a mindset that can be embraced by conservatives or liberals, true believers or atheists. It is what Bloom complained about when he bemoaned 'the closing of the American mind'. It has to do not merely with the lust for certainty, though that is a crucial component, but also the actual belief that you have found that absolute certainty such that faith is no longer required, it has become unassailable knowledge.

But at the end of the day, it does seem probable to me that atheists like Dawkins are in denial about God, because they are in fact in denial about their own nature and condition-- created in God's image. It is of course galling to human pride to discover that one is not a self-made person. It is galling to learn that one owe's one's very existence to another outside of the oneself. And it is most galling of all to learn that that Person is not merely one of one's parents, but in fact one's heavenly parent, the Creator. It has been said that one cannot know who one is, unless one knows whose one is-- 'little lamb who made thee' asked William Blake. And here in lies the rub for atheists. They cannot truly learn who they are, and the very nature of human existence without knowing their Maker. When one learns whose one is, one learns who one is.

Long ago the Psalmist had a word for Professor Dawkins-- it goes like this "The fool says in his heart, there is no God" (Ps. 14). How foolish indeed to confidently deny the existence of a Being simply because one has not yet personally found Him or been found by Him. This is the very definition of a lost, and in the end, unintelligent and unwise creature, standing as he does against the backdraft of the posture and position of most of the most brilliant minds in all ages of history, and spitting into the prevailing wind.

31 comments:

Evan said...

Brilliant stuff!

South Park just recently aired a series of episodes in which Cartman finds himself in the future and all the inhabitants of the earth (including otters) worship Richard Dawkins as a deity for ridding the world of religion.

They're expletives now consist of Science *darn* you!
and
Logic *darn* you!

But even with religion out of the picture different "sciences" raise up as people interpret science differently. The "future" world looks very similar to the present world because the sciences still require faith and interpretation, and fundalmental differences arise within the groups.

Steve Bedard said...

As a lapsed atheist, I very much appreciate your post. I was much more the sad atheist rather than the angry atheist. The universe seemed a lonelier and darker place without God. As many before me, I found that I did not have enough faith to be an atheist. As for the popularity of such angry atheists, I think it has something to do with the current backlash against the religious right. As you say, they have always been a small minority and perhaps they see in the current political situation, the opportunity to gain new converts with those disillusioned by the marriage of evangelicalism and politics. In the end, the venom of their attacks will be the most powerful way of discrediting their arguments.

thunderbeard said...
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thunderbeard said...

oops. here is what i said: These are great thoughts, Ben. I've really appreciated Alister McGrath's work in response to Dawkins and others of that ilk.

chrisstiles said...


But as A.J. Ayer said a long time ago, imperial empiricism starts from a faith postulate-- namely that the human senses are generally reliable conveyers of data to the human brain.


Which is - I think - a lazy (and possibly disingenous) argument. AFAICT none of us are trying to argue for some sort of solipsism. This argument is exactly as corrosive to our own faith after all.

From the point of view of atheists - Grinch, Santa and Unicorns differ from God only in that the president of the world's most powerful country doesn't claim personal communication for them as justfication for his actions.

Frankly, as someone from 'across the pond' I'm dismayed at the way the idea of God has been prostituted to serve the (understandable) inate conservatism of the US.

Todd H said...

What is crazy is some atheists have developed an almost missionary fervor for their faith - in the worst sort of way. I heard about this website, www.blasphemychallenge.com, where people load videos of themselves "blaspheming the Holy Spirit," in a ridiculous attempt to show they don't believe in God by spitting in his face. They base this on their own fundamentalist reading of Mark 3:28-29. I'm not sure what all the anger is about. Maybe they feel modernity slipping away . . .

Congregation said...

Dr. Witherington, you did a terrific job integrating a number of complex points into your argument. Most of us want to understand the universe and are curious about its origin and destiny. Dawkins and other scientists and philosophers may have a tremendous intellectual capacity to analyze complex problems, but without faith, the more profound truths about the universe escape them. They can't grasp the intrinsic novelty or purpose behind it all. You so aptly state: "we cannot escape our interiority and subjectivity in an complete sense. " Without a faith postulate, our lust for certainty inevitably feeds inward. And knowledge and imagination without faith is the devil's playground.

I think Charles Williams, (a friend of C.S. Lewis) was exploring this deception in his book Descent Into Hell. There is always the temptation to turn stones into bread, in order to satisfy our self-absorbing appetites (material and intellectual). Williams introduces a character named Lilly who depicts such a temptation. “Cross my hand with silver, and I’ll not only tell you a good fortune, I’ll make you one,” she entices. “Give me your hand, then come and dream. ... You’ll never have to do anything for others anymore.”

Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, and others who are convinced science supercedes religion and theology are self-deceived. Lacking a faith postulate, they're eating stones but are convinced it's bread ... all along missing the incarnate Truth revealed by the very Bread of Life - Jesus.

Benjamin Hayes, Ph.D.
(research scientist and professor, now pastor

Rhonda said...

Fabulous Ben!
I've noticed recently many more "voices" of hate. Proclaiming, "no God". What I find is it's definately more of a campaign against religion. So, your article really spoke well of this.
Keep speaking the truth!
I really look forward to visiting your blog.

I've recently finished reading a good book,
Intelligent Design vs. Evolution (Letters to an Atheist)
by: Ray Comfort

Chris O'Connor said...

I want to invite you and your readers to join us in reading and discussing Dawkins “The God Delusion” during Q1, 2007. I’m working on getting him in a live chat session for some time in March 2007, but nothing is set in stone. If this chat happens you are welcome to attend.

We had Richard Dawkins for a live chat back in 2003 where we discussed “Unweaving the Rainbow.”

online reading group book discussion

Chris O’Connor

Ed Brenegar said...

My advice to the atheists is to stay within your field of expertise. There have been articles in Wired and the New Scientist lately about "The New Athiesm". I commented on this back in November "What we are offered in the New Atheism is not the abolishment of religion, but a replacement of traditional theistic religion, whether it is a Jewish, Christian or Islamic sort, with an atheistic one with Dawkins and Dennett as the high priests. There is nothing new in this approach. It was the approach of my philosophy teacher in college over thirty years ago. Its lack of sophistication is what surprises me. Its dependence upon the European Enlightenment's unquestioned belief in the superiority of human rationality is surprising. I thought we had eclipsed the modern world and had entered the post-modern one."
(http://edbrenegar.typepad.com/leading_questions/2006/11/the_notso_new_a.html)
The lesson here for all us intellectual wannabes is never let your arrogant belief in your own superiority convince other people that you are just a plain ignorant old man who doesn't take the time to fully research his topic. Ladies and gentlemen, the Emperor has no clothes. Thanks Ben for an excellent analysis.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks to you all for these fine posts. To my friend Ed I would say-- maybe most folks didn't get the memo about post-modernism. In fact, I would say its highly over-rated as a thought system, in terms of de fact determination of how people think.

Jerry said...

What I find interesting in reading the articles and watching the news stories unfold about Dawkins and others is that the folks they target for 'Debate' are lay leaders of the church and not scholars of the same ilk. It would be more interesting to me if they would put together some sort of summit that would pit the antagonizers versus more formitable opponents such as Moreland, Craig, Wright, and yourself, (among others that I can't think of) rather than targeting the lay church pastor (no offense to the level of schooling these lay pastors have had). I have heard clearly better arguments here at Bethel than I have over the airwaves from these gentlemen. It really strikes to the issues we had with 'The DaVinci Code' and its target audience... the armchair Christian.

My two cents.

Lee Sill said...

From a seminarian not too great a distance from Asbury, I just want to commend that post as one of the best short writings against atheism that I have read. Thank you for all your insightful and helpful posts and books which continue to help me in my desire to think both intelligently and Christianly at the same time.

Mark said...

I really appreciated this post. A lot of this is stuff that has passed through my thoughts before, but you say it all so well. Anyone claiming to have epistemic perfection is fooling themselves. We all have to have faith in something.

Keep up the good work!

E. I. Sanchez said...

I've always wondered why Atheists seem to only attack Christianity.

I'm glad Prof. Witherington has given us some insights into it...

Edgar

Clayton said...

First, a minor quibble. You wrote, "people like Sam Harris insist on railing against Christian fundamentalism, all the while being deathly silence about Islamic or Jewish fundamentalism."

Have you read his first book? I found his remarks concerning Islam in that book rather offensive and I'm an angry atheist.

I find this passage rather shocking:
I mean when is the last time you found people ranting and raving for so long about something or someone who, according to them, doesn't even exist? I don't see people writing angry diatribes shouting "Unicorns Aren't Real-- Get Over it!". In fact I don't even see many Grinches writing best sellers entitled "Santa Claus is a myth". And actually there are a good number of people who believe in one or both of those creatures. Could it be that one has to really get angry and go into denial about God, precisely because even these atheists are created in God's image, and they are trying to exorcise that influence? Well, its worth pondering.
I've never met anyone who defends their views on stem cell research, abortion, how biology and sex education should be taught, or gay marriage by citing their beliefs about unicorns or Santa. If you ask the angry atheists why they're angry, more often than not they'll tell you that they're frustrated with the way that religious belief is motivating people to act in ways that affect us all when it seems to us that such beliefs lack any rational basis and to some true believers to be both beliefs that could serve as a justification for acting in ways that affect others while at the same time being immune to criticism.

Perhaps what's most shocking about this post is not just that it shows a failure to understand the passions that drive the angry atheists, but an utter lack of what they've said in their printed work (ad nauseum). Dawkins doesn't cite the lack of empirical evidence as grounds for believing there's no God. He offers a philosophical argument for thinking there's no God that receives partial support from what he takes the best empirical evidence to be. You might not find his argument particularly compelling, but it's dishonest to suggest that his conclusions aren't ones he tries to defend through reason. I'm not Dawkins and I'm not sure that you'd count me as among the "angry atheists" that believe there's no God as a matter of unquestioned faith, but those who care to know should know that many of the atheists out there regularly question their beliefs but find that each time they run through the arguments, it seems like a strong case can be made for the non-existence of God. The argument from evil, for example, seems to be a rather compelling argument for the non-existence of God. It's hard to take seriously the suggestion that God has his reasons for allowing a tsunami to kill 230,000 or allow roving gangs of men to rape and hack to death helpless women, but that is presumably the view that any theist who reads the paper must hold. I've tried to make sense of the view, but to be honest, it doesn't make much sense to me.

Richard said...

"But why exactly do atheists have their knickers in a knot these days?"

For much the same reason you dislike Islam, I imagine. They see false dogmas leading to irrational behaviour and social ills. (In particular, they perceive the increasing political influence of the religious right to be deeply pernicious.) That shouldn't be too surprising.

"In fact, he has even suggested that religious education is a form of child abuse! That's a nice objective point of view to be sure."

How can you tell? This is pure prejudice - you haven't even bothered to look at the reasons that might lead one to this conclusion! One argument is that by imposing dogmas rather than developing children's rational capacities (i.e. teaching them how to reason), a fundamentalist upbringing entails a kind of mental malnutrition. A second argument is that threatening children with the eternal torment of Hell is psychologically abusive. If these arguments are any good (and you haven't shown that they aren't), then believing their conclusion is precisely the "objective" thing to do.

"The materialist thinks because he personally has found the positive evidence for God's existence wanting, that he has then proved the negative conclusion-- that God does not exist."

This is a very poor argument. No-one seriously claims to have proved with absolute certainty that there is no God. Nor, for that matter, that there are no unicorns. Nonetheless, it's clearly possible for disbelief to be the best justified position, even if the justication falls short of absolute perfection!

Or do you really mean to defend belief in unicorns?

Terry Hamblin said...

"They see false dogmas leading to irrational behaviour and social ills."

Just because some right wing politicians (or left wing politicians for that matter) adopt Christian coloring to justify their views, it is hardly a reason for labelling Christianity in such a way.

In fact a belief in the Christian God was a direct cause of the great scientists and philosophers of the past from developing a rational view of the Universe and its laws. they believed that they were 'thinking God's thoughts after him'.

In a similar way the great social reformers like Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale drew their inspiration from their Christian view of justice.

Atheistic social reformers like Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler have achievements that do not compare with even the little old lady in the pew who collects her pennies for the Leprosy Mission.

Clayton said...

Was Hitler that atheist fellow from Germany who wrote, "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so" and "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord" in Mein Kampf?

phred said...

For those interested, the church I pastor holds something we call "Open Forums", one of which Alister McGrath spoke on Richard Dawkins arguments. He has publicly debated Dawkins in the past on the BBC and continues to dialogue with him. The link to the audio of our Open Forums is http://www.citychurchsf.org/openforum.htm

Alvin Grissom II said...

Dawkins is certainly articulate and witty. As you correctly state, he is also a fundamentalist and has a weak, oversimplified understanding of various topics outside of his field, such as religion. He appears to also subscribe to the outdated philosophical notion of scientific positivism.

Certainly, fundamentalism has its own problems; but throwing all forms of theism out the window as unreasonable and childlike is simply intellectually lazy.

It is very difficult to make metaphysical inferences from scientific data which presupposes materialism. People interpret data differently: Dawkins sees in nature reasons to discount the existence of God; I see in the same world, using the same data, evidence _for_ the exitence of God.

JD Walters said...

Clayton is right to point out that Sam Harris and his ilk do rail against Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism, along with Christian fundamentalism. One of Richard Dawkin's potshot targets in "The Root of all Evil" was the principal of a fundamenalist Jewish school. On the other hand, it is certainly true that much rhetorical effort is devoted to Christian fundamentalism, and when other fundamentalisms (or even more moderate expressions of those faiths, for that matter) do enter the picture they merely serve as convenient boosters for an argument (or whine) that is primarily aimed at Christian fundamentalism. Which brings me to the primary observation I want to make...

One of the most irresponsible and quite frankly incomprehensible arguments of the new atheists is that centered on religious pluralism, as was just so naively regurgitated by richard:

"But why exactly do atheists have their knickers in a knot these days?"

For much the same reason you dislike Islam, I imagine. They see false dogmas leading to irrational behaviour and social ills.

Atheists like Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins like to throw around this supposedly witty line: "Everybody's an atheist about most of the gods in human history. We just take it one god further". Sam Harris in particular argues in "Letter to a Christian Nation" that the atheist rejects all religious claims for the same reasons that a Christian, say, rejects the claims of Muslims. This is simply not true, once you really think about it. Christians do not reject Muslim religious claims because they appeal to the supernatural. They do not reject Muslim religious claims supposedly because they have caused most of the world's greatest evils. They do not (or should not) denounce Muslim beliefs because Muslims are generally superstitious, gullible or prone to wishful thinking. In fact, the Christian rejection of Muslim truth claims seems to me much more intellectually generous and humane than the caustic and spiteful potshots at humanity in general which atheists use against all religious beliefs.

The new atheista also tend to be lousy at comparative religion. They think the very fact of religious diversity is an obvious defeater for any claims to particular religious truth, when in fact the issue is very complex philosophically and epistemologically. Furthermore, they advance this argument on the basis of naive, superficial understandings of all the different religions. For example, Sam Harris argues that the Muslim not only has just as good reasons for holding to her faith, but the same reasons as Christians do for theirs. This without so much as a mustardseed of investigation into the actual claims and justification of Muslim theology and history and without bothering to ask whether a Muslim would actually make this argument.

Dialogue among the great religions is surely one of the foremost challenges of the 21st century. But the new atheists, with their naivete, irrational prejudice and empty rhetoric, are proving that they cannot be trusted to lead or even participate in this dialogue.

Evan Tomlin said...
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Evan Tomlin said...

My review of Dr. Witherington's piece

2close260 said...

I live in Australia and at our last federal election, a journalist in our only national newspaper who had previously and often said he was an atheist and that God did not even come into the equation of his life on earth. When you died there was nothing. So when a few days before the election, he asked God in his column to bring his preferred political party back into power, I pondered it in my heart and waited for the election results. (In Australia voting is compulsary but you can leave the ballot papers blank if you want to.)

Yes the election brought the sitting party back into power. I had wondered on reading his column whether he had much more information that we ordinary plebs and, despite the proclamations of opinion polls, knew his side was still going to be out. I reasoned this because I felt he was only using the idea of praying to God for things to go his way as he knew it was not going to happen and he could console himself by proving again that God certainly did not exist as He would never have let the ruling party back in again. I was wondering if he would do the same thing at the next election. If he does, unless he declares betweentimes that he now believes God exists I can confidently make a prediction as to which party will win!

P. M. Jaworski said...

Just a few comments:

To say that materialism and naturalism is based on faith is not to demonstrate that religion has more going for it. Just that materialism and naturalism have less going for it than some (Dawkins, for instance) think.

But that doesn't mean that we do not have most reason to believe in materialism or naturalism or rationalism than religionism. Some of us judge that, even with the "two dogmas of empiricism" (Quine), empiricism has more going for it than the alternatives, which make greater assumptions, and greater leaps of faith. This isn't to say that these people know the truth, but it is to say that they take seriously the idea that we really should believe what we have most and best reason to believe.

Near as I can tell, atheism is not the belief that God does not exist, but the belief that we do not have good enough reason to believe in God. The root "a" means "without" and "theism" refers to "belief in God." An atheist is someone who is without the belief in God. Agnosticism means "without gnosis," or "without divine knowledge." If you are without divine knowledge, you are without the belief in God. The two just mean the same thing.

Some do say that God does not exist. They say this for the same reason that all of us would probably say that there is, in fact, no elephant in our car trunk, or that there are no fairies and that there is no Santa. Of course we could not demonstrate these things, or prove them in a way that implies knowledge. There very well could be an elephant in your car's trunk right now. If you check, we can add "invisible" before elephant, or say that the elephant is only there when he is sure that you are not looking.

Maybe more people would be angry aunicornists if people were wearing their unicornism on their sleeve. As of yet, no unicornist has come to my door at 7 in the morning to tell me about how much unicorns love me. If they did, I might be a little upset about people who believed in unicorns (it's worse than this, of course, since there are, we all have to admit, some pretty crummy things that religious people do to other religious people, and to irreligious people, on behalf of their all-loving deity).

In sum, there is reason for some atheists to be angry. I agree that Dawkins is a little ridiculous, but I don't think that angry atheists are all of them like Dawkins.

Edward Baker said...

I'm not convinced that atheism is as small a minority as you may think. In the UK, where there is less 'prejudice' (for lack of a better word) against atheism a sizeable proportion of the population is atheist.

I also disagree that Sam Harris and others don't target Islamic fundamentalism. I have heard him speak about Islamic fundamentalism several times. The reason he (and Dawkins, etc) focus on Christianity is that it is the most well known belief system in the countries which they reside and speak.

What Dawkins and Harris do a good job in doing is encouraging people to question their beliefs, and those of others.

My Blog: In Defence of Reason

Rob said...

When you say "attack", do you mean "write books" or "appear on television"?

Because that seems very different from when Muslims attack (Terrorism a la Al Queda) or when Christians attack (Terrorism a la Army of God).

Rob said...

Also, I find it interesting that believers of various stripes find the best way to discredit the atheist position is to paint their narrative with distinctly religious terms.

A few excerpted examples:
- atheist apostles
- 'radical materialism' is in fact a form of fundamentalism
- [Dawkins] preaches his new faith with the fervor and rancor of an old time fundamentalist revival preacher
- ...such a level of dogma, that one sees it as unquestionably unassailably true.

Well, that just smacks of self loathing, doesn't it?

I'd like to address a couple of these attempted associations. First, I have no dogma- I simply have no belief. That's all there is to it. You have no dogma of A-Zeus-ism, do you? You simply don't believe in him. If there were more Zeusists, however, I wager you would find it worth discussing because of the impact that it had on your government and culture. I'll wager also that you discuss Islam more frequently in recent years although you don't believe in that.

On the point of non-belief being "unquestionably unassailably true", I'll have to again disagree. I've asked for a long time that a deity (Jesus in my case) would- you know- just jot a note to me sometime. He would know the things to say to convince me it wasn't a prank.

So, you see? It's not an unquestionable or unassailable belief, it just requires a little evidence.

Mormo said...

What an shoddy piece. I don't think there's a paragraph here without a gross distortion, unsupported assertion or flat out falsehood. I'll point to just a few of them.

"In fact I don't even see many Grinches writing best sellers entitled "Santa Claus is a myth"."
If significant numbers of people throughout history had killed people on the basis of what they believed Santa wanted from them, you may well have seen the publication of "The Santa Delusion". It's odd that this even has to be explained.

"For atheist's like [Dawkins], belief in God is a form of stupidity, as if one was struck by massive dummo rays,"
You'll need a quote to back this up, and I don't think you'll find one that says anything as strong as your assertion here needs. To say someone is deluded is something very different from saying that they are stupid.

"And Schulman is right to ask why it is that Dawkins and people like Sam Harris insist on railing against Christian fundamentalism, all the while being deathly silence about Islamic or Jewish fundamentalism."
He's not 'right' to ask that, and neither are you, until you've actually read Harris' books (clue: 'The End of Faith').

Nor is Dawkins' 'deathly silent' about other faiths. You can see some counter examples in the documentary: the 'Root of all evil' (available on youtube).

"they do not realize that their unquestioned faith in their own conclusions is just that--- 'unquestioned faith', in this case in some sort of rationalism, or materialism coupled with a certain view of science which sees it as the key which unlocks the doors to all that is 'really' real."
On the contrary. These people are well aware of the limits of rational thought.

Here's Sam Harris:
"The fact that the underpinnings of our knowledge are in some sense inscrutable (and may remain so), the fact that Hume's worries make sense, the fact that Wittgenstein can say things like "our spade is turned," does not place every spurious claim to knowledge on an equal footing with science. The discomfort induced in mathematics by Godel does not make the doctrine of Mormonism even slightly more plausible. There is still a difference between jumping a puddle and walking on water."

Back to your article:

"Such a conclusion as 'there is no god' so drastically outreach the actual hard scientific evidence we have that one would have to conclude that the person making such a claim, such as Richard Dawkins"
You're being flatly dishonest here, fighting straw men. Dawkins' has never said 'there is no god', he *has* explained why he thinks there almost certainly is no God. That's a big difference.

"How foolish indeed to confidently deny the existence of a Being simply because one has not yet personally found Him or been found by Him."
If this were true, you would be being just as foolish by denying the flying spaghetti monster et al.

Helen said...

May I call you Ben?

I am from Bangkok, Thailand. I love your this blog and may I blog this article in my blog? You can see about me in my blog at:

http://www.helenmcitnosh.blogspot.com